Steve Cooper

Podcasting and music may still have an oil and vinegar kind of relationship, but the idea of mixing the two is not so farfetched for record labels. Warner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper says he can see podcasts being used the same way other media are to break an artist.

“If you think about all of the regular broadcast TV programs that used to introduce new music to the world, whether it’s the contests, ‘American Idol’ or ‘The Voice’ or ‘Glee,’ podcasts for some people will be a source of discovery and to the extent they like what they hear, that will lead them to listen to music that they discovered,” said Cooper. “Podcasting will benefit music,” he told analysts on a recent conference call.

Warner Music has put its support behind what could be a test of that theory with the Audio Up podcast Uncle Drank: The Totally Hammered podcast. Featuring Gary Busey and Dennis Quaid, and a drunken party on the beach, the forthcoming show is a scripted music podcast. The official soundtrack will be released by Warner Records and will feature all original music from the eight-episode podcast. Following the debut episode, original tracks will release weekly with the full soundtrack album available when the last podcast episode drops.

An Audio Up rep says Uncle Drank’s production is paused now but will be out in late spring.

Cooper said he believes as more people go to music streaming apps to listen to podcasts, it will also be good for record companies since they will also consume music on those apps. “I see them as a gateway, particularly as people use more and more music in podcasts as a gateway to just listening to more music in general on streaming,” he told analysts. Cooper also sees podcasting to target narrow musical tastes. “I have seen that podcasts have smaller followings and there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of niches,” he said.

Cooper previously said even as podcasts grow, there are also some reasons to be cautious. That includes what he said are the “pretty opaque” economics of podcasting.

Warner Music is not alone in eying the potential of podcasting. Sony Music Entertainment has spent the past 18 months building a podcast business as a companion to its recorded music business. Senior VP Emily Rasekh told Billboard in December they want to be a “big player” in podcasting. “It's really about finding top-tier creators and expanding the slate in those areas,” she said.

In October Sony teamed with Multitude, the Brooklyn-based independent podcast collective and production company, to create the music-focused My 90s Playlist podcast. It explores the decade’s music including sharing some never-before-heard details about nine of the ’90s biggest hits.