Radio: It Could Kill the Internet Star. Seriously, It Could.

Back in 1979, the Buggles declared that video had killed the radio star. Nope. We’re still here despite competition from other media, including the Internet. Now someone wonders if radio will kill the Internet star. Why? Because radio provides context for music, something that a stream cannot. This is from The Drum.

It was the fall of 1999, and I was in a dormitory room on the top floor of Boston University’s French House – the building where I lived during most of university except during a later summer journalism internship in London in 2001.

My friend Jeff and I had an exam the following morning in our beach and shoreline processes class, so naturally we were drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and strumming our guitars to classic rock on 100.7 WZLX the night before.

Long before everyone’s addictions to Facebook and their smartphones – and even since long before the invention of television – people bonded over the radio. That night, WZLX played Stuck in the Middle With You, a wonderful song from 1972 (that would later become synonymous with the film Reservoir Dogs).

Jeff said: “Great Bob Dylan song,” as he raised his beer for a toast.

“What?” I replied. “It’s by Stealers Wheel.”

We argued and could not agree, so we made a bet. We would call the DJ and ask him. The loser would take a shot of something disgusting. I called the DJ, who declared me the winner. Jeff took the shot and gagged, and I shouted in celebration and took a swig of my Natty Ice beer. We and the DJ laughed.

Three minutes later, we heard the whole thing play out live on the radio. We toasted with our beers and started to review why New England beach sand is rocky while Floridian and Caribbean sand is granular. And we left the radio on.

You should 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.

4 thoughts on “Radio: It Could Kill the Internet Star. Seriously, It Could.

  • August 15, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    “Because radio provides context for music, something that a stream cannot.” I challenge you to explain this.
    Your favourite artist putting up a playlist on Spotify gives context to music. Spotify giving you a playlist of new music based on music you’ve listened to that week, gives context to music.
    Music services like Apple Music, with shows by people like Elton John (promoting music discovery), St. Vincent, RTJ … gives context to music.

    AM/FM radio with a 5-8 minute commercial wall followed by 2 minutes of a girl/boy or girl/boy/boy host making wacky cracks about celebrity gossip followed by the repetitive playing of the latest Weeknd song – that does not give context to music.

    Those stats in the article show most music formats are stagnant. The growth is in talk radio (likely bolstered by the US election cycle), most listening is the A.M. drive, in the car.
    Apple blew apart the PC market by going brick & mortar. I’d love to see Apple and Spotify buy up some terrestrial radio- and use it to drive more people to their digital worlds. Then radio will change.

    • August 15, 2017 at 11:45 pm

      I 100% agree with your sentiment.

      With a Toronto context, the last time I cared about radio offering context to the music was Scott Turner’s Spirit of the Edge show on 102.1 which got cancelled over a year ago.

      Now the discovery I do with music is governed much with how you describe it.

    • August 16, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Agreed. GOOD radio can be exceptional to listen to (not sucking up, but Ongoing History is a great example of this). Unfortunately, it doesn’t sell as well as a Top 40 playlist on repeat, so it’s incredibly hard to find, especially at convenient times.

      Hence why podcasts are so much more convenient. Now if only you could embed complete songs in your podcasts…


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