Friday, October 24, 2008

P&L killed the radio tribe

Radio stations used to have tribes; DJs on radio stations definitely used to lead their own tribes Listeners used to listen to radio to find new bands, to interact with artists, and because the DJs lead them. DJs used to be local and talked about local issues and people showed up at remote broadcasts to see them and interact with them, sometimes in acting out insane stunts. It wasn't unremarkable to see people driving around with stickers of their favorite radio station plastered on their bumpers because it was cool to announce that you were part of the tribe.

Once the consolidation of radio stations took place and playlists were programmed nationally and it was cheaper and easier to syndicate national DJs, the radio stations lost their tribes. Initially people continued to listen to the radio stations and the advertising revenue stayed flat or rose with yearly rate increases, so the radio stations had a good model: less costs and the same or more advertising revenue. Then the listeners decided not to listen any more because, after all, the same 12 songs every hour with some DJ based 10 states away didn't really do anything for them; listeners could load the same 12 songs on their iPods for $12 (or steal them). Now not having tribes is killing the advertising revenue for many stations around the country tribes=listeners, so kill the tribe, kill the listener pool, kill the advertising revenue.

The death of the radio tribes has left a pretty enormous vacuum that has not been adequately filled. I would hazard to say that if some stations exited their cranial-rectal inversion and turned the clock back, they could probably resurrect their tribes -- the former listeners still want someone to lead them. Certain stations prove this point overwhelmingly with KROQ in Los Angeles being a great example. In some cases, listeners have turned to satellite radio or internet radio (go try Pandora to find some new music), but that's content without a leader. In other cases listeners are connecting directly with bands, subscribing to the band and allowing the band to fill the role of leader and that's the opportunity.

It's never been easier for bands to connect to their listeners and it's never been easier for people to build platforms to make this happen. Take Hot Spot Radio Network as an example. Instead of providing DJs, they simply play a bunch of music that you've never heard and give you a way to interact directly with the band. The bands get commercial-free airplay, the get a distribution platform for their music (if you like what you hear broadcast, you can buy it), and they get a social network backbone to interact with their fans. Essentially a service like Hot Spot Radio makes it easy for the bands to lead the tribe; the tribe that Hot Spot leads is content and band access driven. Oh, wait, isn't that a big part of the leadership that the DJs used to provide? New content and access to the artists?

Again, it's never been easier to act the role of a DJ -- if you're an artist you can set up the ability to connect your tribe worldwide at almost no cost. You can get distribution at a worldwide scale at almost no cost. You can buy a computer and produce your music on it for about the same price as a couple of hours of studio time. You can achieve worldwide song distribution in seconds. You can shoot a live performance and post it on YouTube and let the whole world see you live. But you have to decide, can you lead your tribe? They want you to.

Picture from seychelles88

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