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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chron Clueless About the Current State of Radio

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 10:47 AM

Radio GaGa? No, Lady Gaga
  • Radio GaGa? No, Lady Gaga

Interesting article on Bay Area radio Music Directors in today's Chron. When I say interesting, it's because the information presented runs counter not only to what's currently happening with the commercial radio industry, but is written in such a way to suggest that writer Aidin Vaziri is completely clueless to this discrepancy.

In fact, this article is more notable for what it doesn't tell you than what it does: it doesn't mention that most, if not all MDs on Clear Channel stations actually don't have much leeway in terms of playing records, due to the practice known as "music tracking." Instead, WYLD/STAR MD Travis Loughran is quoted as saying "we play what we want, whenever we want. There are no limitations."


A quick glance at the WYLD 94 playlist tells a different story, however. Looking at WYLD's Top 20, I wouldn't exactly call playing songs by mainstream acts like Black-Eyed Peas, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Pitbull, Beyonce, and the Pussycat Dolls as being without "limitations." There's also a certain monotony to having three songs by Lady Gaga and two by Keri Hilton in the Top 20, though to its credit, LMFAO's "I'm In the Bay, Trick" clocks in at #4.

Moving over to STAR's Top 20, we find such exciting and groundbreaking new artists as Miley Cyrus, Jason Mraz, Rob Thomas, Nickleback, Kelly Clarkson, and Coldplay - plus two songs apiece by Pink and Lady Gaga. Ho hummmm.

What's interesting about this is that not only does Vaziri not address rumors that Clear Channel is nearing bankruptcy, much less ask Loughran a follow-up question about his claims of being without limitations in programming decisions, but apparently he is unaware that music tracking has taken any direct control for the playlist out of the hands of most MDs who work for large conglomerates.

According to an April 29, 2009 report by the Future of Music Coalition entitled "Same Old Song" , in the two years since FCC fines were levied against corporate radio for payola -- resulting in those stations promising to play both more local and independent artists -- "the report indicates almost no measurable change in station playlist composition over the past four years."

Specifically, the report--which tracked playlists across every single commercial radio format--shows that:
"1. Playlist composition has remained remarkably consistent over the past four years,
despite policy interventions.
2. Radio relies on the hits.
3. Indie labels do garner a small percentage of airplay, but even this is largely
attributed to a handful of labels."

The FMC's conclusion? "Both anecdotal and empirical evidence indicate that commercial radio has become a risk averse media that employs cookie-cutter formats across many radio properties. In recent months, commercial radio has also been the source of layoffs and downsizing as it struggles with both reduced ad revenue and huge debt loads racked up during the station buying spree following the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act."

As a result, the report states, "The radio industry is clearly in crisis. Stations have lost touch with their local markets, but unfortunately, the industry seems to have responded by pushing for greater consolidation and syndication."

The solution, according to the FMC, is more local programming. But you won't get that from WYLD or STAR anytime soon--despite referencing the Bay in their current hit, LMFAO actually hails from Los Angeles.
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Eric Arnold


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