Almost all of Grand Cayman’s radio broadcasters have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday to play locally-made music.
However, dms Broadcasting, owner of four radio stations here, declined to sign the agreement with the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association as drafted and instead offered an alternative agreement.
‘We believe that our MOU proposal is more beneficial to the development of local music than that proposed by our competitors,’ said Don Seymour, managing director of dms.
The sticking point between CMEA and dms concerns the latter’s not committing to play an average of one local song per hour on all of its stations. While dms will agree to the guideline on its station HOT 104.1 FM, it would only agree ‘to strive to play more local music whenever possible, according to format’, on 96.5 Cayrock, X107.1 and 106.1 KISS FM.
CMEA President Clive Rosteing said it was unacceptable to have dms sign one agreement and have all the other stations sign something else.
‘We have 10 stations saying yes to the agreement as it is,’ he said. ‘dms wants to customise its agreement. If we let them to that, everyone is going to want to customise their agreement, too.’
The dispute between CMEA and dms appeared resolved in June when Mr. Rosteing and Mr. Seymour met and hashed out an agreement.
Mr. Rosteing made notes after the meeting and sent them to Mr. Seymour afterwards. The wording of their informal agreement in the notes at the time stated ‘all dms stations would attempt to maintain a reasonable amount of airplay for local music based on format, but numbering not less than one per hour.’
Mr. Seymour made some minor changes to the notes, but indicated he was in agreement.
The two sides split, however, when it came to the exact wording of the formal agreement.
Mr. Rosteing believes dms ‘has gone back on its word to play one (local) song an hour on all stations.’ However, Mr. Seymour believes his proposed MOU ‘is exactly what was agreed upon in our meeting.’
One of Mr. Seymour’s major complaints with regard to playing local music is the scarcity of quantity of high-quality local music, especially to meet certain formats.
There is more local content available for the format his station HOT 104.1 plays, and less for his other stations.
The MOU drafted by CMEA acknowledges that the local music to be aired must match the radio station’s format.
‘However, the CMEA accepts that there are a few stations with specific formats that may have difficulty in meeting the target goal indicated in paragraph 1 (one local play per hour) due to the present lack of material from the local pool of CDs,’ the MOU states. ‘Specifically falling in this category would be: Spin 94, Heaven 97, 96.5 Cayrock and 107.1.
‘They are still expected to play local music, but the CMEA recognises that one play per hour in these format specific stations is going to be difficult until more relevant material is produced.’
Mr. Seymour pointed out that the MOU proposed by dms goes beyond the other broadcasters have agreed to sign.
Additional measures dms has offered to undertake in an effort to promote local music include: airing a weekly one-hour show on HOT 104.1 devoted entirely to local music and hosted by an on-air personality; establishing a series of local music nights at area clubs; offering half-price discounts to advertisers promoting events with local musicians; and guidance to CMEA members, if requested, on how radio stations work to help them understand how to record with airplay in mind.
CMEA Broadcast Committee Chairman George ‘Barefoot’ Nowak said the extras offered by dms were beside the point.
‘All of (the extras are) wonderful,’ he said. ‘But it’s just salt and pepper. What good is the seasoning without the steak?’
Mr. Nowak said dms was looking for excuses not to play local music.
‘We say, look for excuses to play it.’
Mr. Nowak said CMEA would not back down from its demands for local music to be played regularly on all radio stations in Cayman.
‘The airways belong to the government, which mean they belong to us,’ he said. ‘We’ll lobby government until this thing is resolved.
‘We’re after the steak. If they want to throw in extras, we’ll take it and we’ll appreciate it very much.’
Mr. Seymour said he supports local music, but within the constraints of good business.
‘From the beginning, we have endeavoured to get more local music,’ he said. ‘It’s in our interest to sound as local as possible. It makes good business sense.
‘But some of (CMEA’s] demands are not commercially feasible.’
While admitting there is little available music to fit some station formats, Mr. Rosteing suggested that dms could still play some local songs on its other stations.
‘(Radio stations) do break format every now and then,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it’s impossible.’
Mr. Rosteing said the issue came down to desire.
‘You have to want to (play local music),’ he said. ‘If you start out saying that and believing that, you’ll find a way to do it.’
Hurley’s Entertainment Managing Director Randy Merren said he thought the MOU proposed by CMEA was fair and that it gave some structure to what was expected of local radio stations.
One of Mr. Merren’s stations, Rooster 101.9, has a country music format, in which there is a very limited selection of local music. Still, Mr. Merren said his station would play the local music.
‘It gets a little repetitive hearing the same songs, but hopefully, by doing this, it will get a few more artists to produce music in that format,’ he said.
Kenny Rankin, Managing Director of Paramount Broadcasting, said he agreed to the CMEA MOU two months ago.
‘We, by far, do more than what is required,’ he said, noting that his stations VIBE FM and SPIN FM average about 1.5 local songs per hour.
Mr. Rankin believes radio airplay is a key to success for artists.
‘When we bring in a band from abroad, we play them like crazy to promote them,’ he said. ‘That’s known throughout the whole industry.’
Mr. Seymour, however, thinks more than just airplay makes musicians popular.
‘We don’t believe that the success of local musicians is based on airplay alone,’ he said. ‘It’s based on getting out there and playing live. It’s based on connecting with the community.’