I can’t say I’m at all surprised by the results of this study by Ofcom, the regulator of UK radio. With Spotify having tremendous penetration into Britain and Europe and with data plans much more affordable, it’s inevitable that people–regardless of their age–would gravitate towards accessing music customizable music streams on demand.
Traditionalists (read: Luddites) can pretend that streaming isn’t the future, but they have their heads so firmly up their bottoms that they’re in a different postal code. Access to music is the way we’re ahead, not possession. Streaming is set to eclipse downloads and CDs in the next few years. After all, if you can access whatever song you want, whenever you want, wherever you happen to be on whatever device you choose at a price that’s close to free (if not free, period), why would you spend money you didn’t have to?
If you don’t believe me how addictive this new arena can be, you need to try Songza (the “lean back” experience), Rdio (a “lean forward” one) or any of the other services that are available in Canada. And remember that Spotify will most definitely be here before the end of the year. Once you see how these services work, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them.
So what does this mean for traditional radio? Does music radio have a future?
Absolutely–but the focus must change from being just a jukebox (“More ROCK! Less TALK!”) into a service populated by storytellers, real-life humans (not algorithms) who can give context and meaning to the music. It’s about human curation, offering reasons to care about a song, an artist, an album. Someone to give you a reason to invest your time and emotion in a piece of art. Someone to educate you about music. Someone to take you by the hand and say “Here’s why you need to listen to this. Trust me.”
Can terrestrial radio make this change? I think it can. It just needs to want to.