The State of the Music Industry and Radio Stations

Have you listened to the radio lately? Were you pleased with what you were listening to, or did you change the station numerous times, trying to find something worth listen to? Are you getting tired of hearing the Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z, and Beyonce every time you turn on the radio? If you are displeased with the state of radio today, you are not alone. People all over the country are turning their radios off. Instead, to find the new music they are craving, they are turning their radios in for MP3 players and internet radio. And the big wigs are not happy.

The biggest problem with the music industry today is that everything is all about money. The record labels want more money. The radio industry wants more money. The artists want more money. The advertisers on the radio want more money. Everyone is so focused on getting more money that they forget about the true music fans. The ones who would like to hear more songs than just the same ones that are being played over and over again in different orders.

The play lists at local radio stations usually come from somewhere else. Someone who works for Clear Channel Communications, one of the largest radio station owners in the country, makes a play list and sends it to all of the twelve hundred (or more) radio stations that Clear Channel owns, and those songs are what the radio stations have to play. They get to choose the order in which the songs are played, but they do not get to choose what songs. The local audience has little to no say in what their radio station plays. The music that people of the community have to listen to is chosen by someone who does not even live in the community. It is chosen by what is popular, but just because the music is popular does not mean that it is good. It just means that that is the only choice music fans were given.

It is not just the music that is popular that is getting played, it is the music that is expensive to make. The term “payola” is no stranger to the music industry. Payola is a situation in which a record label gives radio stations and music channels money or gifts, directly or indirectly, in order to play certain songs a certain number of times. It’s the more popular artists that are involved in this. The more the song gets played, the more ‘popular’ the artist becomes, the more money they make. So if the more popular artist is getting more airtime, that means the less popular artist is getting less airtime. But what about the local artists whose only means of gaining any popularity is through their local radio station? Because of corporate mandated play lists, there is no room for them. They need to depend on radio stations in their hometown to build a small fan base, but there is no longer any room for local talent, because of a man working at Clear Channel in New York City who has said that they only play certain songs. Because of Payola, and because everyone wants more money, radio stations have started focusing on the biggest money makers. The music industry supports only the ones who can give them the most money, leaving the little guys to fend for themselves. This is part of the cause of the shrinking play lists.

The problem is not that there is not enough music being produced. There are more than thirty thousand CDs being released annually, but fewer songs are being played on the airwaves. This leaves a lot of artists being ignored and outnumbered by the bigger names in music. To put it into perspective, in one week, twenty songs may be added to a large Top Forty radio station. That is 1,040 new songs in an entire year if twenty are added every week. If each of the thirty thousand CDs being released releases just one single, that is 28,960 songs and musicians that are not getting heard. People buy the music that they hear on the radio. Because of the smaller play lists, people are being exposed to less music. Maybe, rather than file sharing, this is the problem of the declining record sales.

Another thing you may notice when you listen to the radio is that they play more advertisements than music. Most of the money coming into the radio stations comes from the companies that pay the radio station to run their ads. This makes advertisers a top priority for radio stations. As long as they are happy, the radio station is happy. If the advertisers do not like the music that is being played on the radio, then they can easily pull their ads, taking away money from the radio station. The radio stations do not want that to happen, because that is the majority of their income. So, rather than focusing on what the listeners want, they focus on what the advertisers want.

The most important thing to know, as a music fan, is that you have options. You do not have to just deal with it and pray it gets better. Many people are already turning to $0.99 downloads. They’re turning off their stereos, and listening to online radio and pod casts. If you’re still partial to your stereo, call your local radio stations and tell them what you want to hear. Tell your friends to do the same. Introduce them to your latest favorite song or band. Check out the concerts of local bands. Support the music that’s important to you. For music fans, it isn’t about money, it’s about good music. Let someone know that you won’t put up with it. If we don’t speak out against what’s going on, and stand up for what we believe in, then nothing will change.

Eventually, someone will feel the need to clean up the music industry. This steady decline in the quality of music is not only hurting music listeners, but in the end will also hurt the music artists and large companies. When people stop listening to the radio, it is not only the radio stations that are going to be hurt, but also the big names in music that are being played, the ones they are working so hard to support. When the big names are not being played, the major labels and companies like Clear Channel start losing money. It needs to stop being about the money and start being about the music. They need to stop focusing so much on the revenue and focus more on the listeners. The last place the music industry wants us to go for new music is the internet, but maybe that is our best option. And, if this is true, then it is the music industry itself that has pushed us in that direction.

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