On November 21, 1941, a radio show called King Biscuit Time
made its inaugural broadcast on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas. The show has since become the longest running daily radio broadcast in history, having influenced such musicians as B.B. King and Ike Turner with its top-notch blues programming. Both King Biscuit Time
and the rock ‘n’ roll spin-off King Biscuit Flower Hour
are also important advertising milestones, as they were both sponsored by King Biscuit Flour. The regional baking-goods company started financing the original show at the request of Sonny Boy Williamson (one of King Biscuit Time
’s first performers) in exchange for product endorsements and naming rights.
Some sixty years later, big companies like Chrysler and Ford are taking the King Biscuit route. Rock River Communications Inc. (the company in charge of making those mix CDs you see beside the registers at Gap stores and Pottery Barns) has started making a series of promotional podcasts for various corporations. "What we're doing with podcasts is taking the King Biscuit Flower Hour notion of sponsored content," says Rock River President Jeff Daniel in a recent Wall Street Journal
article. “It’s a patronage model.”King Biscuit Time
was a breakthrough for African-American blues music, and a wave of sponsored podcasts could do similar things for indie bands. The “Chrysler Music Legends” podcast series, set to launch later this month, focuses on established artists and includes 30-second ads at several spots. But Rock River Communications is in negotiations with several record labels, which means smaller bands could eventually link themselves with big companies that have worldwide exposure. Granted, this brings up some larger issues for the bands in question (selling out, alienation of fan bases, and so on), but it’s still an interesting change in music marketing. Today’s blogosphere buzz-band could be tomorrow’s podcast popstar.