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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

Alan Cross: What Happens To Music?

Updated: May 31, 2023

Alan Cross loves music. Over the last few months we have done a few episodes discussing radio on a pandemic planet. But what about the music industry? What about the business side of music? It is especially curious given that music's entire business model has been turned on its head since 1999. Income has shifted from selling physical music to subscriptions and live touring; the latter of which is now effectively cancelled for this year, and possibly next year.

In this episode, Alan talks about the latest round of RIAA takedowns to hit podcasting and how it's problematic for podcasters who violate copyright but also for musicians who are essentially leaving money on the table. We discussed the durability of the Ongoing History of New Music and how it has transitioned into becoming one of the planet' most downloaded podcast. We talked about the impact the pandemic is having on the music industry, how musicians are reverting to new marketing strategies and how concert promoters like Live Nation are handling the severe downturn in business.

Alan is also the host of the Geek and Beats podcast and also manages a music blog called A Journal of Musical Things.

Early in this episode, we spoke about podcasts getting takedown notices because they had music in the show. Here's an interesting article about a podcaster who is now going to throw in the towel.


Alan spoke in 2016 about the future of radio to students at Ryerson University in Toronto.



Amanda Logan (VO) 00:00:01

This is the podcast for broadcast. The Sound Off Podcast with Matt Cundill.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:01

This week, I'm speaking with Alan Cross. He's been the host of the ongoing History of New Music, which has now morphed into one one of the largest podcasts on the planet while still having a strong presence on radio. He's also the host of the Geeks and Beats podcast as an author, creator and musicologist. It's been over three years since he was on this show, and the timing is perfect to talk about what's going on with the music industry with regards to podcasts touring and the pandemic, Alan Cross joins me from his home office in Toronto. So through the whole pandemic and the COVID, what do you miss the most?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:00:43

People. I miss interacting with people. When you work at home by yourself, it's nice because you don't have to deal with awful humans, but at the same time, you miss that outside stimulation. And if you're working alone, you're always the smartest person in the room. And that's not good, because you need to be surrounded by smart people. You need to be surrounded by people who know things that you don't know so you can learn from them. And the pandemic, despite Zoom and Skype and SquadCast and all the other ways that we've been managing to connect, it's just not the same as being in a room, shooting the breeze with people and just jamming on certain things or even just picking up on things that are floating through the air. It's just a bit- Well, it's isolating. It's alienating.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:36

Hold on, Alan. I'm just going to make a technical change.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:01:39

Well, this is one of the things that we're learning at home is to become our own IT departments.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:44

I've been my own IT Department for about six years now, and also accounting and traffic and sales and programming and janitorial.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:01:56

Yeah, that's pretty much me, too. I have a box next to me called a Genie tie line, which allows me to go on the air with radio stations anywhere. However, what happened was one of the Bull terriers got underneath the console and started chewing the USB connections, and that has basically shut the whole thing down. So I had to go out and get a new computer, and now I'm going to have to figure out exactly how to attach this thing to this tie line box, because it uses a whole bunch of separate IP addresses to function. So, yeah, I'm becoming my own IT Department, too.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:30

What is your role with radio right now?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:02:32

I am an independent contractor. My biggest client is Corus. I continue to do a lot of stuff for Corus radio in general, but most of it is with Q107, 102.1 The Edge, both in Toronto and then some stuff with Global News. I'm a contributor to that. And then whenever any of the talk stations require a talking head to talk about something about music, they call me. So I've got something, for example, later on this afternoon with CJOB that I'm going to do now.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:02

A lot of people know you from The Ongoing History of New Music that has undergone some transformation over the years, and is now- I sort of know it more as a podcast more than anything, as one of Canada's most successful podcasts.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:03:15

It is apparently the number four music podcast in the world. I found that out last week, which is cool, 8.6 million downloads of all the episodes that we've got up there, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 220, 250. And yeah, it has evolved from appointment listening on the radio to something that you listen to on demand online. And I'm getting so much more traction with the radio program as a podcast than I am as a radio program. For example, today, just before we signed on here, I had to answer a fan mail email from Singapore, which is really kind of cool. And if you go into the analytics and you see where people are downloading the show, there are three countries in the world that I don't think- that have been immune to my charm so far. Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and North Korea. Oh, and South Sudan is also part of it. Otherwise, the show has been downloaded in every other country around the world, which is really cool. Now, when we started the program, what we did was we syndicated it in a usual sort of way. We charge stations X number of dollars per month based on their market size. And that worked out very well, because it defrauded the cost of creating the program. Now, though, we're beginning to realize, well, maybe we should just give away the radio program for free because that drives people to the podcast, which has a very healthy revenue stream right now. So why are we holding ourselves back by charging radio stations for a radio program? And let's face it, radio stations are not buying radio programs the way they used to. Just give it away, drive everybody else to the website and to the podcast and we'll make some money.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:15

That feels very much like the NPR model.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:03:15

It does. The problem is that you have to convince a certain amount of people on the return on investment for this. First of all, the idea of doing a podcast version of this program was met with skepticism on two levels. First of all, you can't include any music. You just can't. There are many falsehoods and many misunderstandings about music and podcast. You cannot include any music. That's just the way it is worldwide. So that was one the second, and this applies largely to any sort of on demand programming is that, well, this is going to cannibalize our on air product. If people can get what they want whenever they want, they're not going to tune into the radio. And I think people have finally gotten over that because they know that they figured out a way to monetize the on demand stuff online, and they realize that radio is not the appointment listening thing that it used to be. Nothing is. So you have to just change with the times.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:09

And one of the things I found out is that it doesn't cannibalize. You're taking from two different bins. One bin is the on demand bin, and the other one that's live to air and happening now. And people don't treat it the same at all.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:06:23

No, they don't. And it also expands your international reach because of geotargeting and a lot of other things that happen with online streaming of some radio broadcasts. I mean, I'm reaching far more people than I ever did before, although for the people who are selling ad time, the only thing that really matters are people listening in Canada, there is no real model yet for global advertising, unless you get a I don't know, I guess a Coca Cola or Microsoft or something like that. But that hasn't quite happened yet. It might. Well, you have Apple Music, for example, has their radio program, their radio streams, and that kind of is global. But I don't know how many people are listening.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:11

Doesn't that kind of summarize, though, the problem with podcasting in Canada, is that if you're only going to monetize what's in Canada and you're getting the bulk of your downloads in the United States, there's a lot of unsold inventory in there.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:07:25

There is. We use dynamic programming insertion that only really works in Canada. And one of the things I think we really have to be Proactive about is that the biggest podcasting market right now is the United States. It's going to be a billion plus market, billion dollar plus market by the end of this year. If you look at the most popular podcasts in the world, they're all coming out of the United States. We're facing a situation as much as we did back in the early 19s, 70s when there was no Canadian music industry to speak of. What we got was basically we were treated as branch plants of labels in the United States and the UK. And domestic product was not really a concern, not really a priority with anybody. We were happy with the American stuff, we were happy with British stuff, and that was it. And one of the things I mentioned in a podcasting conference a couple of years ago was that we really have to start flying the flag here so that our podcasting universe in Canada doesn't get overwhelmed by foreign broadcasting. I mean, we have it, and it's a terrible situation with film. It's a terrible situation with television on many levels. Radio has managed to hold its own because of the Canadian content rules. What do we do about creating a strong and vibrant and profitable and powerful podcasting industry within this country? We have to do something domestically to spread our wings worldwide. Now, we used to be about four, five years behind the United States and developing our podcasting networks. We're probably one or two years behind now. So we've made some great strides. It's just a matter of time. And I think with Kobe 19, a lot of things that would have happened over the course of three or four, five or six years are being accelerated. So they're manifesting themselves in months rather than years. So if you look at the rate of uptake on podcasts, it has actually exploded. Now more podcasts are being made because people have more time to make them. But the popular podcasts are seeing an increase in engagement, which is good. There's a silver lining to Kobe 19.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:37

Which is good for you because you've got a popular podcast, right?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:09:41

Well, yeah, I think it was really important to get in early because otherwise somebody else would have come in and taking up that real estate. And where would you be? It's easy if you were an early adopter, an incumbent. It's tougher if you're getting into it now, because what does Apple have in terms of podcasts?

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:01

Different 1.3 million, and they've added 325,000 in the last 90 days.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:10:07

So that's a lot of competition. And if you're not at the top of that pile, it's going to be hard to rise above the noise. It's like streaming, right? I mean, the early streamers were Drake and Bieber and all those RnB and hip hop artists, and now try to dislodge them from the top of the streaming charts.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:29

So we talked about Canada catching up, and you pointed out the last three years, you hinted that Canada might be one year behind. I think the latest Edison research actually had us even in terms of listing with the United States. But when we look at the last three years, I remember 2016, I got some calls, what's going on in Canada with podcasting? And I said, well, not a lot, but since then, the changes that I saw included radio companies like Rogers and Chorus getting into podcasting. They started to promote podcasting. They started to create podcasts. And so people started listening for the Canadian content. And then the radio groups got in and started to promote the hell out of them. And that really lifted the listenership. I mean, there was no Canadian stuff to listen to other than Canada and ongoing history of new music for many years.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:11:19

And now we are creating some really good stuff, especially the news talk radio stations who are doing true crime. They're doing in depth news, they're doing political discussions. They're doing historical discussions. There's some really good stuff coming out of Canada. And we have a number of networks that I guess you could say are competing against each other, but not really because we're working towards the same goal. And we have organizations like the Podcast Exchange that are doing very well, selling ad time within podcast to more than just antivirus companies and mattress companies. I have a big, long list of sponsors for my program and commercials that I voice for other podcasts. We're still at the very beginning of all this, but it is really cool to watch it accelerate.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:17

So you mentioned dynamic ad insertion, and I know people who do listen to this podcast might be going, okay, well, what is that by example? So in this podcast, when you listen to the ads, if you're in Canada, you're going to get an ad for N Logic, who are the people who do the ratings. But elsewhere in the United States, you're not going to get that ad because the people at and Logic don't need people in the United States buying their products any more than in Canada. We would need to buy anything from because we don't need American stamps. If you're in Canada, say, yeah.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:12:50

I remember this being the same sort of problem in the old days of radio when we used to get syndicated programs out of the United States, and they were either on tape or they were on really cheap vinyl records, and there would be a countdown of some sort or a special from King Biscuit Flower or something, and they would embed the commercials on the record. So there would be a commercial for sign up for the US Army in the middle of this Canadian broadcast of an American show, and it just didn't sound right. So we've avoided that now by having dynamic ad insertion and you can target things based on geography. Geography would be the big one, but you can get really granular in your targeting.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:30

Tell me a little bit about when you took the ongoing history of new music from radio into podcast and the work that had to be done in order to make it podcast friendly. And there was no music in there. You could talk about tapes, mode and the violator album, but you couldn't play the music.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:13:47

Yeah. So what we have done is cut everything down to about 15 seconds. And the number of podcasts that include some kind of music, I have been told, is around 17% worldwide. So far, there hasn't been a massive crackdown on podcasters using full songs, although I'm hearing more and more people saying, hey, you have to take your podcast down because you're using copyrighted material. You're distributing copyrighted material with downloads of every download of your podcast. They have not come after people who are using clips. It's not really in their interests. And I read something just this morning, as a matter of fact, about another lament from somebody within the music industry saying, look, we got to get our act together so that we can create a global licensing scheme for music in podcasts so that we can make some money from this, because right now, the bigger podcasting becomes, the bigger music based podcasting becomes, the more money is being lost. And the problem with trying to create a blanket license for global music downloads and podcasts. They seem at the moment insurmountable. It's all about tracking, but somebody is going to have to do something because there's just too much money to be made from it.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:11

Now on, the last time we got together, I asked you the question, how does it all work?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:15:15

Or what are the rules?

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:16

You took a big sigh and it's like you had to repeat it one more time about. So I'll just do my best to sort of summarize the whole thing and just say that if you wanted to use a 15 2nd clip, a policy of truth from deposit Mode's violator, you essentially would have to fill out a form for every country that your podcast is downloaded in and get it cleared and checked off and then pay checks to all these people.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:15:39

Correct? We don't do that. Nobody does that because there's no form to fill out and there's no place to send that form and there's no place to send a check for the use of the music. There isn't. There is no blanket licensing scheme that covers everything. So we've been hedging our bets and a lot of other NPR, all the iHeartRadio broadcasts. I mean, everybody has been hedging their best playing little tiny snippets that have not been too injurious to the artist, the Copyright holder, the publisher, or the record label. It is different. However, if you decide to post your podcast on YouTube because they have their algorithm sniffing around and they will take you down. I mean, my Geeks and Beats podcast, for example, we put, I don't know, 30, 35 seconds of a song up one time, and it took 20 minutes for the YouTube algorithm to sniff it out and declare a Copyright violation.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:45

The people who run Blueberry Lipson captivate are all reporting a spike in RIAA take down notices in the last couple of weeks. And my guess is that the music industry is not doing a whole heck of a lot these days, and they decided to send some letters, I guess, to generate a little bit of revenue. So there has been a small uptick. Again, I don't have any idea if that those are clips, those are full songs or what they are just I've noticed that the takedowns have started to come. They do have the ability to send the crawlers down through the podcast stream to find us.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:17:24

It's using a hammer to kill a fly. If you are, for example, doing your own top 40 countdown and you're running through all 40 songs in your podcast, well, you know what? You got a problem there because you're not paying for the rights to use that music. If you're using a ten or 15 2nd clip, you don't have the right to use that. But it's not like I said injurious you've made the acknowledgement that you can't use the whole song and that if people want to hear the whole song. Well, then you should be providing a playlist on some kind of website where people can go and listen to it through Spotify or Apple Music or whatever. I've been watching these takedowns. I've been watching these takedowns come out, too, and you look at them and go, okay, please don't bugger anything up for me.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:19

Please tell me a little bit about the Geeks and Beats podcast, because I sort of was ongoing history of new music. But this one, you did it for a while. It stopped for a bit and it's come back. Yeah.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:18:30

There's 370 episodes I do with Michael Hayesworth, who used to work for BNN as a business reporter. He is now doing stuff on his own. And we basically use Geeks and Beats as a calling card. This is what we can do. This is the kind of production that we can do. This is the kind of reach we can offer. It's all supported by Patreon donations. We have a little revenue stream that comes and basically defers all our costs. And let's call it extracurricular professional development. And so far it's been I'm surprised the audience is not as big as ongoing history podcasts, but they're extraordinarily loyal and they listen all the way through each episode. So that's cool. We're going to have to decide where we're going to take this podcast, because we've probably taken it to Boat as far as we can using Patreon. And if we want to, our costs continue to go up because our production costs continue to go up. For example, we had to find a sponsor to take us to CES this year, and we did a very big CES presentation over the course of a couple of programs. But that cost a lot of money with airfare and hotel and all the rest of it. And if we want to do more stuff like that, we're going to have to find more robust revenue streams.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:52

Okay, so back me up. Why are you going to CES?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:19:54

Well, we were going to CES because Geeks and Beats is a program that deals with the intersection of music and technology. So a lot of gadget stuff, a lot of music technology stuff. We talk about things like headphones and all these other things. So CES was a logical place for us to go. We went for a couple of years. We won't be going next year because it was announced this week that CES is going all virtual. So it's just another example of how much the world has changed so very quickly if something like CES gets canceled. I mean, that is such a huge, very important event for people in the technology space for them to go virtual and to admit that they can't do it this year. Wow.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:42

Fred Jacobs goes every year. He loves it. He sees the future when he goes. And so I go to that show through Fred, who has a wonderful presentation. Usually once a year that I'll catch up with what we learned at CES. But I get the feeling that one of these days I am going to have to go to it. It's sort of an inconvenient time of year. January 6, we're just coming off the Christmas thing, and then you go to Vegas, and then there's 175,000 people or whatever that show up. Every hotel is gone, and you're not going to be able to take the whole thing.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:21:12

You can't. Not only is there CES, but there are a couple of other events that piggyback on top of it at other hotels. So the Las Vegas Convention Center is all CES. But if you go to the Mirage, but if you go to MGM, there's other tech events happening there, not necessarily on the same days, maybe a couple of days leading up to it, but there's even more stuff there for people who don't want to pay the big CES registration Bucks. So you are exhausted by the time you go home. There's something called the CES flu because you're down there going 18 hours a day, mixed in with people from all over the world, and you always come home from CES with some kind of respiratory issue, which explains why there's not going to be one in 2021.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:02

Okay. Be it resolved that I will attend the CES before the next decade is out. In just a second, Alan and I get down to the business of music. What are the labels thinking? Touring Indies. And Allen gives us a little intel into a new project all about Toronto, CFNY, the spirit of radio. And by the way, here are those dynamically inserted ads we were talking about earlier looking at the music industry. And this is actually why I wanted to bring you on the show the most, because these are the most burning questions I have. We hear about radio, and I've had people on this podcast talk about radio and managing the pandemic. But we haven't really spoken about the music industry. It's big, the music industry. And so I'll start with obviously, live touring is gone. How does a company like Live Nation stay afloat?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:22:54

They can issue more shares and raise more capital through debt offerings. That's one thing. Same thing with AEG and the other big promoters. The smaller ones don't have pockets that deep. They're in trouble. They're also not really sure where they're going to be able to put shows when things ease up a little bit, because a lot of these venues are going out of business every day you read something about the Troubador, for example, famous place in La. It doesn't know whether it will ever reopen. And we hear problems with venues in Toronto, venues in Vancouver, they've closed or they have no plans to reopen. It's ugly right now, and if we don't have some kind of coordinated support mechanism, we're going to see the live industry really devastated, even if it does come back a couple of things. First of all, there's going to be additional costs. You're going to have to have people policing fans who come in. So that means you're going to need hand sanitizers. You need extra security people. You're going to have to have people who make sure that everybody's wearing masks and social distancing. You're going to have to watch and make sure that people don't congregate in the bathroom or in the smoking areas or at the bar or any of those things. How many people are you going to be allowed to admit in the first place? It's going to be 25% capacity, 50% capacity. If that's the case, your margins shrink by 75 or 50%, so that's a problem. And then you got the PTSD. I've done a number of polls on this matter. If you could go to a show today, would you go? And most people say no way. Ain't going to rub up against sweaty strangers for a long time until there's some sort of therapeutic treatment or some kind of vaccine. Mark Geiger, who was a co founder of Lola Paluza, was on Bob Lustat's podcast the other day. He says, we're not going to see concerts really come back until 2022, so that's 18 months. How are some of these people going to hang on? How are the musicians going to hang on? How are the venues going to hang on? How are the road crews going to hang on? How are the equipment rental places going to hang on? You realize that once you stop live music, there's this trickle down effect that's more like an avalanche. And you have so many people who are basically sidelined until things get worked out. I think what we need to do, one of the things we need to do is get a bunch of Canadians, we go to the border and we just scream collectively for America to get it shit together. You see what's going on in America. It's just if they could get their virus under control or at least begin to get it under control, then the rest of the world would have an opportunity to make plans going forward. But right now we don't things like international touring, Australia, I mean, they don't have no idea what they're going to do with international touring just yet. If you look at where Americans are accepted during the pandemic, you see they're basically pariahs in most of the world. But you can go if you're an American, you can go to Albania, you can go to North Macedonia, you can go to Tunisia, but you can't go to Canada. You can't go to anywhere in the European Union, you can't go to the UK. So, I mean, that seizes up everything.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:24

It's pretty astounding to think that the whole marketing strategy for a band. Let's say you can get into the studio, you can record something, you can get the product to radio. But the idea of touring which is a big part of the marketing is now gone. Have you come across any bands that have sort of had to look at their marketing plan?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:26:44

Everybody's looking at their marketing plans. Because it used to be that you would have this 13 week lead up to the release of an album. You would release a single, release a single, you would maybe have some interviews in the can and so on. You can still do a lot of that. But then the album comes out and albums are basically one or two week splashes and then they disappear underneath all the other stuff that's coming behind it. You need to go out on the road and you need to make these personal appearances, whether it be on television or in an arena, to sustain the lifespan of that album. And for example, today is the 31 July 11th Morris. It has her first album in eight years out today. Normally she would be on the road for two reasons. Number 120, 5th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill. That was going to be a tour with Liz Fare and Garbage and also this new album. So it was planned a year ago that this summer this record was going to come out. This new record was going to come out in addition to the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill. And that was going to sustain her and her people over the course of a number of months worldwide. Now not happening.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:58

So if I look back to the evolution of the music industry, which used to be sort of a relationship between radio and CDs, selling hard copies and promotion. And the concerts were sort of like a bit of an add on for some money.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:28:12

The concerts were an excuse. Touring was an excuse to go out on the road, to play in front of people and to promote the fact that you had a new record, which is where you were making all your money, that's completely flipped. Now you record an album that kind of gives you an excuse to go do something. But the money that you're making is on the road. Tours used to be a lost leader. Now they're where all your money is made.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:28:35

And now going out of the road is gone.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:28:38

Yeah, now it's gone for everybody. If you're the guy who plays in the coffee house for $50 a night, that's gone. But if you're the Eagles, if you're Guns and Roses, if you're Fleet with Mac, if you're Paul McCartney, that's also gone for you too. The only band that's really selling well in terms of catalog at the moment are the Beatles. Everybody else's catalog material is not selling. If you look at streaming, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac and so on, they're not making a lot of money despite the fact that they've got this rich catalog. It used to be back in the day that you would see The Doors. Every single Doors album would go platinum every year because people bought the album. Then they bought the CD. Every year. The Beastie Boys would sell 2 million copies of License to Ill every year, how many people would buy a copy of the Eagle's Greatest hits. And every year these acts could go to the mailbox every six months and they would get a very fat check from Cadillac sales. Those sales began dropped to the point where they are almost nonexistent in so many levels right now. And the only way to replace that revenue stream was to go out on the road for big guarantees, 1 million a night, 2 million a night, 5 million a night. And companies like AEG and Live Nation were only too happy to provide these big guarantees because they needed to fill these amphitheaters that they owned or had very tight licensing agreements with. So Don Henley says gets another big offer from Live Nation. Of course they're going to take it because that's the only way that they're making any kind of money these days. Now we have these heritage acts, these legacy artists who were in their late 60s, early 70s, high risk groups in the COVID-19 world. And you got to wonder, are we ever going to see them on the road ever again? I mean, if you're Paul McCartney and you're 77 or 78 years old, are you going to want to risk dying on the road with Kova 19? It's scary.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:47

And then I look at things like Spotify and Apple music, and a lot of people stayed inside and did a lot of streaming because a lot of those bands that you mentioned, those are the COVID Comfort bands. And they're not pulling a big check from Apple and Spotify.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:31:01

Now they're seeing an increased amount of money from Apple and Spotify, but it certainly doesn't replace those royalty checks that they used to get every six months. And it doesn't even come close to the kind of guarantee money that they would get going on the road. I mean, Mac was making so much money touring with close to their original line up. Guns and Roses was making tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars. But if you looked at how much music they were selling, it's less than a million Bucks over the course of that entire tour.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:38

You speak to the head of labels often, whether it's Canada or the United States. What are they saying to you?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:31:44

They're hunkering down. They're doubling down on streaming because they're making between 50 and 65% of their revenue from streaming. Right now, they're fishing where the fish are, which is R, amp, B and hip hop. And any money that is left over will go to rock and EDM and country and any of the other genres. So right now they're okay. They're happy. If you look at some of the quarterly results from Sony and Warner and Universal, they're very profitable. They're not quite as profitable as they were, let's say, at the end of the 90s, but they're certainly way more profitable than they were in 20. 06. 20. 07 before streaming came along.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:21

Much like we spoke a little bit earlier about, the smaller venues are going to be the ones that really suffer. Is it going to be the same for indie labels?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:32:30

Yeah, I would imagine so. Because if you're an indie label, you're already operating on very tiny margins. And if you can't get your artists out there and remember, indie labels often, if not exclusively, have 360 deals with their artists, which means they get a piece of the action from touring, from merchandise and everything else that they do. If your artist is completely sidelined, you're not making any money either. You're not selling anything, you're not streaming anything, you're not selling any T shirts, you're not getting any concert revenue money. You might be able to get some sync money from being in music, TV and movies, but a lot of TV and movie production has stopped, so there's nothing to sink to. The deeper you get into it, the more dire you realize the situation is.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:18

Do you think a lot of artists are holding music back and waiting for the pandemic to end before releasing it?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:33:24

Here's what's happening. Artists are creating art. That's what they do. They've got all kinds of time to muse about what they're feeling and how to change those feelings, how to transmit those feelings into music. I have heard from people down in Los Angeles that a lot of recording Studios are being booked up very solidly towards the end of this year and the early part of next year in anticipation for all these artists coming out of quarantine and needing to record music in a proper environment. So there is a possibility that come 2021, we will be deluged with new music from all quarters, including a number of big artists who have had nothing better to do and maybe have their own recording Studios at home. For example, the Foo Fighters, Dave Girls got all the resources he possibly needs to do anything he wants on his own. And he's a guy that doesn't want to sit around and do nothing. He needs to keep busy. So you can just imagine that what's going to come out of that. Artists, like I said, create art. You can't stop them from doing that. And at some point, a lot of this art is going to need to come out.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:42

Speaking of those, like, rich catalogs and things from the past and radio stations as well, which delivered all that great music you were talking about, they have this wonderful past and heritage, and you'll let it leak with Humble and Fred and you didn't think I was going to come and but you're working on something involving radio stations and CFNY and some of the early days.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:35:06

Yeah, we have a group put together that is going to try to finance a documentary on the spirit of radio years, which ran from 1977 to 1991. Very interesting golden era of alternative radio all over North America and see if Andy was part of that in a very big way. The trick is proving to get funding for this sort of thing, and that's what it all comes down to. This is a Canadian story, and it's not going to be sold in Japan. It is not going to be a documentary film that does well at Sundance or something like that. So the challenge is going to be working out funding for it and then putting it together. I mean, putting it together is not going to be a problem because a lot of the people that figured into those stories from that era are still around. They're still with us. But time is running out. We want to be able to get it done as soon as possible. So we have some calls next week, and we're hoping that we can sort out the funding issues so we can get to work on this.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:07

But inside that funding issue you're talking about, well, this is going to be a Canadian story only, so it can't just be CFNY. Is there going to be a little bit more added onto it?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:36:18

There may have to be. There may have to be to make it salable in the United States. If we want to get this on Netflix, if we want to get this on a channel like Epics or Reals or some of these other channels down the States, yes, we are going to have to do something to expand the nature of the focus of the programming. So that may be bringing in K, rock and La, W FNS in Washington, WLI R in Long Island, WFNS in Boston, and so on. But we'll see we're pretty committed to it. And as long as we can get enough money to get started, we'll make it happen.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:58

A lot of radio stations are coming to grips with their heritage and their past, but we don't see a lot of them celebrating it on the air. The 25th anniversary can go by. There are some exceptions, like shown did a pretty decent 50th. I think KQRS and Minneapolis did a pretty decent 50th. They're tough to do.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:37:21

Yeah. If you're a current based radio station, you don't really want to bring attention to your past because that makes you old. So alternative stations that focus on new music, Top 40 stations that focus on new music, you don't really spend a lot of time celebrating your past. If you're a classic rock station, it's all about your past. It's all about your history and your legacy and your heritage. You will have these arguments with people who, let's say, run a long term legacy Top 40 station or an alternative station. You'll have discussions with programming and ownership saying we should celebrate this, but then it all comes back. We're a radio station that focuses on 18 to 34s. Those people have no memory of what we used to be. They have no connection with the music that we played back in those days. Best to leave it alone.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:38:09

They should do a podcast.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:38:11

Well, they should do a podcast. Yeah. Well, we'll see. One of the things that I would have loved to be able to do. It's not a thing right now, but I would have loved to, for example, 2.1 The Edge in Toronto. I would have loved to have a Heritage HD channel, but HD is dead. It's just not going to happen. And it's too bad. But that would have been a really cool way to offer alternate real time programming.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:38:38

I'm going to ask you to make one prediction, because it just seems to be a good way to sort of wrap up any conversation. What do you think your first conference or convention is going to be?

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:38:54

I think it will be a year from September, and it will be the Music Matters conference in Singapore. I used to go to that every single year because not only did it bring in people from North America, it also brought in people from Asia and Australia. And you got a completely different viewpoint of how the music industry works, because if you spend your time in Canada, all you see is what's happening in Canada, in the United States, you don't even get a really good clue of what's happening in the UK a little in Europe. But I really enjoyed learning about how they do things in Japan, China and Thailand and the Philippines and India because they have a different history. You can learn things from people who have gone through different experiences. They haven't canceled, I don't think, this year yet, but I'm not going to go. But September 2021, I think, will be the next time I go to a music conference.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:58

So you Jarred something loose in my mind. And that's your time in Singapore and the food you eat? Yes. The restaurant you go to, I think you've got a couple of favorite restaurants. Tell me what you're eating and why you like it.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:40:11

The place I hang out the most is called Newton Food Center, which is an outdoor food court. There is a particular stall there called Denmark Seafood. I don't know why it has nothing to do with Denmark, but they have some very good food, and you just eat out under the sun, under the stars. And I really like chili Stingray, oyster omelets and something called carrot cake, which is not made of carrots.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:38

That's awesome. I don't get vividly upset with somebody enjoying their trip until they start posting the food pictures. I want to be invited. Oh, chili crab.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:40:48

That's another one. You got to have some chili crab or pepper crab.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:52

Allen, thanks so much for digging in. We haven't had a chance to speak with anybody who could tell us really about where the music industry is going to go because we've been very focused on radio but a lot of people have been asking me where the music industry is going to go and I really don't know.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:41:04

We can make some educated guesses. This whole story is still playing itself out. We have not seen this is not peaked nor have we come up with any solutions yet, but we need to follow things along day by day so we can move as quickly, as efficiently and as safely as possible back to some sense of normality when it comes to gigs.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:25

Thanks so much for doing this.

Alan Cross (Guest) 00:41:26

I really appreciate it. Anytime you know where I am.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:29

Thanks for listening to the Sound Off podcast. Find us and connect with us with our great social Media's house. The show is imaged using the sounds from Core Image Studios written and hosted by Matt Khan's a production of the Sound Off Media company.

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