Is Commercial Radio Fading Into Oblivion?

airwaves sept20.jpg
How many times has this happened to you: You're driving home from work. A song comes on. Drums. Guitar strums. A wimpy voice: "Say, oh, got this feeling that you can't fight..." You've heard this same song three times in 30 minutes, and it bores you to tears.

Unlike the imaginary audience the station's program director has been instructed to reach, you're not a robot; you're a member of the Homo sapiens species and you naturally crave variety. You don't have satellite radio, so you immediately reach for your CD case.

You're not alone.

According to a July 2011 Arbitron survey, 68 percent of people now rely on CD players as their main in-car entertainment, up from 58 percent in 2003. In-car satellite radio usage also ticked up to 8 percent from 1 percent in 2003. Equally disconcerting for radio stations: The rate of people listening to AM/FM radio in their cars fell to 84 percent from 96 percent just six years ago.

The slump has serious financial implications for the radio industry. If the trend continues, we could see ad revenues plummet and commercial radio render itself irrelevant.

Unlike the music industry's sales struggles, though, this is one nosedive you can't blame on the recession. The radio industry slump started long before the recession cast its evil spell on us in 2008. Besides, the shitty economy hasn't stopped people from shelling out for pricey satellite subscriptions, as the Arbitron survey confirms.

The stark reality is that radio listeners are increasingly bored by the mind-numbingly homogeneous, humdrum programming being cranked out round the clock. People are tuning out and seeking out exciting alternatives. That's nothing new.

Pages of ink have been spilled to wax concern on the redundant nature of radio. The latest survey only adds another framework to those arguments. And though the study is titled "The Road Ahead," it doesn't spell out a map for the future.

Maybe it's because the way forward isn't as clear as the issues plaguing commercial radio. It's not like all program directors can suddenly decide to start playing whatever they like.

People like to think of companies in anthropomorphic terms - as one big, lifelike entity. It's inherent in our nature as humans to point fingers at some invisible monster when things go wrong.

We imagine radio as a funnel-eared ogre in a swampy igloo constantly pushing "play" on the same bland tune every six minutes. As it turns out, it's taken a million tiny steps to bring the radio industry to its knees.

It'll definitely take several calculated moves to jolt it back to life. Better salaries, innovative programming, and a vested interest in digital outlets are all part of the way forward.



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7 comments
Geezy
Geezy

Man what a great discussion topic here Riz, definately one I've had with friends over the years. I'm with TosshiTx, FM radio rendered itself irrelevant to me years ago, especially when it comes to "hip-hop". One of the things that made The Box so great during it's run though the 90's and even the early 2000's was it's dedication to playing local artists. That rarely happens any more, there are too many political shit matches going on behind the scenes. Take the Trae incident for example. 

As long as they stick to the same tired formula of playing the same 5-6 song boring rap songs and mixing in this new David Guetta shitty progressive house r&b I'll continue to stick to XM and my IPod. 

KING
KING

With improvements in technology come options. Options are not commercial radio's strong suit. It's the reason why things like iPods (pre-ubiquity) and Netflix (pre-idiocy) became successful. Options Easy as that.

Donna Halper
Donna Halper

Media consolidation has not been a friend to the listener.  It's made millions for 5 giant radio conglomerates, but it's created boring, syndicated and voice-tracked stations that are afraid to take chances.  As some of you know, I discovered the rock group Rush and helped to launch their US career.  In today's climate, I couldn't do it.  Few stations would take the chance on a new band that I was allowed to take back in 1974 at WMMS.  How sad.

MASSMURDERMEDIA
MASSMURDERMEDIA

until accountants are no longer allowed to program terrestrial music stations my antiquated truck radio will be set for the AM side of the dial...  yay sports and right wing extremism!...

KAC
KAC

Commercial radio is dying for the reasons stated in this piece. It's boring, pure and simple and has little variety. No matter what your poison (country, alt rock, rap) I guarantee you'll grow weary of hearing the same Chevelle song (Shamless Metaphors-please Buzz no more!), Carrie Underwood or whatever rap song is the hit these days. XM gets repetitive too, but there are so many choices that you can take a break from one station and go to the other. Plus, no damn commercials that are equally annoying as hearing Chevelle over and over again.

TosshiTX
TosshiTX

At the risk of sounding pompous, I have not listened to FM radio in years. I remember when KLOL switched formats, and the first thing I thought was of my dad's drum kit with the 101 KLOL metal head sticker on it...not that I would miss listening to it. Cars today are coming with Sirius XM (value debatable, but I've kept it), hard drives, and auxiliary jacks. You don't even need to carry CD's in a new car, just load up a USB stick and put your favorite music on the hard drive, or stream music or podcasts through the aux jack with your smartphone. Even older model cars can buy fairly cheap aftermarket radios with hard drives and aux jacks, so anyone can get away from commercial radio easily.

bill
bill

Reagan also created the climate for right wing extremism to florish, as our country sought what they missed most, locally programmed radio...Even he would be upset how far right his party has gone. right makes wrong and might doesn't make right

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