Beethoven Radio/WCCC(AM) 1290 in Hartford, Conn. is leveraging its popular www.beethoven.com streaming audio site to earn extra money via the “Beethoven Members Club.”
For $10 a month, club members get access to a commercial-free 128k audio stream; rather than the 26k stream (with commercials) offered online for free. They also get access to a banner ad-free www.beethoven.com, regular gifts such as CDs, T-shirts and baseball caps, and “Front of the Line” priority for classical music requests.
Nicole Godburn-Schiller and morning host Scott Birmingham work the station tent. “Members have a special e-mail account they use to send in their requests,” said Nicole M. Godburn-Schiller, Beethoven Radio’s program director. “Since we are an all request station, we bump all other requests and put members first.”
But will Internet surfers actually pay to hear higher-quality audio? Most won’t, Godburn-Schiller admits. But enough do to make a difference:
Over time, “we have found that we have retained a core group of 150 members; this is our base line,” she says. Even if these people subscribe for the yearly discount rate of $110, that’s an extra $16,500 added to Beethoven Radio’s annual revenues.
“On top of our core group we average an additional 200 to 250 members each month,” she said. “Some people try one month and do not stay. Some sign up for an entire year after testing a month.”
The recession initially cut the Beethoven Members Club’s enrollment by 30 percent, but “ we have noticed the numbers are coming back,” Godburn-Schiller said. “We see more people with disposable income again and $10 a month is reasonable.
“We do have a percentage of listeners that are die-hard classical music fans and demand high-quality audio,” she concluded. “To serve that population we developed the Members Club, and found a nice additional source of income in the process.”
— James Careless