ATTENTION COMMERCIAL RADIO PROGRAMMERS AND MUSIC DIRECTORS:
If you’re looking for a surefire way to bolster your sagging ratings and stave off the full frontal assault on your medium by the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world, ADD MY NEW RECORD TO YOUR PLAYLISTS NOW!
No, I’m not arrogant enough to believe that my album alone could save us from commercial radio’s otherwise eminent demise. But it seems clear that a potent injection of fresh sounds would help lure back listeners who have turned to programming their own iPods or wandered down the dial to community radio in an effort to escape the monotonous repetition of mainstream terrestrial radio.
Two decades of mercurial technological advances are inspiring more great artists to create incredible music in their homes, on their laptops and (gasp!) on their cellphones. Still commercial radio playlists get shorter and shorter. Why?
Consider the tweet below as shared on Facebook by Steve Heath of Alma Artist Booking and Management:
And after the recent decision by US and EU regulators, we’re down to three major record labels. That means a shrinking number of corporate executives will exercise greater control over the music we’re force-fed by mainstream media outlets. As our information and entertainment pie grows, a few mega-companies are slicing up ever larger slices with the intent of stuffing consumer faces with more junk food media.
That’s bad news for those of us who turn on the news because we want to know what’s happening in the world, and who turn on the radio when we want to hear music that satisfies our souls.
Chris Rizik of Soultracks.com diagnosed the plague that grips one particular format – Urban Adult Contemporary (UAC) – in a recent rant on his site:
A virtually unregulated consolidation of stations has removed the local touch from UAC and has altered the corporate view of its purpose, resulting in changes that have turned the once promising format into a predictable narrowcast. The “new” UAC strategy, using oldies to appeal to age 35+ listeners and new songs to appeal to younger adult listeners (age 25-35) who’ve graduated from urban hits radio, has hatched a schizophrenic mess. It is an odd combination of overplayed 70s and 80s hits (with such repetition they’ve forever ruined songs like “Sweet Love” and “A House Is Not A Home” for me) and down tempo hip-hop influenced new songs.
As one commentator put it, “Urban radio is where you hear Usher’s new hit. UAC is where you hear Usher’s new ballad.”
But similar paranormal phenomena haunt the entire terrestrial radio spectrum turning America’s once proud radio industry into a ghost of its former self. The Big Three major record labels collude with big radio to set price controls and block indie label competition. So while more people are making more great music, we hear less of it on our traditional formats, simply because many indie labels (like mine) can’t afford the legal payola required to purchase spins.
So what’s the result? Commercial radio feeds us junk food music – the hypersexualized, consumer culture driven equivalent of potato chips and soda pop. Major label researchers have concocted artificially sweetened, syrupy sounds in a small variety of flavors like Urban A/C, Urban Hits Radio, Contemporary Hits, Classic Rock, Hit Country, and the new hot seller, Electronic Dance Music.
And listeners are retreating en masse. Music lovers search for more sustenance, for more savory flavors, but they are forced to dig and swim through the muck and mire of new music offerings on a quest for those soul satisfying sounds.
Commercial radio programmers have the power. They could stem the tide and save their stations by relaxing their payola-purchased playlists. But so far, radio has chosen the path of least resistance, and they are paying the price. As more automakers add Internet access to their vehicles, terrestrial radios will begin to disappear as they already have from many homes, unless radio stations increase demand for their product – which is the playlist that surrounds the commercials that pay the bills.
And how will they do that? Give the people what they obviously want – more variety, and better music. ATTENTION RADIO PROGRAMMERS: YOU CAN START RIGHT HERE.