How American Radio Is Responding to Spotify

Someone I know recently drove down to Florida and back.  She was depressed.

“We listened to the radio the whole way and I was stunned at how awful it was.  I mean, we hear about how bad American radio is, but until you actually hear it…  Wow.”

It’s true.  Outside of the major markets, American radio is in dire, dire straits.  People may find reasons to complain about radio in Canada, but we’re golden when compared to our Yank neighbours.

The Wall Street Journal has this look at how the American radio industry is responding to changes in technology, specifically the rise of streaming music services.

Synth-pop band Capital Cities has plenty of songs on its debut album that it wants to promote as singles—if only radio programmers would allow it.The band’s hit, “Safe and Sound,” is the only song most fans have heard: it has been playing on the radio for more than two years. And because so many listeners now know the song, which peaked last year at No. 2 on radio’s Top 40 chart, stations are afraid to take it out of rotation.

“‘Safe and Sound’ just wasn’t going away,” said Capital Cities’ manager, Dan Weisman, who postponed plans last fall to promote the band’s second single until later this year. “You don’t want to shove it down people’s throats if they’re not ready to move on.”

Faced with growing competition from digital alternatives, traditional broadcasters have managed to expand their listenership with an unlikely tactic: offering less variety than ever.

The strategy is based on a growing amount of research that shows in increasingly granular detail what radio programmers have long believed—listeners tend to stay tuned when they hear a familiar song, and tune out when they hear music they don’t recognize.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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