Is It Really Stern Vs. Free Radio?
Posted by Psychomike 13 years ago
Why is the best defense of radio today, is that it's free? No mention of content? Because the station you like to listen to may not have the format you listen to now. Oldies, classic rock and current hits formats have been on a steep decline for years. Stations have over night gone hip hop and latino to try and woo any audience. This following excerpt from last summer reflects the end of rock radio:  
As reported by Steve Knopper in a June 24th, Rolling Stone article; "five rock radio stations in major U.S. cities switched formats in recent months after ratings dropped for six consecutive years. This does come at an odd time since, as explained by Knopper in his article, rock albums have dominated the charts the past few months. Artists such as Coldplay, Green Day, Audioslave, System of a Down, Bruce Springsteen, Nine Inch Nails, the Dave Matthews Band, and Rob Thomas have all experienced success on the billboard charts this past spring and summer.  
But this success is fleeting since rock radio station ratings are still in decline. In a March 8th article in Rolling Stone, Bill Werde reported only six percent of teenagers in the U.S. listen to rock at any given time, compared with nearly twenty percent listening to urban radio and forty percent listening to Top Forty radio stations. Since 1998 album-oriented rock stations have seen listenership fall seventy percent while Spanish-language radio ratings are up thirty percent the latter of which could be partly attributed to the Hispanic population becoming the United States’ largest minority population in 2003.  
Along with demographic reasons, the decline of rock radio could also be attributed to the Internet and illegal downloading, Satellite radio and the overall ignorance of the music industry towards rock music.  
“It seems the current music industry doesn’t focus on rock musicians as much as pop stars,” says rock fan T.J Karpinka of Sherwood Park, Canada. “Too me, it’s more of a cash grab than anything.”  
And it’s not just fans that feel that way but performers as well. “An act like ours wouldn’t even be around today if someone hadn’t brought us along and let us make mistakes and grow at our own pace,” said Tom Petty in a Rolling Stone interview with David Wild in 2002. E-street Band guitarist and Sopranos actor Stevie Van Zandt said similar comments in an interview earlier this year with News Hour Correspondent Terrence Smith where the rocker stated that if the Rolling Stones were starting out today, they wouldn’t get airplay on regular radio." killing rock radio  
Rock and roll has always been the voice of teens and twenty somethings. Rock provided a look, a language, a style. Today rock bands dress like their audience. Few fans can name the musicians in COLDPLAY. Hip hop, however, does provide a style, a language, a look. 70% of hip hop cd's sell in the suburbs! As free radio became more and more specialized and less concerned with talent, it simply got boring.  
Hard to believe that when rock radio started you could have an international hit (Serge Gainsborgh) followed by black artists Otis Redding followed by the Rolling Stones. Today as you read above, none of these groups would make it on the radio if they were starting out now.  
You've seen the shills for the industry, desperately trying to hold on to their specialized jobs saying that radio should be free. This is an odd argument. They imply that free radio will go pay. Why? There are still people who don't have cable TV. God help them. Why will AM and FM go pay? It won't, but these false arguments reveal many problems with the mindset of free radio.  
Capitalism has been taught to an entire generation to be evil. That means the people in the top jobs have a mind set that fails to understand that the market decides what works. If people want to buy a new radio band, why does that threaten their latin music (or soon to be latino) channel?  
A dozen channels they can comfortably compete with, but drop a thousand uncensored radio stations into the marketplace and freedom has gone too far. Dirty language won't work. Freedom must be stopped. Or they lose their jobs. How bad is it? Bad. Did AM radio fight FM when it started? Nope. Savvy AM stations began buying FM space. So why are the FM stations resistent to buying space on satellite radio?  
Because then they would have to compete. In the one "free" that works, the free market. No more putting the FCC and advertisers first. No more trying to not offend anyone with real ideas. If the audience comes, the advertisers will follow. I met a guy that writes for SCREEN magazine and is a radio DJ. He is allowed to say the name of the music, the time, and that's it. If he gives one idea or makes one comment, he is fired. This is on FM in Chicago. This is what 90% of free radio is. Does anyone in charge of free radio actually like the music they play? When an oldies station goes latino, I doubt it.  
But to be fair, the performers too must start to act like stars. Go back and look at the pictures of Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger- no one in their audience dressed like them. Get custom made clothes and look cool for a change. If you charge over $20 a ticket but you go out wearing a t- shirt you too are not helping. And stop dating porn stars. The great untapped market in radio remains- women.  
Howard Stern is showing the way to a new market, which he has created. At 2 million dollars a week and stocks and god knows what else- he has already won. But the part of his war that is trying to drag free radio to consider what they can do with satellite is being fought by suits who fear leaving the confines of the FCC and competing in a free market.  
So stop saying radio should be free. Tell us why we should listen to you. Want to be revolutionary? After 10 at night, have on music shows of new alternative, old blues, international music. If you have the guts. Begin to develope ideas for pay radio. Talk about the rock stars and trials and tribulations the same way movie stars are written up. gossip  
If you play COLDPLAY, but no one on your staff can name one members name, you need to shake up your staff.  
To the industry I say, you threw away classical music. You threw out jazz. You tossed away the blues. You are doing the same thing to rock.  
Why is all this alive and well on satellite? Because the one free that works, the free market, has already made Stern and pay radio a hit. The monopoly is over.  
Where is the industry?  
Michael Flores  
Next: Can Newspapers Be Saved? As newspapers chase after young people with failed "youth sections" and papers that sit unread, is there something papers can do to grow? Yep. There sure as hell is. Next post.  
Novelhead: Great article! I usually just skip longer journal entries, but that was really interesting. Looking forward to the newspaper post!
Psychomike: Thanks.