Radio Digs Its Own Grave as Cultural Currents Shift

Stolid biz loses a generation; Wi-Fi in cars could deliver a crushing blow

The major music business, the “new music” business, is built upon radio, it depends upon it.

There’s a fiction that we still live in a monoculture. This concept has been blown apart on television, where there are five hundred channels available, but the Luddites in radio still believe the Internet didn’t happen, that we’re all prisoners of the dial, where there are few stations and little innovation.

PHOTOS: Top 10 Radio Markets in the U.S.

There are radio alternatives (i.e., Pandora and the forthcoming iTunes Radio). Please don’t confuse Spotify and Rdio and Deezer and MOG/Daisy with radio, they’re nothing of the sort. Oh, they might have a Pandora or iTunes Radio component, but these streaming services are retail replacements, lending libraries wherein for 10 bucks a month you can go into the store and borrow anything you want, as long as you return it. Also, you’re not limited to one album at a time.

The radio alternatives represent market fragmentation. Because Internet in the car is not yet here on a widespread basis, they’ve had little impact on car listening. … Then again, we’ve experienced tapes in the car, CDs and iPod hookups. Terrestrial radio listenership is not close to what it once was. Radio used to dominate; it’s still the biggest player, but its market share has receded dramatically.

Sirius XM benefits from its automobile deals. That was the essence, even more than the programming. At this point, 10 years past launch, almost all cars are satellite-ready. Not everybody pays, but subscriptions exceed 20 million.

SEE ALSO: Jay-Z Announces New Album in Samsung Commercial

When Wi-Fi hits the car, or whatever type of cheap Internet access deploys in automobiles, Sirius XM will be challenged too. Right now, Sirius XM’s Internet play is laughable.

Most people under age 20 have never experienced good radio. So when baby boomers and Gen X’ers start waxing rhapsodically about their old-time favorites, wanting them to come back, it’s the equivalent of wishing that musicvideos would come back to MTV.

Insiders believe that there’s no revolution in terrestrial radio because the owners know it’s headed into the dumper. They’re just milking it for all they can before it falls off a cliff. So if you’re waiting for format innovation and fewer commercials … you’ll be waiting forever.

SEE ALSO: Veteran Rockers Stage Digital Revival

The challenge of Spotify/Rdio/etc. is … to tell their subscribers what to listen to. That’s what traditional radio has done best. So far, these services have not succeeded because they’re run by techies, and curation is all about human effort, not algorithms, otherwise we’d all be in relationships determined by computers.

Terrestrial radio sells records and builds careers. Just not as well as before. The reason we see so few diamond-sellers isn’t because of piracy so much as the fragmentation of the audience. In the old days of the walled garden, of radio and MTV dominance, if something got airplay, it went nuclear; now radio just plays to its niche.

There’s very little innovation in the music played on alternative and active rock stations. Hip-hop killed rock and roll, but rather than innovating, rock and roll stayed the same. And now electronic music is killing hip-hop. Sure, kids want something different from their parents, but even more, they want to own the scene, they don’t want to be dictated to, they want something that’s testing the limits!

Look at trends. Ten years ago the major labels said no record ever broke on the Internet. Look at Psy’s “Gangnam Style”! Radio is dying and YouTube and other alternatives are growing.

We, as a culture, want to feel included. That’s what the radio of yore was all about. To grow mass, you’ve got to make us feel included. In other words, it’s all about culture. Talk radio has culture. As does public radio. After that, it’s a vast wasteland of sold-out stations with the same fl aw of network TV. … Trying for broad-based appeal, they appeal to no one, and cede their market to excellence. HBO and the cable outlets killed networks with quality. … If you don’t think new services will kill terrestrial radio, you must like inane commercials, you must like me-too music, you must think airplay on one of these outlets will sell millions of albums, but that almost never happens anymore.

Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at

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  1. chris says:

    “Terrestrial radio sells records and builds careers.” Terrestrial radio did a horrible job selling records. Maybe 10 albums a year sold more than a million copies when the US population is 300 million consumers. If your company had a sales rep who only got 10 SKUs to a million units in sales in the US market, he/she would be fired.

    But Bob Lefsetz is right about one thing. Terrestrial radio and the business model connected to music labels did build careers… his. And technology is now squeezing out all the inefficiencies in the process and breaking open the logjams. The bloated pipelines created by distributing a hard product put the cost of content both too high and too much profit went to the wrong people.

    XM very well could be done in 5 years but replaced with numerous commercial free/low cost subscription options that listeners will gladly pay vs. listening to “Ron and Don” drone on for 10 minutes after a 3 minute commercial break only to maybe get three songs (which will have 5 second station branding plug between each song).

  2. Jay King says:

    There is absolutely no substitute for community radio. None. Local people spinning exactly what they want to a local audience with no internet required. There will always be a market for it even if satellite internet is sold with every car.

    • Rico Suave says:

      Community radio? What is this you speak of? 99% are owned by the same companies like Clear Channel and play the same stuff in every market. Plus, who even needs to call into a radio station to request a song now’n’days? People call in for some 20 yr old song… BUY THE DAMN SONGH ALREADY IT’S $1….. $1. Only people calling in are retarded. “Play some Ozzy” lol ridiculous Same songs over and over and over… radio is dead. Internet is king.

      • Rick, I’m guessing Jay means ‘Community’ radio. Not Clear Channel, not commercial radio…but Low Power FM Radio or INDEPENDENT of COMMERCIAL INTERESTS. Sometime supported by Underwriting by LOCAL businesses that believe in the mission of the station. Quite often these stations are staffed by volunteers.

  3. Captain Obvious says:

    I stopped listening to music radio about 15 years ago because the music they have on is not what I want to hear. Our only “rock” station is more of what I would call light alternative. I hate it. The DJs are obnoxious and the music is not even remotely heavy enough and the singers all sound like they are depressed and straining to take a crap. Possibly if there were something good to listen to, I might listen.

  4. HaroldWainwright says:

    SiriusXM will not survive another five years. They are nothing but a bunch of satellite/communications nerds who have no idea how to create and stick to a business model. Their pricing is all over the map. I called them to cancel their service because I didn’t feel like paying $180 for another six months. The rep on the phone then offered me five months for $25. I turned it down. After they suspended my subscription I received an invoice for $14 for the TWO WEEKS that my account was active after the original subscription ran out. Okay, SiriusXM, you can nickle and dime me if you want, but for $14 you just lost a customer FOREVER! And don’t think I haven’t told this story to a few friends and relatives. I have a CD player and a USB port in my car. SiriusXM, you lose!

  5. John P. Smith says:

    Please Note: Thjere was a time the Short Wave National Stations were going to be shut down because of theor lack of popularity…… Well, here they are gone and nothing has changed. It’s all about political entities who wanna have their own secret privacy to do to their people as they want to do.
    Eugenics is a broad sweep of killing.

  6. susan myers says:

    I listen to books on CD and cassette, as well as old radio shows which we buy. I don’t like much of what is on radio; about to pull plug on DTV because we watch so little of it and pay lots – we have an antenna on one TV and like it better for our time and money

  7. Brian Astby says:

    It is a shame you cannot listen to Top 40 radio stations around the kids.
    With all the singing about the sex I don’t bother to tune in to those stations.

  8. My issue is with the technology used to broadcast music digitally. I listen to what is called “country legends”. My analogy of how their music hits my ears is as follows. Ernest Tubb sounds like Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson sounds like Kenny Rogers. Kenny Rogers sounds like Bill Monroe. Bill Monroe sounds like Dolly Partin. Dolly Partin sounds like a canary with a lower intestinal blockage. Over the years I have heard all of these artist live and believe me, they sound nothing like the noise coming over on-the-air stations or satellite radio. It is similar to playing a 45 rpm record at a 78 rpm speed while not as extreme. What amazes me is why the artists tolerate this butchering of their works. You mentioned “lost generations” . Because of this mis-used technology, we now have generations of people who will never experience the rich, full, correctly re-produced sounds of these artist.

  9. curtis123 says:

    As a 35-year radio veteran, I’ve seen lots of things that were supposed to be the “Death of Radio”. Even before my time, cassette tapes were touted to be just that. Heck, I’ve seen an old advertisement from the 1950’s that a turntable built into a dashboard that was going to be the death of the dashboard radio.

    The internet is different. It’s radio, only a different delivery system. We’re now competing with our own game.

    If terrestrial radio were only about the music, the author would be correct. Radio has to remain relevant to the lives of its listeners. Over the years, radio has been very good at adapting to the changes in society and technology, but some of the “larger companies” in broadcasting have merely made a cookie cutter approach to all-music programming. Any fool can throw music together. The trick is to make yourself useful and connect with listeners. Broadcast companies have gotten lazy and cheap, opting to automate more and program less.

    However, some radio companies are still “doing it the old fashioned way”, and are not only surviving, but thriving, my company included. Life is good.

    Radio won’t die. It will change.

  10. Mikal says:

    It’s so weird how labels both big and small are able to track an increase in sales in a particular market with an increase in spins on a radio station there. It must just be some unrelated statistical anomaly and not really because radio has relevancy…

  11. Dear Bob,
    Great piece. Now, sit back and think of the one component that you did not touch upon. Think from a “planned perspective” and not just about the “bottom line” for a moment. Then think of the one thing that the Variety website does not do…? Is the Variety website a “culture”..? Your points and reflective perspective on “media” history will undoubtedly play out here at Variety. Your conundrum personally deals with your retirement pension. Think like Stern for a moment and his deal with Sirius. What would have happened if Sat-radio had gotten “Wi-maxed”..? Come on Bob..the FCC knows how to “smile”. They realize the real value of subscribers…….the question is …do YOU..? Think of the reason people go to church and “subscribe” to a certain denomination. Is it just their “culture” or are they getting something in return..? Do churches have “pay walls”? Of course not…..and that is what workers in the legacy “Press” have failed to recognize. I personally hope you make great “actionable effort” to remind those who “decide” Variety’s future path of what really makes a culture “profitable”. An investor’s return from Variety is totally different than the customer’s return from Variety. Thanks for your investment in this article Bob………

  12. I don’t know why anyone likes Pandora, they mix in the most odd and irrelevant songs with the stations I choose and start to repeat very quickly. I’m a full on Slacker Radio fan.

  13. Iconoclast59 says:

    The big corporations are killing radio. It will need to implode before it can be fixed. Fix #1 – the Clear Channel’s, Entercoms & Cumulus’ of the world need to go Chap 7 bankrupt – allowing for a fire sale prices of their assets. This will allow smaller operators and community-based owners to take back the business. Fix 2 – put in the 3-year rule. Pre-1996 you had to own a radio station for 3 years before you could sell it. If you sold before the 3 yr minimum, the FCC said you could sell the station for more nm

  14. Nowadays, if you want successful radio, content is king, not format.

    I think podcasting will be the way to go in terms of many of the morning talk shows out there. I only listen to podcasts, music I’ve purchased, and live sports broadcasts anymore. My radio is almost never on. The on-demand idea is the way to go. Now I don’t sit in my car for an extra 15 minutes just because I want to keep listening. I just pause it, connect a bluetooth or other headset, and move along.

    The format, while it worked back in the day, is what is killing it now. Sports highlights is an example. The news wants to tease you with it so you’ll sit through more ads, while I can simply pull them up on the league website.

  15. realoldguy says:

    What killed radio was all those idiot conservatives yacking away on it.

    • peterfny says:

      Yes, because left-wing talk radio is amazingly successful…not. For your information, talk radio is one of the only things keeping radio relevant. However, this article is about the floundering of MUSIC radio, not the thriving medium of talk radio. However, feel free so stay unnecessarily angry.

    • Dummy – these are the only stations making money and increasing listeners.

    • IronLionRyan says:

      Did you read the article?

      “We, as a culture, want to feel included. That’s what the radio of yore was all about. To grow mass, you’ve got to make us feel included. In other words, it’s all about culture. TALK RADIO HAS CULTURE. As does public radio. After that, it’s a vast wasteland of sold-out stations with the same fl aw of network TV.”

      This is about music radio, not talk radio. And in fact, it points out how talk radio continues to succeed even though music radio is dying out.

  16. lisacolorado says:

    What I’d do with radio is make the commercials shorter and have more local shows that take callers to discuss music and other things. It wouldn’t all have to be Jamie and Danny kind of raunch-talk. You could get a music afficionado to educate people. The practice of having someone in a corporation choose what goes on so many stations, plus pre-recorded announcing, makes it unrewarding to listen. I’m sure having a music expert do a fun and informative radio show would be expensive but people want to learn something they never learned in school. They could mix genres and just pick out what’s good or at least what’s interesting to talk about.

  17. Fed Up says:

    Was anyone else disturbed by the writer’s awful lack of style or flow. Whoever hired him should fire him.

  18. Having been a major and a small market radio Program Director, I applaud Bob Lefsetz for pointing out in major publication what many of us have been shouting into the wind. It reminds me of the definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.” Another adage comes to mind. “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

    Having been out of the radio business for over ten years, I watch on the sidelines as radio continues to boast of their “10-in-a-row” as though it meant something to someone who has 10,000 in a row. Even the outrageous and sometimes creative radio morning shows have withered away to mindless pap. Music radio…it’s over. You’ve waited too long to catch up. Innovation ad imagination ended when people like Robert W. Morgan, Rik Dees and Charlie Tuna ruled the airwaves.Yes, it was about the PEOPLE on radio combined with the music that made radio. Video may not have killed the radio star but suicide will.

  19. Guido Viviani says:

    Started in radio in the 70’s, switched to TV, started an ad agency, then had to deal with all of them again. All but a few colleagues, in management, are in a time warp.
    In an industry blessed with the advantage of enormous flexibility, they are petrified of anything new, lack creativity and more concerned about the demise of their competition than the success of their own.
    We control our destiny, by the choices we have made.

  20. l fitton says:

    hip killed rock & roll. techno killed hip hop. nope. wanna listen to bach on the radio? how about mozart? 3 & 4 centuries after the music was pop, it’s still available for popular consumption. the music never dies. doesn’t even fade away. only people do.

  21. Ken says:

    So can we expect “Wi-Fi Killed the Radio Star” to be released soon?

  22. I stopped listening to FM and bought a lifetime sub to Sirius when Kim Kelly started doing not only fast-talking commercials but added to that, word clipping!
    That comment about good radio is relative. Some people think that a dj talking over the music is good. I hate it! I listen for the music. not someone telling moronic jokes. Some of the Sirius jocks do that too. I just flip to another (Sirius) channel when they’re on.

  23. bluzrider says:

    Doesn’t it bother anyone that traditional radio has lost it’s innovation? If you like classic rock, you will hear the same Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd songs over and over again until you just about explode with anger that no one in that station has any sense of what the heck their doing? Who wants to hear the same old same old time after time? That vision of some computer telling us what we want to hear is wrong. Program managers are nothing but people who make sure that the commercials get aired at the right time and nothing more, the term program manager should be written right out of the job description, and replace with the idiot who hits the right button at the right time.

  24. tomseay says:

    I think over the air commercial radio will do just fine, especially in a collapsing economy WHERE many of these other services like XM, Sirius, Spotify and others have to be payed for. Commercials didn’t chase me away from the radio, I just turn(ed) it down and waited for them to stop talking. Hip-Hop did NOT kill rock and roll, many of the old and young still listen to it, and recorded music even on 8 tracks and cassettes didn’t do radio in either. FM stations are everywhere, and I believe if any radio will die out, it may, and I mean MAY, be AM.

    • gedward says:

      I agree with most of what you wrote and a lot of the commentary coming with those cockamamie theories on why radio will die and why rock was killed (by hip hop?) seem to be coming mostly from those who may have something to gain by radio going the way of the do-do or those who don’t really understand how the radio industry works.

  25. R Lockwood says:

    “Good radio” requires good music. Since the corps will allow only crap music we will have crap radio.

  26. Doug says:

    Splicer is 100% correct. Sirius/Xm has loaded up programmers who worked for Clear Channel on stations that used to be great and then got destroyed by their own ideology. It is real shame and a crime that Sirius XM has to go through this.

    Where promises were made to have channels be filled with something different and instead we are force fed extremely similar playlists that you get on terrestrial radio. Then you have these
    channels like the boneyard which were handed
    over to Ozzy Osbourne and that channel has gone
    through at least 8 format changes in the last year alone. Then you have old socialist hippies like Jim Ladd on deep tracks…zzzz..yes he will always have one of the most recognizable voices in radio history but who wants to sit and listen to his communist and socialist views of this nation in between rock songs. If anything is needed it is major record labels coming together and forming their own video channels taking the arsenal of music videos that they’ve paid for and the artist have created over the last 30 years. Then they have a home to be played on. If you have all of the labels for example that were under the Atlantic Records and Warner Brothers umbrella past and present and you play videos from just those artist alone you will see an unbelievable shift in sales of the catalog and their new releases. It’s going to take something like that for music to turn around on their own video channels.

    It will be through that visual exposure and not
    people just sitting and looking at a phone or iPad or a computer that will get people interested again in artists and having super group like Van
    Halen ACDC Rush Guns N Roses Led Zeppelin etc
    etc you’ll find those bands again through that
    cross exposure.

    it doesn’t take a genius to go back and revisit what worked and do it again what work was the music formula from 1981 to 1996. It was when MTV in radio where the heavy hitters you had the most platinum and gold records from artists across the board. Today it is a big wall of sound and everybody gets lost in the mix nobody knows who the hell is singing or who or what band they’re listening to. American Idol the voice all of these other talent competitions have distorted what true music is and was supposed to be all about. Some idiot sat in the boardroom one day and said hey here’s an idea let’s just manufacturer a bunch of karaoke singers and make them stars with our arsenal of songwriters behind the scenes and America will feel like they are connected to them because they got to choose them on a talent show. Absolutely lame idea sure it was a juggernaut for a little while but if you have been paying attention you will notice that the ratings are falling apart for all of the shows.if the people from getting records Atlantic Records Mercury Records Polygram records Island Records Warner Electra and a whole host of other people from Sony and CBS Records got together and either formed one or two or three or four or five different platforms video channels for videos only not reality shows thrown in not live concerts thrown in nothing but music videos to sell and push and promote bareback catalogs you would see the industry turn around within a year or two because you would be offering those channels not only on digital cable and satellite where people still watch TV on their couch or in the bed but the availability would still be there to offer it on mobile platforms on these channels could develop their own radio stations on Sirius XM and other formats.

  27. I can remember a handful of great FM stations that had programmers and DJs that got it, that would present new music that knocked me out. But mostly it’s all programmed crap that no one loves. So why listen to it?

  28. WolfmanJacks ghost says:

    Great! more RF radiation cookin’ the DNA! Monster Mash,indeed!

  29. cecil says:

    The article makes a case for SiriusXM. This is where good radio is found. Quality akin to HBO/Cinemax is killing off T-radio. Once you experience SiriusXM’s commercial free radio that provides information on the music and artists, the ones to your liking, you can never go back to the in-your-face-commercials on FM and AM radio.

    • Splicer says:

      No it doesn’t. Satellite radio is 1990s technology already lapped by the Internet and smartphones. Besides being too late to the game, what hurt satellite radio stylistically was the fact that it’s channels got filled up by the same has-beens that had turned terrestrial radio in a turgid mess. The same useless programmers and same tired DJs ended up part of the usual game of cronyism that infests all aspects of the entertainment business. Rather than cater to the niche audiences that were promised something different, the suits who had destroyed terrestrial radio showed up with their carpetbags to do the same thing to satellite. Tighter and tighter playlists and fewer eclectic stations. And you expect people to pay for this?

  30. tbrookside says:

    “So far, these services have not succeeded because they’re run by techies, and curation is all about human effort, not algorithms, otherwise we’d all be in relationships determined by computers.”

    No, these services have not succeeded because, unlike broadcast services, they don’t have the government limiting the number of market participants.

    That’s where the “mass culture” came from. Not from “wanting to feel included”. Not from “curation” or “human effort”. The government said “We will give out this many broadcast licenses and no more” and if you managed to secure a network of those licenses you got to decide what people watched and listened to. So if Johnny Carson decided to have Tiny Tim on his show and the radio stations decided to play his novelty song on the radio, he became a hit.

    Now there’s no artificial broadcast license limit on the range of offerings that the consumer of entertainment can choose from. So the power industry executives had to “make things go nuclear” is gone. It will never return.

  31. rbblum says:

    Which explains not only how and why the music died . . . but also American journalism and investigative reporting.

  32. Tommy H says:

    I hate commercials so I use an IPOD and have thousands of songs I like to listen to without listening to the same songs over and over and listening to those awful commercials and DJ jabbering.

  33. RUSS says:

    Nobody wants to here the crappy, brainwashing adds for garbage.
    Its dead!
    Thank god…

  34. Harley says:

    Some excellent comments here and some…not so much. But most seem to miss what I think Mr. Lefsetz is trying to say. After nearly four decades in commercial radio, I now manage a college owned public radio station. Radio is indeed bleeding listeners. Why? Online and on-demand. Radio’s model for years has been the tightly controlled “playlist”. Most “Hit” radio stations have less than 300 songs on that list. They are played over and over with very few new songs seeing the light of day. But even if a listener likes the music, why wait for the jock to play it when you can have it whenever you want? Radio is linear. That is to say that you can’t fast-forward or skip a tune. People want what they want when they want it. And that’s what they get with services like Pandora and Songza. Radio plays a few songs and then a barrage of (usually really bad) commercials. (And please don’t talk to me about TV. They’re having their own crisis with on-demand, DVR, the Hopper, etc). Pandora plays five or six tunes, then a quick :15 second ad, then right back to the music. When radio does play a new song, it’s usually followed by a jock talking about Justin Beiber and Kim Kardashian hooking up at the after party of the MTV awards. Nothing about the music or the musician. Once the listener knows what music they like, they no longer need radio to listen to it. There are hundreds of different ways they have access to it WHEN they want it and WHERE they want it. Because the other half of this equation is that, in it best days, radio was never as portable and accessible as an app on a device that is also your telephone, day planner, internet, video player, computer sitting in your shirt pocket. News and talk radio still have a leg up because their content is ever changing. Music radio can only survive if it blows up the playlist and follows suit. New music and tons of it. For radio to remain viable, it has to be about music discovery and giving that music context. This is what I’m teaching my students. I’m also teaching them that video, radio, recording and podcasting are all part of the equation. Mostly because I’d like them to have have a shot at getting a job when they graduate.

  35. Tom says:

    I quit listening to music a dozen years ago. Contemporary music lacks talented artists. American Idol or The Voice just identify the next marketable person, not a real talent who is just singing a lousy song along with lousy music. Marketing killed music.

    • whodat1 says:

      I agree with your view on contemporary music, but I went in the opposite direction and found a handful of niche stations playing old jazz & blues from the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s. I’m also beginning to enjoy R&B from the sixties and even some big band music. There’s a lot of good older music out there, it’s just that you have to be in a larger market audience to get stations to fill that niche.

  36. melee says:

    So much B.S….

    He could have said all of that in one paragraph .

  37. Todd says:

    Any service that’s “free” will always win out over a “paid” service……

  38. Thomas Storm says:

    Agreed. Radio, per se, is not dead. However there are a number of deadheads working in the medium – most of them employed as executives at Clear Channel who have singlehandedly beached the ship. Terrestrial radio always was, is and always will be a superior local medium. TV’s too slow, the Internet is unreliable, Newspapers lack currency and satellite radio requires a fee. So I can listen to one channel all the way from NY to California. So what? I could care less about traffic in NYC when I’m in Boulder Colo.

    The problem is largely homogenization. Format saturation and music cluster research has killed spontaneity. RCS et al, voice tracking and auditorium music testing – between them have created soul-less machine based programming. Apart from potty mouthed shock-jocks – how does 21st. century radio stand out? It doesn’t. The fault lies not with the medium – it lies at the feet of the operators whose profit margins come at the expense of talent. 1 jock nine markets…same jokes, same songs each and every day. That’s not radio – that’s sausage factory.

    Tom Storm

  39. le roy says:

    What an excellent article, some very astute observations..

    Here in the UK radio is long dead, only a handful of government stations & commercial stations just play whatever trends on iTunes, and their only real use is the traffic updates. (maybe for people who dont know how to get it on Googlemaps on thier mobiles yet?)

  40. Cassius says:

    A large part of “why it doesn’t happen anymore” is the fact that Corporate Media puts out crap,
    inhibits access to anyone who might rock their boat, and has a stranglehold on bookings. Hip-
    Hop exceeded its shelf-life decades, ago, for instance, and Taylor Swift is a pop tart who owns
    a banjo. Mediocrity for the bottom-feeders. Look at ‘Bonnaroo’ if you want to see grotesque
    arrogance, and total incompetence, combined: this Industry is completely delusional.

  41. G Edward says:

    It’ll be interesting to see the Gen Y and Millennials scratch their heads fifteen years from now and wonder why and how digital radio didn’t work out exactly as they foresaw it and why radio isn’t dead. Radio won’t live or die by any other thing than local direct advertising. It has very little to do with entertainment. Radio’s failure or ultimate survival depends on dollars and their dollars come from advertising, not artists, not charts, and not what listeners really want. Radio will survive the same way newspaper has survived: local direct advertisers will continue to pay to have their message on the air.

    • Stormrdr says:

      Advertizers pay for radio, but only if people are listening. No ad department is going to green light throwing thousands of dollars down a hole no one is paying attention to. Right now, the model is viable, mainly because of how much time folks spend in their cars, and radio is simpler to select than figuring out how to hook in new technologies.

      Radio might survive, but I see a possible transition to their business model. They might start playing a lot more indie and alternative bands from thier chosen genres, and then look at selling the songs they’re playing on the air from their own tune-stores. They might construct apps that will allow this feature for mobile devices. Advertisers will still be a primary revenue stream, but like a lot of other industries today, traditional revenue streams can’t be the only streams if they’re going to survive.


    • TNman says:

      Yes, radio lives and dies on advertising. That money is radio’s blood supply. However, in return for that life’s blood, it must deliver an audience to the advertiser. The audience will not tune in to listen to non-stop ads. As listeners flee radio and the numbers go down, the advertising dollars will decrease as well. Will it dry up completely remains to be seen. It is likely that the demographics will change so that it is mainly the poor who cannot afford computers, ipods, or newer model cars equipped with wi-fi, and who I might add are not a terribly attractive audience for advertisers.

  42. Carlitos says:

    Good music will always win out. The music “business” tried to kill rock and roll by substituting hip-hop. They failed. Unless you’re a ghetto zombie, hip-hop, rap-crap, whatever you call it today, just doesn’t cut it for most content people. They’re “going back” to electronica because that’s what people want. It’s basically a retirn to the 80s modern rock era.
    The “biz” likes hip-hop/rap-crap because they can rip-off riffs from the Motown library and paste together a three-minute dirge to idiocy.
    Rock and roll is alive and well around the world, especially Europe and South America.
    The “biz” has no one else to blame but themselves.

  43. CppThis says:

    I have the radio on in my car when I’m driving but I only ever pay attention to one of the local morning shows and its team of legendary trolls. Otherwise I just get frustrated by hearing the same 20-30 songs over and over again punctuated by 5-10 minute commercial breaks.

    I have a basic car without a lot of gadgetry but if I could use Pandora in it I totally would. I’ve learned more about music from Pandora than I ever did with radio, which is kind of a sad state of affairs given that the stuff I listen to is mostly older than I am.

  44. Aaron says:

    I used to work in radio but now I have nothing to do with it- that includes listening in the car or at home. Stations play the same artists and same songs over and over again, and the fault lies with the corporations. Companies like Clear Channel and Three Eagles (a smaller, regional version of CC) have totally destroyed the radio industry.

  45. BiteMeLib says:

    #1 reason why radio is yet to have its finest hour and outlets like Variety are meant to die:
    a liberal lowlife deletes a post he didn’t like.

    The sooner the better. Now go drink your Obama Kool Aid partisan hack.

  46. Jamesb says:

    Sirius/XM is the ONLY radio I listen to – and it’s commercial free and I don’t mind the fee. The DJ’s are the best (I listen to about 5-10 rock channels and Fox News of the hundreds of channels) including most of the original “V.J.’s” from the bygone days when MTV played music.

    Sirius is so good, I’ve arrived home, opened the garage, only to back out and keep driving when they’re really dialing up the music I love (70’s/80’s metal and hair metal). Over-the-air, terrestrial radio? Dead to me…

  47. Brian says:

    Let’s go the other way with this. Radio isn’t dead – it’s just run by morons. Ok, that’s not the other way but the solution is. I used to pay XM when they were commercial free and would have DJs picking out selections at points during the day. Then, commercials started getting worked in. It opened me up to tons of music I never would have been exposed to otherwise coupled with Amazon making suggestions (if you like this group you might like this one too, etc.).

    I have a phone that can hold 32 gigs. I don’t have time to sort through all of that while I’m driving and making playlists.

    I will pay for radio if someone can hire an entertaining DJ who knows how to pick out great music and keep crappy, repetitive (dial 1-800 this, dial 1-800 this, that’s 1-800 this and one last time 1-800, blah, blah) ads. Invest in a person who is knowledgeable about your format and let them run wild.

    Rumors of rock and/or roll’s death are always greatly exaggerated. It just means you’re not hearing it because there are so many middle men between the artist and the listener. I saw this two-piece band named Bloodnstuff that promoted their first cd this last year through Kickstarter and they rocked the house. I would never hear of them if I only listened to radio. It’s out there but the system is broken and doesn’t know how to fix itself.

    National Newspapers and network television stations too for that matter. I say this as I read more news and a variety of opinions than ever and have a full DVR of AMC and FX shows that never would have been greenlit under the Big Three.

  48. Jimshorts says:

    What really stinks, are the long commercial breaks. One day, I played Stairway to Heaven at the start of the break, played the entire song, got back to the show, they were still in commercial, ridiculous. Content suffers. One thing that should be eliminated are Traffic reports, not needed, and not in real time.

  49. hastalavista says:

    Talk radio is moribund. It’s biggest cohort, the baby-boomers, is dying off.

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