Radio's Future

I spend a lot of time on music-focused subreddits, specifically /r/popheads, /r/indieheads, and /r/hiphopheads. It’s great to get linked to breaking news and good music, but what I love best is reading the commentary by the anonymous members of the communities.

This comment thread above, from this /r/popheads thread discussing a Rolling Stone article, is super interesting.

Now, it’s a given that radio isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
And it’s also a given that the commenters above are a super-passionate subset of pop fandom and don’t necessarily represent the interests of radio’s GP.

But I love the intuitive assertion here that “most people these days are constantly looking for the new bop to play.” I’ve seen this in action in my own role as new-music curator just among my friend group. I’ll send a new song to a group chat and hear it blasting in my friend’s car just a day later, or on repeat in a roommate’s shower playlist through the bathroom door.

There absolutely is demand and desire for the presence of independent curators in the music industry. Mainstream streaming services, with their anonymous playlisters, opaque inner workings, and major-label dominance, are not effectively filling that niche.

Beats 1 probably comes the closest, with its artist-helmed shows and on-air personalities, but interfacing with it requires use of the intolerable iTunes or iOS/Android Apple Music apps. And streaming it in a car, outside, or on the go requires use of cell data, which is a dealbreaker for the average listener.

SiriusXM, another competitor, is prohibitively expensive, and has a tendency to partake in the same kind of playlist hegemony as terrestrial radio.

The platform that can do what neither radio or streaming is doing, and do it in a way that both satisfies the existing desires of omnivorous, pan-genre modern music consumers and surprises and delights them with new discoveries, will find itself occupying a very important position in the industry landscape.

• Maybe it’s something that combines elements of on-demand/interactive with real-time/non-interactive, allowing fans to listen live as well as after the fact, like a DVR.

• Maybe it’s something that, impossibly, ends up shared between streaming services. If an individual artist can distribute/license their music to multiple platforms, who’s to say a service or show or on-air host’s brand can’t be distributed the same way?

• Or maybe it’s even something with a live-stream element, a la Twitch.

Who knows? Not me ;)

PS: I see a lot of independent curators/internet personalities making multiple versions of their personal playlists for their fans on different platforms to allow everyone to listen, or even fans having to manually copy the songs over themselves... that shouldn’t have to be a thing. Right????????