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Thursday, August 18, 2011
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Radio? We Don't Need No Stinking Radio.

There's a disease that has propagated over the past dozen years, spreading more quickly as the internet penetrated deeply into society. I suffer from it along with many in the radio industry. It's called "IthinkIamImportant."

"Competition is not just in advertising. It has spread into artists' involvement and, most importantly, in the time a listener has to 'listen.'" "IthinkIamImportant" sometimes invades an entire sector - as it has with the radio industry, record labels, and (to a lesser degree) ad agencies wanting to impress upon clients that all the client needs is the old media brilliance agencies possess.

In most cases, "IthinkIamImportant" dulls the senses. But more appropriately, it dulls common sense. In almost all cases, it leaves the afflicted with far less of whatever they are chasing - until, in its final stage, the victim is left flailing and chasing multiple avenues of hope with little results. Newspapers are probably farthest along the path of being infected, although multiple other businesses are suffering similar fates (travel agents and bookstores are not far behind).

For a number of reasons, I borrowed the concept used in creating this article's headline from "Blazing Saddles," the Mel Brooks movie depicting a cross-eyed slant on many issues of its day. I particularly like the scene with "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!" because it closely reflects how the radio industry is viewed by artists tired of a nearly impossible system for getting airplay on terrestrial stations. Offshoots of this are also showing in a bitter relationship between the radio and record industry. With radio advertisers looking elsewhere, too; producing a drop in the ratio of local to national advertiser revenue for radio.

Google Magnifier has launched. It's a blog to accompany Google Music Beta. This giant company's move into allowing consumers to listen to their music collection via Android devices (and through computers) is another challenge to radio. Not demonic in itself, but coupled with a long list of other online music services (as outlined at AG on August 2), this new entry into music discovery/consumption adds to the growth in competitors of music radio. Musicians can find that using these services is much easier than pounding on the door of a radio station to try and get a little local airplay.

Even Audio Graphics' RRadio Music is showing an increase in the number of bands using it to gain airplay. (Our "Intro to Indie Artists" now features 387 programs played on 153 internet radio stations.)

Add the growth in online talk radio stations to the explosion in internet music discovery services, and you can see why there should be concern for anyone who makes their living in the radio industry.

Competition is not just in advertising. It has spread into artists' involvement and, most importantly, in the time a listener has to "listen."

Clear Channel is responding with its "iHeartRadio" campaign. I also remember reading something about CBS Radio creating a similar app (apologies to the publication and CBS Radio for not remembering what or where). Other than these two bits of information about the radio industry trying to keep up with a change in listening and music distribution patterns, I am not aware of any group or station following suit.

The choices that radio consumers now have are sure to have a noticeable affect on broadcasting's base, unless you suffer from "IthinkIamImportant." (The only sliver of silver is that none of these mentioned music services and alternatives to talk radio is guaranteed success.)

The concern is that although broadcast radio still has time, a growing number of artists, record labels and consumers are saying the above refrain: "Radio? We don't need no stinking radio." The similar line in "Blazing Saddles" made me laugh. As it applies to what's currently happening with music, consumers, and the radio industry, it's not so funny.

I wonder how many people are troubled by radio's poor use of new media. On the other hand, there are others who think that new media advances have little affect on what's happening with local radio stations today. This group is choosing to blame all ills on a bad economy.

The latter of the above two groups suffers from "IthinkIamImportant" - showing its symptoms to digitally savvy consumers and advertisers like a flashing neon sign. That, too, is not so funny.

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