The Music of Money

Somehow along the way I missed that “iHeartMedia, Inc., the parent company of iHeartCommunications, Inc., . . . one of the leading global media, entertainment and data companies,” “filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division” last March 14. The Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings portion of the business—essentially the billboard part of things, and I don’t mean Billboard as in publication but “billboard” as those eyesores—wasn’t part of the filing.

When the filing was announced, Bob Pittman, iHeart chairman and CEO stated in a news release, “We have transformed a traditional broadcast radio company into a true 21st century multi-platform, data-driven, digitally-focused media and entertainment powerhouse with unparalleled reach, products and services now available on more than 200 platforms, and the iHeartRadio master brand that ties together our almost 850 radio stations, our digital platform, our live events, and our 129 million social followers.”

While that sounds all-good, the statement went on to say, “The agreement we announced today is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure.”

Yes, 21st century. Multi-platform. Data-driven. Digitally focused. Social followers.

And $20-billion in debt.

Things get a little more interesting. Last week Liberty Media, which purchased $660-million in iHeartDebt prior to the bankruptcy filing—which basically means that Liberty Media owns a piece of the proverbial action, although that’s such a 20th-century phrase—had offered iHeart $1.16-billion for a 40 percent share of the company.

But then Liberty withdrew the offer because it, evidentially, didn’t find a sufficiently compelling balance sheet and outlook for the company. Perhaps it didn’t see the 129 million social followers.

You may not be familiar with Liberty Media. It owns the Atlanta Braves baseball team. It owns Formula 1 racing—yes, it owns the whole series.

And it holds 71 percent—which essentially means ownership—of Sirius XM Holdings.

So there is a situation where iHeart, the company that has all of that radio digitization and whatnot, is being looked at by a company with the only satellite radio company in the game. Let’s face it, when people are talking about billions of dollars, there are only a few companies with that kind of money to spend, so it wouldn’t be exactly a huge surprise were Liberty, somewhere down the road, to get a hefty chunk of iHeart.

So why is any of this of any interest to anybody who isn’t a day trader or something?

Because it just goes to show that the conglomeratization of the channels of communication are leading to an even greater homogenization of music.

Good luck to all musicians who are trying to create their own sound because it seems that the only music that matters has more to do with Wall Street than the Brill Building.

One thought on “The Music of Money”

  1. Did we need a recitation of the billions had and companies owned? The only reality check we need is that a handful of companies run by old white dudes control what we hear. The bigger story is how we’ve allowed our corporate overlords to decide what’s good for us. When Rolling Stone writes about Taylor Swift seriously, as if she has any artistic control over the music we are damned to hear, we are in a loop of hell. Thanks, Stephen, for another great post.

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