Radio: Audio’s Cockroach. You Just Can’t Kill It.

In some quarters, radio is seen as old, washed-up technology that no one listens to anymore. These comments usually come from tech people, gadget freaks, hardcore music fans and people under the age of 20. It’s also a refrain that’s heard across the US; compared to Canadian radio (or anywhere else for that matter), American radio really, really blows. Ever listen to a canned station in the American heartland? Sheesh.

However, radio is still used by more than 90% of the population at least once a week. That’s pretty serious market penetration. And it’s still an extremely profitable business. Yet that fact still catches some writers by surprise. This is from the New York Observer.

On August 1, 1981 at 12:01 a.m., MTV played its first music video on the air, marking the so-called beginning of the end for radio. The video—appropriately selected for the occasion and the predicted impending doom for the long-lived medium—was The Buggles’ 1978 hit “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

This wasn’t the first time, or the last, that terrestrial, free radio would be deemed obsolete. First, it was the threat of news on TV, then entertainment on TV, then music on TV, then satellite radio and now streaming. The most recent nail in the coffin appears to be Apple Music, which launched last Tuesday.

However, according to a recent Nielsen report, radio is far from dead. In fact, it now has the number one reach among adults, meaning 93 percent of U.S. adults listen to AM/FM radio weekly (compared to the 87 percent who watch television and the 70 percent who use smartphones in a given week).

“We react to what we read in popular press,” Cumulus Media Chief Marketing Officer Pierre Bouvard told the Observer. “If we read a lot about Spotify and Pandora it’s natural to conclude, ‘Oh that’s all anybody listens to are the streaming services.’”

Continue on here.

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.

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