Is the Radio Out of Touch?

By Caellin Rodgers

Spread The Word

We watch the shows, we watch the stars
On videos for hours and hours
We hardly need to use our ears
How music changes through the years.

Invented in 1895, and originally used only to communicate messages, the radio is one of the oldest methods of mass broadcasting music still in use today. Radio became widespread in the 1920s to 30s, and before the invention of television, used to broadcast dramas, comedies and the like. Radio’s “Golden Age” is thought of as the 1920s to 1950s, but obviously it still holds a place in society today.

In 1984, Queen wrote Radio Gaga, its lyrics immortalising the decline of radio’s popular usage – similarly in The Buggles 1980 hit Video Killed The Radio Star, both based around the idea that TV was slowly destroying the need for popular radio. Now, with the rise of the internet and music-listening services such as YouTube and Spotify, plus the ease in which a song can be downloaded immediately, radio seems perhaps even more unnecessary than it was in the ’80s.

Yet radio seems to have dug its feet in, still persistent in popular culture. Most businesses that allow music use the radio – from office environments to shopping centres to petrol stations. The station choices are wide and varied – Absolute in particular has a range of ‘decade’ choices, playing music only from the selected era. The ‘current hits’ radio stations too seem to play what people like (Hotline Bling has been every third song on Capital for the past month, for example – a song that is often requested in social situations as well).

Let’s hope you never leave old friend
Like all good things on you we depend
So stick around ’cause we might miss you
When we grow tired of all this visual

The problem with radio stations – which might not be a new problem – is not that they don’t know what consumers want, or that there aren’t enough options for consumers – but that their playlists are too short. People don’t all like the same songs, and in an ideal world, you should be able to get through an 8-hour shift without hearing the same song twice; there are certainly enough songs released and being released in order to allow that to happen. My office, for example, has grown so sick of Hotline Bling that we change the station for the length of it. Neither the artists, nor the radio producers, nor the hosts, nor the consumers should want that to happen. The point of radio is to get you hooked on a song – to get you wanting to go out and buy it.

Tease us with it. Make sure its listeners are wanting to hear the latest hit again. We no longer have to sit next to the radio with a tape recorder in order to listen to the song on our own time- we’ll google it (Shazam if we don’t know the artist), buy it off itunes and chuck it on our ipods to be played on repeat for the commute home. If we fall out of love with a song while its still getting incessant radio play, we’re hardly going to want it, and perhaps worse – we’re probably going to change stations.

So radio – no, you’re not out of touch, but you do need to step up your game with your playlists if you want to compete with Spotify.

You had your time, you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour
Radio, Radio.

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