I love music, all types. But radio doesn’t seem to see things that way. I love R&B, country, pop, dance, soft rock and more. But on the radio, the stations seem to have very narrow playlists that cater to one specific type of music. And then they seem to play those 20 hits over and over again — like can’t you play something else? And then you turn to another station, and they are either playing the same songs, or playing commercials. And why, is it that when one plays a commercial, it seems like the others play one too.
I remember as a kid I enjoyed listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40.” You got the hits and he had interesting tidbits about the songs and artists too. Back then, if you had a big hit, it was something that everyone had heard of. Now a days, there are plenty of Top Ten hits I have never heard of… and the music market seems much more fragmented.
So what should radio do to keep me and the music public interested? More variety, fewer commercials and less talk all sound good to me. Why not play Katy Perry, next to Jay Z., next to Tim McGraw, next to Josh Groban? I am always pleasantly surprised by other people’s musical tastes. I remember one time when I was at an Anita Baker concert, these two long-haired rocker guys gave her some flowers. They looked like you would find them at a Metallica concert, and here they were loving some smooth R&B. People’s tastes are eclectic! Radio programmers somehow think we only listen to one type of music. I am not saying a radio station needs to be all over the map with their playlists. But it makes sense for a country station to mix in some classic rock like Fleetwood Mac (Little Big Town is clearly influenced by them) or a modern song like Avicii “Wake Me Up” or “Hey Brother” (with their twangy instruments) with their regular hits.
I remember some great concerts I have seen where the artists mixed songs of different genres — Beyonce singing Alanis Morisette’s “You Ought to Know” in the middle of “If I was a Boy” and Shakira doing a cover of AC/DC. When have you heard those artists back to back in any radio station? You’d have to switch the dial to a few different stations to hear that mix!
How about some fun shows or nights? They used to have some fun nights on LA radio — one was Disco Saturday Night, and another station had Dance Party. And from time to time there was an 80’s night too. People would make a point to tune in, knowing they were going to have a good time listening. On the Dance Party, I would always hear custom DJ mixes that I never heard in clubs or found available to buy anywhere. These were created for those nights only.
So what’s going to happen to radio? Is it going the way of vinyl? Or will the industry wake up and face their challenges head on? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.