Facebook is the New Radio DJ

By Jerry Del Colliano

(At our regular Scottsdale lunch, pictured from left to right with Todd Wallace, John Sebastian, JD, joined by Scotty Brink and Bill Gardner)

Last week Jupiter Research came out with some new research that pandered to the radio industry -- reassuring it that radio is the most powerful means of music discovery.

They assert that "Even among the 8% classified as trend setters because of their influence over other music users, radio, at 59%, is second only to recommendations from friends, 62%, in introducing them to new music" -- is just plain wrong.

And it's incorrect to think radio drives music sales the way it used to.

Radio still has a significant influence on Hispanic music and to some extent Hip-Hop. Hispanic listeners continue to love the radio and listen to it. Hispanic stations haven't been screwed up on the same basis as other formats -- most are very local. (There's that word again).

This from RBR:

For all of the groups in the JupiterResearch/Ipsos Insight Music Consumer Survey of 2,134 online music users, radio was the #1 method of discovering new music. And it was pretty uniform, from a high of 65% for paying downloaders to a low of 62% for music aficionados – and 63% for all those surveyed.

If this study makes you feel better, enjoy yourself. But it couldn't be further from the truth.

Young listeners -- the record buying (and stealing) public -- rely on each other through social networks to communicate what's hot -- I mean, what's cool.

They look with disdain at radio DJs who many believe don't choose their own music, don't even like it in some cases and aren't that knowledgeable about it. Only radio thinks it's still doing a good job helping young people discover new music. But it is the Internet -- and the many social networks contained therein -- that matter more and more.

You don't have to be on a college campus to know this. Check with your sons and daughters. You may work at a radio station but they use their own means for discovering new music -- not the ones you used.

The radio industry is in its denial stage.

According to the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief, denial is the second stage after shock.

Next comes anger where the industry lashes out at everyone including each other for their incompetence. Aren't we beginning to see more of that?

Then the Bargaining stage -- you promise the radio gods anything if you're just allowed to keep living as a terrestrial radio station of old.

And depression also occurs in the bargaining stage.

Followed by acceptance that radio is a pretty damn good entertainer run by pretty damn bad operators in a time of great social and technological change.

The only thing left to do is -- move through every stage of terrestrial grief and get to healing right away. There is a big media world out there waiting for new content and great marketing ideas.

Radio programmed to the existing audience can be a good free cash flow machine for many more years -- if operators invest in the kind of "appointment" programming they will need to keep this audience listening. They are not doing this. In fact, as you know, they are doing quite the opposite -- cutting back and squandering talented people and managers.

The Internet is the future delivery system, but now owners should be creating new forms of radio. If the Drake format is the last major format that had significant implications on radio, then it shows you how the industry really has had a mental block about innovation in, let's see now -- forty years!

Now is the time to develop the next format -- for online.

And kick the butts of the NAB -- they should be fighting to get Internet streaming rates down and rate stability realized. It's in radio's best interests because radio operators who want to remain in business five, ten years down the road will be in the Internet business and right now their trade association is sitting on its hands on royalty issues.

And mobile content is a natural for radio. Become a mobile provider. But first, find out what the next generation wants and what attention spans you have to work with.

Music discovery is taking place through word of mouth and to deny it or take solace in a "research" report that says everything is just peachy is not an effective way to deal with radio's grief nor a good way to move on to the future.

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