Thursday November 23rd 2017

Why Radio Sucks

Oh, this is one I’ve been writing for years, and I’m sure one of the editors at Free Gotham is just DYING to read it.

Before we get too deep in to it, you need to know that I’m not one of those “anti-radio” guys who’s looking to stick a knife in the heart of the industry. I happen to have made my living for the better part of 26 years in the business. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with amazing professionals, at some of America’s best Rock stations. I now program a Rock station in the 5th largest city in America.  I love what I do. I love radio. It is for exactly this reason that I pen this little soliloquy.

Not a month goes by where I don’t see an article proclaiming the “Death of Radio.” It’s funny. Radio has been dying since TV was invented. And yet…we’re still here. That doesn’t mean we’re without issues. Oh, there are issues abound. My bet is that it is really these issues that are the target of ridicule vs. the entire medium.

There’s a phrase that’s used in life: “It ain’t brain surgery.” In Radio’s case, it’s absolutely accurate. Radio is not ‘brain surgery.’ It’s far more important.

Radio is an escape from real life. It’s a diversion. It’s entertainment. It’s the epicenter of a lifegroup. The conduit through which people feel connected. And these days, a lot of stations forgot that it’s also “show business.” There’s a whole lot of business…but very little show.

I know. I’ve heard it. “People hate talk.” Then why do Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Larry King, Howard Stern and so many others have so much success?

It’s not about talking. It’s about communicating. It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it. That’s really a microcosm of all life. If we’re not communicating effectively, how can we expect people to listen?

The reality is…no radio station can be “like your iPOD on shuffle.” I have over 11,000 songs on my IPOD. That works out to about 35 days of no-repeat, non-stop play. So, how do we keep the audience satisfied?

By entertaining.

I’m not going to single any radio company out. But, the idea of “shut up and play the music” is not only stupid…it’s not really why the audience listens to radio. And no Wall St. investment group, led by a 30-year old hotshot marketing genius, can ever understand that.

Radio sucks…because it’s not run by Radio people anymore. Deregulation allowed major corporate radio companies to buy up all they could afford (or not), and then those companies who didn’t sell-out completely to capital investment firms, went public to raise funds for investments in new properties. In order to do that, they sold stock. That stock was bought up by people who thought it would be glamorous to “own” a piece of a radio station. Unfortunately, stockholders expect dividends on their investments. So, cost-cutting is the first move. Lower overhead equals more profit margin which equals a more cost efficient radio company. Right?

Wrong.

Radio is a people-based industry. Automation and pre-recorded shows now permeate a larger percentage of radio stations across America than you’re even aware. And because of that, there’s no reason to listen. Radio’s not like TV. There’s no visual stimulus. It’s an aural entertainment form. But, who wants to listen to “elevator music?” And make no mistake. Elevator music is not about wimpy, soft textured songs. Elevator music, is background noise. Its only purpose…to create some sort of noise while you are standing next to strangers, while the sound of the outside world drones on.

And without live people in the studios, playing the songs the audience they serve really want to hear, radio is elevator music. Radio used to be the most immediate “social network” in the world. You could contact a station, and your voice, thoughts, request could be instantly broadcast “everywhere.”

It was the Facebook of its time.

Until those who run it, cut off the lines of communication. It became the omnipotent monologue. The radio began “talking at,” and forgot to “listen to.”

…to be continued.

In radio, we call this a “teaser.” It’s a little nugget to get you to keep listening. We’ll see if it translates to the ‘net.

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One Comment for “Why Radio Sucks”

  • Shawn Schroeder (Foxx) says:

    Excellent! I’ve preaching this for years and standing up for those of us that ARE behind the mic… You have nailed it. Until the big corps go banckrupt, and have to sell off stations piece by piece, we, the employees, and the listeners, more importantly, lose out. When small mom and pop companies are able to compete again in a market, radio will come back again. There’s no competition when one corp owns multiple stations in a market because they hold enough revenue to overlook the listener. I can’t wait for that day! Better listener driven contests, taking requests again, being apart of the community we serve… I miss that. Bravo, sir! Bravo!


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