Current Issue:

Current Issue

On The Cover:
Cumulus Chairman Jeff Marcus

Click here to subscribe to Radio Ink.

Radio Ink Writers

Has Radio Become Too Boring And Repetitive?

The radio industry is in a period where the shiny new object is getting all the attention (see Bill O'Reilly's rant in story #2). The popular cry these days is that listeners more and more are turning to digital pure plays to get their music, leaving radio to cry on its old vinyl music collection in the back room. Another slam is that kids aren't listening to the radio anymore. Edison Research provides a little insight into that (in story #3 today) at least as far as country music goes. Everyone knows TSL has been declining for radio. Respected researcher Gordon Borrell's recent study predicts radio listening will continue to decline over the next five years.

And, although Nielsen (and Arbitron) consistently tout how radio has 90-plus percent penetration, and radio executives repeat that statement anywhere and everywhere, that number has not translated into more revenue, which is really all that matters. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published a piece on how radio's fear of losing listeners has lead to playing popular songs longer, delaying the debut of new music.  

So is radio playing the same songs over and over again? The Journal reports very much so, saying that has lead to radio offering less variety than ever. Clear Channel President of Programming Tom Poleman told the Journal, "That is partly because about 70 new Top 40 stations have sprouted up over the past decade, while stations specializing in rock and smooth jazz have dwindled."

The Journal uncovered the following research. The top 10 songs last year were played close to twice as much on the radio than they were 10 years ago, according to Mediabase. The most-played song last year, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," aired 749,633 times in the 180 markets monitored by Mediabase. That is 2,053 times a day on average. The top song in 2003, "When I'm Gone" by 3 Doors Down, was played 442,160 times that year. The top country song last year, Darius Rucker's "Wagon Wheel," was played 229,633 times, while 2003's top country hit, Lonestar's "My Front Porch Looking In," got only 162,519 spins.

The Journal story says this strategy is based on a growing amount of research that shows in increasingly granular detail what radio programmers have long believed -- listeners tend to stay tuned when they hear a familiar song, and tune out when they hear music they don't recognize. "The data, coupled with the ballooning number of music sources competing for listeners' attention, are making radio stations more reluctant than ever to pull well-known hits from their rotations, extending the time artists must wait to introduce new songs."

Vice President of Programming at Emmis' Hot 97 in New York, Ebro Darden, told the paper he didn't have the space to immediately add a single from Wiz Khalifa's album O.N.I.F.C. when it came out last winter, even though he liked it, the record label had bought ad time, and Mr. Khalifa -- who would come in to do promotional interviews -- is one of hip-hop's biggest stars. Darden said, "Taking risks is not rewarded, so we have to be more careful than ever before."

Read the full Wall Street Journal story HERE (subscription required)