Disagree with me if you will: the rules of engagement in radio should be to… ENGAGE!

What would you rather?

  1. Listen to 10 unnamed tracks without a DJ interrupting the flow? Would you call that “music radio”?
  2. Or listen to the same 10 tracks with the DJ telling you something interesting about them and sharing his feelings about them? Would this be less of a MUSIC radio? Or more?

Polls we’ve been conducting over the years as well as huge amounts of other research we’ve been reading overwhelmingly support the second choice.

And yet… would it surprise you to learn that radio stations have their own research that says otherwise?

This is what their research tells them:

  1. YOU want music which is randomly picked by their computer from a pre-approved playlist picked by their Program Director.
  2. YOU want to listen to a jock whose generic voice you already sort of know but will never remember his (or her) name.
  3. YOU like it that he only speaks once in a while. And YOU don’t care about what he’s saying (oh and you also don’t care that everything you hear this jock say has been pre-recorded, without any musical context, and is now simply being re-used and randomly placed inbetween nameless tunes!)

They’re WRONG. You know it and I know it. But… do they know? – I get this sad sinking feeling that they REALLY honestly don’t. But you know the worst bit? It’s because they really sincerely don’t CARE.

Should we care if they don’t care?

Well, I still do. And so should you. Check this out:

  • Did you know that 50% of people polled STILL consider radio to be their primary source of new music?
  • Did you know that 90% of music buyers say that they “heard it on the radio” first, and THEN they go to the Internet to get their paid download? (Source Bridge Ratings)

Does this make you care enough to CALL your station and DO something to try to affect a change? Blog about it? Talk about it? I sure hope so.

Here’s some more food for thought:

Did you know that it’s the minority feedback which actually drives the radio formats? Yes, really!

Did you ever wonder who writes in or calls in to the stations with complaints? These people are known as the so-called “extreme minority.” Station managers tend to listen to those isolated voices (especially when it suits them!) and program their stations accordingly, alienating the remaining 99.99% of their listeners. I suppose it’s because one person thundering about something gives them the impression that “everybody else must think so too.” They should hire psychologists who would explain to them that this is usually not the case at all. In fact, it might even be quite the opposite.

Take Janet Jackson’s boobgate. Ok that’s TV, but the principle is the same. Talk to ANYONE on the street. What did they think? Responses will range from “I don’t care” to “that was fun”. And unless you live in an extremely prudish community you will probably never hear anyone say “that was an outrage!” But the five people who called in to the network and protested were taken as a representative sample of the WHOLE population. So, in order not to offend THEM – everybody had to pay!

The same principle is utilized when polling people about their preferences in radio. The poll-takers are largely made up of that extreme minority! And perhaps also the poll-givers…

Shouldn’t we become that extreme minority? I wonder if that would help. Some of the biggest and most revered experts in this field have been saying all this for years. Take Bob Lefsetz, Jerry Del Colliano, or research experts like Dave van Dyke – and scores of others. But while lip service is paid to their god-like status and expertise, few PD’s ever heed their advice. They do, after all, know better.

Instead, they JUSTIFY the status quo and back it with corroborating research (performed by “extreme minorities” and other people who have no interest in bringing about positive changes) – and ignore any research to the contrary, especially if it means that they’ll have to spend more money on their station or – god forbid – have to do some actual work or think outside of the box.

Talk radio generally vastly outperforms this type of generic music radio in terms of popularity and listener loyalty. Music stations with lively personalities, particularly those who clearly care about what they play also tend to do well (if left undisturbed by the corporate saboteurs).

Radio needs to re-engage. But “…American programmers won’t go there,” says radio expert Dave van Dyke (who also – correctly – believes that Fame Games is THE ticket!). A good question is: where WILL they go? Where DO you go when there are no leaders, only followers…? Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being ignored?

Arbitron measures how many people tune in to each station – based on this they publish their ratings reports and based on that, in turn, stations can charge their advertisers for “exposure.”

Listen up, PD’s:

  • Listeners feel disengaged and REALLY don’t care any more. If they tune in to one of your “repeater radio” stations it’s out of habit, and you can bet it’s turned way down. Arbitron does NOT report this. How many households or car radios are “tuned in” – but have the volume down so low that they’re actually tuning you out?
  • Just wait till the advertisers (who DON’T listen to radio) find this out!

Bend over, everbody.

  • Advertisers are being screwed because they deserve to get MORE for their money.
  • Listeners are being insulted and screwed because they’re being treated like mindless cattle by stations and jocks who could care less.
  • Artists are being screwed because they THINK they’re getting more airplay than they actually do (“turned-down-low” airplay doesn’t count – does it? What about “irritating” airplay?)
  • Radio itself is being screwed because it pays royalties for airplay which is valueless!
  • Station owners are being screwed by their own PD’s who rationalize their stripped-down formats as a cost-saving measure claiming that “research shows that people want stupid radio,” which really gives them nice cushy jobs and allows them not to think – at all. They want “something” for “nothing.” But even Santa Claus would tell them that he only has prezzies for good boys and girls!

Radio’s is a tale of constantly missed opportunities. Its main anti-heroes are PDs with oversized egos, complacent staffs, unimaginative station owners, all that falsified research and intellectual dishonesty committed regularly by lazy, opinionated, arrogant and ignorant nobodies who landed themselves a great job!

And let me also tell you this:

The moment Fame Games or another HONEST internet-based format – inevitably – becomes a household name (where LOVE of music and total engagement LEADS the way), music radio will, well and truly be finished.

Radio still has a chance to re-engage, because contrary to my angry rhetoric above there still ARE intelligent, passionate and open-minded people working in radio. And this includes PD’s. But they’re all being screamed down by pencil-pushers and FAKES who more or less deliberately are doing everything to bring radio down once and for all.

Bend over everybody…