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What’s the state and future of radio today? I have some thoughts.

[I was asked to participate in Dave Charles’ column for FYI Music News. This interview was published today. -AC]

Two radio pros from different eras face off in this Q&A that explains a lot, and offers hope for a medium that is under siege from bean counters and disillusioned audiences. A must read.

What, in your opinion, is the state of radio today?

It’s a lot better than some people will have you think. I’m tired of the comments like “radio is dead” and “who still listens to the radio?” LOTS of people. It’s still popular, powerful, and profitable.

I think the pandemic proved that we need local connections and local information. And artists and labels know that the quickest way to reach the most people is still via radio.

That being said, there are plenty of revenue challenges, issues with finding talent, uncertainty on how to bring in younger listeners, and the need to upgrade technologically while still serving audiences and shareholders with what we’ve been so good at for the last 100 years. I’ve used this analogy many times: We’re faced with changing the wings on our airplane while flying at 38,000 feet.

Where can radio look for some good news?

The good news is that if we look beyond Canada (and especially beyond the US, which seems determined to drive radio into the ground with endless cuts and consolidation, all at the expense of content and programming). There are countries like the UK and Australia where radio is not only thriving but growing.

By the way, it’s from the US where we hear the most “radio is dead” talk. Given what they’ve done to the medium, I understand why.

Can you give us some specific challenges?

AM radio, for one. It served us well for a century, but its technological limitations are really starting to show—and not just in terms of audio quality. AM and electric cars just don’t mix. The interference from the car’s motors makes reception pretty much impossible. As a result, most electric vehicles aren’t even equipped with AM radios. Given that in-car listening is radio’s bread and butter and that we’re headed towards total electrification, something will have to be done. Just as in places like Norway and Switzerland, AM is inevitably going to be phased out. But where does this programming go? The FM band is already jammed to capacity in many markets.

HD-Radio doesn’t seem to be an option. And unlike the UK and Europe, DAB is never going to happen here.

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.

Alan Cross has 38340 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “What’s the state and future of radio today? I have some thoughts.

  • Never really discussed is the musical content of FM stations, which is the single largest reason anyone listens to terrestrial radio anymore. I have radio playing in my work vehicle every day, and I find myself tuned into college, community and even French stations just because I’m sick of hearing the same songs over and over again. Classic rock radio has ruined classic rock by ignoring hundreds of artists and thousands of songs and reducing most bands to their greatest hits album.

    What’s worse are the plethora of generic “80s, 90s and TODAY” stations puking out Mumford And Sons and the greatest hits of the music video era.

    And the less said about the tired schtick of most commercial radio’s on-air talent and their plastic DJ Service conversation, the better.


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