What Is Your Radio Station's Digital Plan When A Core Artist Dies?
April 26, 2016
Lately, we've seen the passing of way too many musical icons: Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Whitney Houston, MCA, Scott Weiland, and more. From time to time, we even see the death of a non-musical icon who touches the lives of our audiences, such as Robin Williams.
Our first instinct is to use our airwaves to address these tragedies. This makes sense -- we are broadcasters first and foremost. But increasingly, our listeners don't turn to the radio first when these deaths happen -- they turn to the internet. Think about it: Where did you first learn of Prince's death?
So if your station is to be the musical authority in times like these, you need to not only have a plan to address these tragedies on the air, but online as well.
In Listener Advisory Boards, we have asked people what they expect from the websites of music radio stations when a major death occurs. They have told us that they don't expect the radio station to be a definitive source for the latest news. For breaking updates, listeners will usually do a Google search or turn to a trusted news outlet, such as CNN.com. Your station is not a news station, and the death of a core artist does not mean that your listeners expect you to suddenly become a news station.
When asked, listeners told us that what they want from their local stations at times like these is a personal connection. Your on-air talents' ability to engage with the audience emotionally, and to explain the local impact of the tragedy, is crucial. It's also the feature that distinguishes local radio stations from pureplay services like Pandora and Spotify.
But what does that actually look like on the web?
Encourage your on-air personalities to share their memories on your radio station's blog. This is a good time to pull some older content out of the vault, such as past interviews or acoustic performances. Here are some examples:
- "My Five Favorite David Bowie Songs"
- "The First Time I Saw the Beastie Boys at the ___________."
- "Our 2004 Interview with Glenn Frey"
- "Remembering the Stone Temple Pilots 2004 Performance in the Acoustic Lounge"
The more behind-the-scenes details your air talent can provide, the better. This is an opportunity to celebrate the life and work of these artists with their fans, and to help them grieve over the loss.
Death is an inevitable part of life. Every artist will pass eventually, so there's no excuse for being unprepared when it happens. This week, take a moment to talk to your staff about what your station's digital plan is when the next tragic loss occurs.