You May Never Hear This Year's 'Song of the Summer'

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Nobody has any idea what the song of the summer is going to be.

The Guardian really likes Ed Sheeran's Sing and the Ariana Grande/Iggy Azalea track Problem with the Thrift Shop horns it copped from Macklemore. Billboard likes those two as well but tossed them in with 38 others... all of which it ranked behind Azalea's Fancy.

Basically, the establishment likes Australian hip-hop and isn't so sure that a Justin Timberlake/Michael Jackson mashup has staying power, or that Calvin Harris' Summer, already up to nearly 37 million spins on YouTube, hasn't hit its dance floor peak.

But the bigger problem is that the summer song formula is now forever broken and a combination of social media and advancing technology are in no rush to piece it back together again.

Here's how it used to work: A record label released a single to radio sometime in spring, produced a video shortly thereafter, let it ferment for a few months and then watched the money roll in just in time for a summer tour. For example, Katy Perry's people at Capitol Records dropped I Kissed A Girl in April 2008 to make it that summer's biggest single and held off until early May of 2010 to launch that summer's gigantic California Gurls.

In 2009, The Black Eyed Peas and Interscope Records waited until May 21 to release I Gotta Feeling and it still took over the summer charts by the Fourth of July. Even now-defunct LMFAO and Interscope managed to pull it off after releasing Party Rock Anthem in early March 2011, only to see it sell seven million downloads by July.

But radio -- regular, satellite, streaming or otherwise -- isn't where new music lives anymore. Rocco Pendola likes to think that's not so, pointing to Cumulus radio's presence on ClearChannel's iHeartRadio app (the second most popular in the U.S. behind Pandora (P) and just ahead of Apple's (AAPL) iTunes radio) and on streaming service Rdio. But the 32% uptick in streaming recorded by Nielsen Soundscan last year went to AOL (AOL), Cricket, Medianet, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, YouTube (owned by Google (GOOGL)), Vevo (a joint venture in which Google has an stake) and Zune. That's a bunch of streaming and social network fodder that never touches the radio dial.

Even when it does, in the case of iHeartRadio, ClearChannel only manages a 9% stake in the overall streaming market -- compared to 31% for first-place Pandora. But, as Carlton Wilkinson notes, only vinyl-buying fogies who want to hermetically seal themselves in the past listen to streaming stations with any frequency. While much of the country might catch a Tove Lo, Bleachers, Clean Bandit or KONGOS track here or there, fans have been putting each other on to Jhene Aiko, DJ Snake and MKTO by sending tracks and videos through WeChat, SnapChat, WhatsApp and multiple other social platforms.

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