Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Am Why Radio Died

As I sit here, I am listening to Christmas music on a radio station in St Lucia in the Caribbean.  I had changed over from an excellent Soca Radio Station in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  Earlier I was listening to a Disco internet station broadcasting from London, UK.

During the week I also listen to Stephanie Miller for Progressive Talk.  I have to listen to Green 960 in San Francisco, California in order to do this. 

When I want contemporary dance music, I hop onto and I have my choice of dozens of music formats.

So why do I do all this?  Why are all of these channels, plus my Sirius subscribed channels all programmed into our Logitech Squeezebox Classic?

Simply put, Radio in the US Stinks.  The RIAA and Clear Channel have killed it.  The internet made it possible for people to leave broadcast radio stations behind. 

Why is that all important?  Billions of dollars were lost when the new markets of internet radio were created.  With a little effort, I can listen to a Souskous radio station in the Congo.  It's an African music format that most people in the First World haven't ever heard of so why not listen to it from it's home?

What happened was that before the internet age, you were limited to what was broadcast from your nearest cities.  If you were stubborn like I was, you could get a shortwave radio and listen to other nations at night, but that was difficult.  Later when the wrong policy of allowing businesses to buy up a majority of the radio stations in a given market happened, consolidation of music meant that you ended up with 10 radio stations owned by Clear Channel in one given city, and they all sounded the same.  If you wanted variety, for the most part you were stuck.  Those stations that were owned by minorities were bought up and the music became much less diverse, much less listenable, and much more corporate.

An example of that was WDAS FM in Philadelphia.  An EXCELLENT radio station serving the African American Community, it was widely listened to by both black and white folks and was an engine for showcasing black artists and making the beauty of black music to the broader audience.  Clear Channel bought it up and within a year it was... bland. 

I haven't listened to it since I moved to Florida and would prefer to remember it as it was ... before it died.

The internet started up, people started downloading music and the music companies freaked out.  They still haven't realized that according to most independent groups purchase of music continued to increase and their monopoly continued to give them income.  It didn't pay the artists any more, but they were getting rich and giving nobody any value.

As radio station property values crashed, the trend was to go to cheaper formats and centralized broadcasting.  All the sudden the contests that were run out of your city were national contests with slightly more money but you had to compete with someone from Idaho and Texas and call a toll free number in New York or somewhere else.  It was completely depersonalized.

So if you're listening to something that has been dumbed down and depersonalized, why not look for something else.   The final straw was when they pulled the plug on Progressive Talk for me.  There was a very good Progressive Talk station here in Miami.  The so called brains at Clear Channel swapped the format for sports talk.  How many sports stations does one market need?  There are now five.  I guess you listen to a different one each morning on the way to work.

Or you do what most people do, find other ways to get your music or talk fix.

The increase in first MP3 Players like the iPod, then the Smart Phone Revolution meant that you could carry a lifetime of music on your phone and plug it into your car stereo and forget the rest.  I know of people who simply forgo bringing CDs or listening to "terrestrial radio" while driving locally let alone for a long trip. 

Personally I am lucky.  There are three HD radio stations here in the Miami radio market I can listen to to get my fix of in car entertainment so I don't have to bring along a lot of equipment. 

But for most, Broadcast Terrestrial Radio is a study in how a marketing engine lost it's own market.  They left their audience, so the audience left the market and demanded iPod compatibility and an "Aux In Port" in the new cars.

So for now, I'm about to switch over to an all trance music station on ... care to join me?


  1. I'm still on the Trini station you posted on your FB status. Cool Jams. Don't really care much for Christmas music myself. That's all they're playing lately when I get in my car.

    But this channel is a refreshing change of pace! I agree, radio in America DOES really stink, when I was a Punk Rocker back in the late 70's early 80's I listened to Pirate Radio all the time. Still do, I don't like commercial radio!

    BTW, I posted that song I mentioned to you on your status...don't forget to check it's really cool!

  2. Glad to help! Yes, I'm really kind of tired of US radio, at least what passes for so called popular radio. I'll admit that I'm out there, and always have been, but there's a lot of us "out there".