Nope, radio is still not dead. If you still think so, read this.

There are certain segments of the public that believe that radio is dead. Granted that the industry may be in a period of transition thanks to rapidly changing technology and consumer demands, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead.

These three articles address the situation:

1. The secret to achieve a growing radio industry could be as simple as this

Go to a radio conference in the US or Canada, and there won’t be very many smiling faces. There’s a general feeling in the US and Canada that radio is managing decline. But in other countries, radio is behaving differently.

The UK commercial industry has grown, over the past year, by 5.2%. It’s now a US $887m market.

Australian commercial radio has grown too — over the past year, metro stations growing 3.8% to a US $573m market (and there’s more from the regions, too).

Commercial radio in Finland is growing, too. Their figures are harder to decipher, but July grew by 6.6% over June; and June grew by 17% over May. The market’s comparatively small at about US $93m — but it’s doing better than the UK if you bear in mind Finland’s small population.

These aren’t the stories you hear from the US and Canada; and I’m often asked why.

It’s not an easy answer.

Keep reading.

2. Thoughts on the post-“Radio is Dead” era

Paul, Jennifer, and I did a fun podcast at my house the other day in which we discussed what I have coined the post-“Radio is Dead” era. Basically the wags, wonks, and wise guys of the Internet have given up declaring that radio is deceased, but nobody quite knows what to think about it now. In the immortal words of the famously and unexpectedly defeated Thomas Dewey in the presidential election of 1948, “If I am alive, what am I doing here? And if I’m dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?”

So here goes: my random thoughts on our post-postmortum radio landscape.

Thought Number One: Radio can no longer be defined by any single transmission medium.

Once upon a time when we thought about radio we associated it with AM/FM. But in retrospect, that 20th-century way of doing and understanding radio may have been anomalous. As I argued in my book Radio 2.0: Uploading the First Broadcast Medium, through the centuries we have read print in many different forms: books, newspaper articles, scrolls, teletype, LED freeway signs, just to cite a few examples. Why did we think that we would always listen to broadcast sound via AM/FM and no other format? In our time, radio is no longer defined by the technology that transmits it. Which takes us into . . .

Thought Number Two: Radio is better understood as an idea instead of a technology.

Keep reading.

3. Radio survived the tape, CD, and iPod. In the age of Spotify, it’s more popular than ever.

Think of any teen movie out of the 1980s or 1990s, and there’s a fair chance you can recall a scene of characters lounging in a car, singing along to the blare of a dashboard radio. If not driving, they’re listening to radio while sitting around a breakfast table, or doing homework, or gathering at friends’ parties, those trusty AM/FM waves forever crooning on in the background.

Music listening these days looks different. People don’t need a DJ spinning them new tracks that they’ll rush off to buy at a record shop; they pick their own songs on digital streaming services like Spotify. According to everyone from Jay-Z to entire national governments, the reign of radio is over.

Yet why the gloom? Radio is actually more alive than ever.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

2 thoughts on “Nope, radio is still not dead. If you still think so, read this.

  • November 5, 2018 at 11:26 am

    As long as people drive cars or are looking to fill a few gaps in entertainment / information / etc while they commute or travel, radio will prove to be the most efficient way to get into our ears.

    As long as there are emergencies, radios (especially those with batteries) will be the best way to keep people updated.

    That said, radio has a LOT of opportunity for improvement, especially by leveraging tech tools available today. Short on programming? Throw in a good podcast. Looking to add better context on a local level? Find a way to integrate local social media feeds from key influencers, high schools, city councils and more to make things more relevant.

    Music lists? Please … payola scams of the 70s seem like nothing compared to what I feel from today’s music. The endless repetition of programmed / looped / formulaic music is a waste of my ear space. Seek out new bands and performers and tell me their story. Like what Alan Cross does 🙂

    AND STOP YELLING AT ME. I don’t listen to commercial radio because everyone sounds like the same jacked up A-hole that’s always trying to get the most attention at a party. (a) it’s not a party and (b) there’s no need to shout me down while I’m in my car or walking to work.

  • November 5, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Radio: We’re bigger than ever!
    Translation: We changed the definition of radio to include online radio and curated playlists from streaming services (because a curated playlist is the same as listening to a radio DJ, right? Even though radio DJs don’t curate the playlist). Now our numbers are huge.

    Radio: Most people don’t want to bother making a playlist and picking their own music, that’s why they choose radio (terrestrial specifically).
    Translation: Apathy prevails, full steam ahead- doubling down on mediocrity.


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