Fewer Commercials and More Music – That’s iTunes

Remember when radio stations were constantly abusing its listeners with the phrase “fewer commercials and more music”. How could we forget?

“More Music” has been a staple of radio hype back to the Drake days in the 60’s. Drake stations and a few other pioneers actually kept the promise then. As time went on “More Music” meant nothing -- as it does today. And radio listeners know it.

This is one, but not all, of the reasons radio is starting to mean nothing to the next generation of listeners – a key group that terrestrial stations are losing faster than their pride.

Why do I say this?

When the R&R at the NAB convention can honor John Hogan as its man of the year, you've got the poster boy for how clueless the industry has become? (I erroneously reported this as an NAB award for which I am sorry).

But, Hogan, the NAB, the consolidators and Wall Street greedy-people are not what made radio great in its day. It’s the programmers, managers, sales managers and employees who loved being in radio. They still do, but their hands are tied and their mouths are duct-taped (I’m so dramatic, but you get the point).

I’m going to tell it like it is.

iTunes is the new radio. Well, iPod is the new physical radio but iTunes is the engine that drives it.

Fewer commercials. More music. No hype.

Take Britney Spears.

Radio sticks its nose up at “Gimme More” and yet the song is the number one seller on iTunes and unlike terrestrial radio, iTunes “listeners” are voting with their money.

“1,2,3,4” by Feist becomes the theme music for an Apple commercial and another hit is created without much help from radio. The pop culture icon Perez Hilton then leads a mean-spirited campaign to his four million fans against Britney and calls for his readers to buy “1,2,3,4” on iTunes.

Didn’t radio used to make the hits?

DJs would say buy Herman’s Hermit’s new record and their legions of listeners would head to the record store (what’s that?) and buy – on the jock’s say-so.

I love radio. And almost everyone who has worked in the business or still works there seems to love it, too.

What we don’t like is what radio has become – a cheap (and I mean cheap) imitation of itself.

My belief, as many of you know, is that radio companies took their eyes off the prize as long ago as the late 80's. And consolidation in the mid- 90’s didn’t help.

The magic of radio was not that the past was so great – the music is fine today, the jocks are every bit as good – but radio has fallen down and it can’t get up.

The secret of radio when it was compelling is that owners could only own 7 AMs, 7 FMs and 7 TV stations (later 14, and even later slightly more with duopoly).

And few companies owned their full compliment.

Because radio was a vast spectrum of odd balls (I take that as a compliment and I know many of you do as well) who thought differently (“Think Different” says Steve Jobs – we did that) and who innovated because they worked for people who allowed them to.

One of my readers recently lamented the fact the programmers have to oversee multiple stations and gone are the days when you could devote your entire soul to your one format. By concentrating on one station you had the opportunity to live and breathe the format so it was alive, refreshed and not on auto pilot while you put out a fire on the other three stations.

Consolidation and greed put an end to that.

It paved the way for a computer company to kick the record labels’ collective ass and eclipse radio stations as the best source for “new music Tuesday”.

So maybe it is fitting, after all, that John Hogan is your man of the year.

Today radio is created more in his Clear Channel, consolidated, Wall Street image and less in the image of those of radio professionals who actually know how to find innovative ways to take content to the next generation.

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