December 3, 2007

You turn me on, I'm a Radio...

OTCS is shocked by the following data reported by the New York Times:

Of the 10 songs that have notched the most plays in one week, 8 joined the list
in the last three years. And the oldest of the 10, Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” dates only to 2002.

Wowzer. In today's world, is it possible for radio to break new artists like, for example, WMMS (Cleveland) broke David Bowie to the USA? Or is radio just a means of promoting downloads, and thus forcing top 40 to listeners at the bequest of the labels? The problem is, this is a self-perpetuating cycle. Radio keeps playing the same songs over and over because people want to hear popular songs (remember Outkast's "Hey Ya"?!) - but the more radio plays the songs, the more listeners realize what a limited medium radio is as compared to their iPods and satellite stations. As radio loses listeners, they play songs that are "popular" to attract listeners back. And so it goes... (But see the following justification from a program director who played one song 78 times last week: That is not so much out of concern over digital competition as it is a desire to respond to listeners’ busy lives. For real?)

Of course, this commentary relates only to pop-radio - there are still plenty of college/indie stations that play what they want to play (see any CMJ magazine!).

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