Where's Our Festival?
October 14, 2011
A few weeks ago, they had a big concert in Las Vegas to promote iHeartRadio, Clear Channel's mobile app and streaming site. From all accounts, it was a big success, at least as a concert. I'm not sure that it promoted radio as much as it promoted the artists that were there, but there's no reason to quibble. It sold out, it got a lot of attention, and that's fine. But what it didn't do, even if it promoted one aspect of the radio experience, is promote the one thing that sets radio apart from every other medium.
Once again, radio's not promoting the personalities that make it more than a jukebox.
Yes, some DJs were at the concert introducing the acts, but the focus of the event was the music and the app, which is, at heart (no pun intended), all about music, too. It's about competing with Pandora and Spotify and other music services. Certainly, there is still room for radio that plays music, and it's possible that the industry can compete with customizable or subscription services. But so much of the future is in spoken word programming. Where's the festival for that?
After over a decade of talking about this and trying to get the industry to value the talent that makes radio different, it's frustrating to see that some things never change. In fact, it might be worse in at least one way: The PPM has resulted in LESS personality on some stations, because we all know that the meters frown upon stations where there's more than a split-second of talk between the songs, except when they don't. I can think of a number of music stations where the ratings are propped up by morning shows that don't play music -- talk shows! -- yet the marketing is all about the music. It just seems that the industry, or at least the people who make those decisions, still thinks of radio as something that exists to play music. Sometimes, it feels as if talk, news, and sports might as well be on a totally different medium, or at least back solely on AM where "it belongs." And the people on the air are supposed to keep their intrusions to a minimum, lest the PPM Gods strike the station down.
That doesn't mean that radio doesn't have stars anymore. If you ask somebody on the street to name some radio personalities, chances are that they'll be able to name a handful. Unfortunately, most of them are the same names they would have come up with 10 years ago, or longer. And if you ask someone under the age of 25, they might not even come up with those names.
So it would be nice to see the same kind of effort put into celebrating the people who talk on the radio as is being put into getting the word out that radio plays music. The two aren't mutually exclusive. The talent is possibly the most important, unduplicatable part of radio's future. And besides, those of us on the talk side deserve a trip to Vegas, too, don't we?
All Access News-Talk-Sports is one place where radio personalities are not forgotten. In fact, we're here to serve you with hundreds of things about which you can talk -- assuming you're allowed to say more than the station slogan and the time -- at our show prep column Talk Topics, which you will find by clicking here, and on Twitter at @talktopics. You'll also find "10 Questions With..." Paul Major Bradley and Paul Eide, the hosts of the "Major Paul and Paul Show" podcast -- they're broadcast radio refugees launching a sports podcast and they did a very entertaining back-and-forth interview -- and you'll also get the best radio and music industry coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess. And, unrelated to All Access, you can follow me on Twitter at @pmsimon, read my stuff at Nerdist.com, and check out my personal website at pmsimon.com.
Excuse me now while I go back to tracking an iPhone on the UPS site. So far, it's gone from Shenzhen to Hong Kong to Anchorage to Louisville to Los Angeles. It's better-traveled than I am.