Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Less Talk...More Music

It sounded good at the time when that "nifty" phrase began making its way to stations around the country all those years ago. Most of the time, it simply was bluster intended to cover up increasing spotloads and other time-eating clutter.

Monday morning NAB President/CEO David Rehr delivered his opening address at the NAB convention in Las Vegas and said this:
"For years, we've been saying local, local, local. And that's true, but we have a new wrinkle. We also learned from these consumers that being local, in and of itself, is not what defines radio's value. It's the accessibility and the connection with radio personalities. And it's being everywhere and available to everyone. A radio is not a jukebox.

"If you're listening to radio, you want to hear a human voice sharing that same moment in time that you are. There is power in that personal bond. A CD doesn't have that connection. An iPod doesn't have it. No, our model is not broken."
He got it right--radio is not a jukebox. But turn the radio on outside of morning drive you wouldn't know it. One could argue that's what it needs to be in the face of, well, the proliferation of the jukebox...errrr iPod.

Today the more music strategy is still "working" and in the short term it will continue to do so. What is not visible right now is what lurks right around the corner. The gradual aging in of the the Gen Y's that begins in 3 short years--that's when the first of the millennials turn 25. That magic age when one becomes much more important to our industry and its advertisers.

As we all know this is the first generation of consumers that's always had computers, cell phones, and 100+ channels of TV. We also know that this generation's mantra is "give it to me now...on-demand". Couple that with this groups dramatic decline in passion and perception of radio and one must believe these factors indicate the future radio climate will be stormy at best.

What can we do? A cynic would say we can't do anything to reverse this trend. I believe we can. It is going to require game changing strategies and "more music" won't be one of its tactics.

A new generation of talent will begin to emerge as radio is FORCED to reassess what it sends down the transmission line. If you are an echo boomer (maybe Gen-X) or older think about what lead you to a career in radio. If you hadn't been captivated, inspired, or mesmerized with what came out of the speakers I suggest we might all be bankers, plumbers, or health care providers today.

You know how hard it is to attract under 25's to choose radio as a career today. I say build it and they will come. Some courageous broadcasters will step up and begin developing this new brand of radio--one that does not depend on music alone for its success. Once that process begins and IF it's relevant and compelling something magical might begin to happen--new people will want be in radio.

I refuse to seed radio's future to the cynics. I believe new coalitions will be identified, talent will come from new and different places once we start looking for it, and the role of music in this new world will be quite different than what we know today.

Who's ready to join me in the future today?


Anonymous said...

You're comments play in my head everyday (along with the radio) I have been lucky enough to be on it for 20+ years and still get that same thrill & amazement out of it everyday. As a boomer , albeit it with an X and a Y chromosome, I haven't peaked yet, and truly believe radio has a bright future...but only IF we make it so.

Chuck Smith

Chris said...


Great commentary!

I believe it truly will be more about the talent's ability to engage, than about local - especially as the PPM rolls out. It will also be closely tied to how we leverage our brand via other media, such as the web.

Perception is the biggest challenge - but also the greatest opportunity. As an industry we've wantonly alienated Gen Y (and X to an extent) in pursuit of the quick buck. It's a tough nut to crack winning them back, (think: this is not your father's Oldsmobile), but those with courage, vision and the willingness to ride out the storm will prevail - I just hope I'm there to witness it!

Thanks for the opportunity to add my two cents!


HARVE ALAN said...

Chris thanks for contributing.

Let's hope radio's future is not quite that of Olds...since we know what eventually happened.

Anonymous said...

Radio will start attracting New "Talent" when The "Radio" Industry can offer a "Wage" higher than that of a stockboy at Wal-Mart. albeit, Radio is alot more fun than cleaning the restrooms at Wal-Mart. but FUN doesn't pay the bills.