Startling iHeartRadio Open Secrets You’ll Want To Read

iHeartRadio secrets

The Media Powerhouse

iHeartRadio is a free broadcast, podcast and streaming radio platform owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. which was rebranded from Clear Channel in 2014. It is available in Australia, Canada, the United States, Mexico and New Zealand.

With over a quarter billion monthly listeners ​in the U.S., iHeartMedia has the largest reach of any radio or television outlet in America.

The company owns and operates 858 broadcast radio stations. At one point, the company had stations in 247 of the country’s 250 biggest markets and controlled 60 percent of rock radio listening.

iHeartRadio connects fans to their favorite music, radio and personalities through thousands of live radio stations from across the country and millions of custom artist stations and podcasts from radio’s biggest talents.

iHeartRadio launched several live events starting with the iHeartRadio Music Festival in 2011. Other major events include the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina, iHeartCountry Festival, iHeartRadio ALTer Ego, the nationwide iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour, iHeartRadio Wango Tango and the iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Users can access a catalog of millions of songs to create their custom stations enabling them to play tracks from their favorite artists and similar artists, commercial-free.

iHeartRadio is available across more than 250 platforms and 2,000 devices including smart speakers, digital auto dashes, tablets, wearables, smartphones, virtual assistants, TVs and gaming consoles.

The Accidental Broadcaster

The founder, Lester Lowry Mays was born on July 24, 1935, in Harris County, Texas. He attended the A&M College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) where he received a B.S. in petroleum engineering. After his 1957 graduation from Texas A&M, Mays joined the Air Force, where he served as an officer.

The Air Force sent him to Taiwan to supervise the construction of a pipeline for the Chinese government. He was just 22, but he oversaw thousands of workers digging the pipeline by hand. After his discharge, he earned an MBA at Harvard, then settled in San Antonio and eventually set up his own investment banking firm.

Mays never intended to get into radio—Forbes once dubbed him “the accidental broadcaster.”

He got into radio in 1972, when a group of investors approached him about buying KEEZ, a local radio station. Mays passed, but he agreed to co-sign the note so the group could finance the purchase.

A few months later, after the group had defaulted on its loan, he ended up owning the station as the co-signee. As a total newbie, he called his friend and fellow San Antonio entrepreneur B. J. “Red” McCombs who agreed to invest in the business despite being a car dealership owner himself.

They bought up stations across the country, and in 1984, the company, now known as Clear Channel Communications, went public. When in 1996 Congress removed limits on the number of stations one owner could have in a single market the company expanded to more than 1,200 stations nationwide.

In April 2008, Clear Channel launched the iHeartMusic website, featuring entertainment news, national news, music content including albums, singles on demand, music videos, and access to over 750 Clear Channel radio stations online.

On 7 October 2008, the first version of iHeartRadio app for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch was launched. Apps for BlackBerry, Android and Sonos followed in 2009.

2011 marked the official launch of the free, all-in-one iHeartRadio service.

Live Events

iHeartRadio launched several live events starting with the iHeartRadio Music Festival in 2011. Other major events include the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina, iHeartCountry Festival, iHeartRadio ALTer Ego, the nationwide iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour, iHeartRadio Wango Tango and the iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Their flagship event is The iHeartRadio Music Festival which is a two-day music concert festival held every year in September since 2011 along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.

According to Billboard, the main festival “showcases some of the most well-established artists in the genre” and it quickly established itself as a home to every major artist.

The most notable moment from the awards happened in 2012 when the Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong smashed his guitar on stage after the bands’ set was cut short and they were left with only one more minute to perform. The singer checked into rehab the next day, cancelling all tour dates and promo appearances.

The iHeartRadio Music Awards is a star-studded music award show that celebrates music heard throughout the year across iHeartMedia radio stations and on iHeartRadio.

How It Got So Big

The Telecommunications Reform Act

More than twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act, signed into law on February 8, 1996, was “essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies,” as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) described it, and radically “opened the floodgates on mergers.”

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first significant overhaul of telecommunications law in more than sixty years, amending the Communications Act of 1934.

One of the most controversial titles was Title 3 (“Cable Services”), which allowed for media cross-ownership. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the goal of the law was to “let anyone enter any communications business – to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.”

The Act was claimed to foster competition. Instead, it continued the historic industry consolidation reducing the number of major media companies from around 50 in 1983 to 10 in 1996 and 6 in 2005; Viacom, News Corporation, Comcast, CBS, Time Warner and Disney.

The Acts’ impact on the music industry was immense and is still felt today by musicians and the general radio listening public.

iHeartMedia is, as I already said, the largest corporation with 855 radio stations under its name across the United States. It directly benefited from the fact that larger corporations could buy out smaller independent stations, which affected the diversity of music played on air.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is not merely a regrettable part of history. It serves as a stern warning about what is at stake in the future. In a media world that is going through a massive transformation, media companies have dramatically increased efforts to wield influence in Washington, with a massive lobbying presence and a steady dose of campaign donations to politicians in both parties – with the goal of allowing more consolidation, and privatizing and commodifying the internet.

A 2006 study by the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Future of Music Coalition found that Clear Channel’s strategy had little public benefit. “When you fire so much of the local talent, replace the DJs with robots, and largely play nearly identical playlists in every market, it only makes sense that the results include fewer opportunities for musicians to get airtime,” says Kevin Erickson, the group’s national organizing director.


Inappropriate Songs

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Clear Channel (iHeartMedia) circulated an internal memo containing a list of songs that program directors felt were “lyrically questionable” to play in the aftermath of the attack.

Some of the 162 songs are understandable, such as Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” or Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution.”

But many of the songs on the list are ridiculous in their connection to anything even remotely offensive to survivors of the Sept. 11 attack. The Bangles’ utterly harmless “Walk Like an Egyptian”? Or what about Elvis’ “(You’re The) Devil in Disguise,” Pat Benetar’s “Love Is a Battlefield,” and Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife”?

The memorandum contained songs that, in their titles or lyrics, vaguely refer to open subjects intertwined with the September 11 attacks like airplanes, collisions, death, wars, and violence, as well as the sky, falling, and weapons, and even two celebratory songs dealing with events occurring in the month of September.

Market Share

We’re back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This is such a huge topic that I’ll probably make a separate blog post about it. It is still affecting artists and everyday listeners.

Clear Channel (iHeartMedia) grew from 40 stations to 1,240 stations in seven years (30 times more than congressional regulation previously allowed).

Here’s a great example of local news stations owned by the conservative television empire Sinclair Broadcast Group across the country reciting the same script:

Local Programming Production

Instead of DJs and music directors having control of what is played, market researchers and consultants are handling the programming, which lessens the chance of independent artists and local talent being played on air. This is a primary reason so many artists on air have the same sound.

iHeartMedia uses the RCS Nex-Gen automation system throughout its properties. Nex-Gen allows a DJ from anywhere in the country to sound as if he or she is broadcasting from the station’s studio. This practice is called voice-tracking, also called cyber-jocking and sometimes colloquially; robo-jocking.

The process goes back decades and was very common on FM stations in the 1970s. Programming was recorded on magnetic tapes and later on audiotapes.

iHeartMedia and iHeartRadio are using voice-tracking to produce the illusion of a live disc jockey or announcer sitting in the radio studios of the station when one is not actually present.

It is one of the notable effects of radio homogenization.

This practice may also result in local on-air positions being reduced or eliminated and it has been stated that iHeartMedia maintains a majority of its staff in hourly-paid, part-time positions.

Instant Live Recordings

From 2004 to 2007, Clear Channel-iHeartMedia were using a patent that was key in producing instant live recordings.

These live recordings were done at a live event by personnel inside the company’s portable recording vans and then rapidly burned on CD’s so that audience members can buy copies of the show as they are leaving the venue.

This process is nothing new and is a part of the music industry.

What the patent did, it enabled Clear Channel to drive competitors out of business or force them to pay licensing fees, even if they do not use precisely the same process. At least that’s what their competitors and media critics were saying.

So what was this patent?

It was basically, at least according to Wikipedia, the process of adding cues to the beginning and ending of tracks during recording so that the concert is not burned as a single enormous track.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was successfully campaigning The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to revoke this “bogus” patent.

On March 13, 2007, it was revoked after EFF’s investigation found that this patent infringed on a prior patent granted for Telex which had in fact developed similar technology more than a year before Clear Channel filed its patent request.

Crippling Debt And Bankruptcy

iHeartMedia was saddled with a large amount of debt in 2008 when it was acquired by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners in a US$ 17.9 bn leveraged buyout.

iHeartMedia struggled to service the debt as it tackled a secular decline in the radio broadcasting industry.

In 2011 Clear Channel hired Bob Pittman, an MTV co-founder and former AOL executive, to turn things around. The company rebranded itself iHeartMedia, but the makeover didn’t improve its fortunes.

Interest payments on its debt totaled about $1.8 billion a year, but its operating cash flow was between $1.6 and $1.7 billion, according to Philip Brendel, a credit analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

In the end, radio giant iHeartMedia has filed for bankruptcy after years of dealing with a massive debt worth $20 billion.

In January, the company’s restructuring plan received court approval, cutting the $16 billion of debt attached to its media division — the company’s radio stations, podcasts and iHeartRadio app — to about $5.8 billion.

Under the plan, the company would separate iHeartMedia from its billboard advertising business, Clear Channel Outdoor, which would retain about $4 billion in debt.

In its bankruptcy filing last year, iHeartMedia argued that broadcast radio is still relevant: It provides “companionship,” as opposed to “music collection,” giving listeners a separate experience from music streaming and a bond to a larger community.

“Consumers listen to the radio because the voice on the other side sounds like a friend,” the company said in its filing. “It is this companionship relationship that has withstood the test of time.”