Radio is Killing the Music Business.

Radio is killing the music business.

Alta kachers and record labels pay fealty to this antiquated medium to their detriment. In an on demand society where the playlist is king the business keeps focusing on getting airplay and there are not enough slots and not enough people listening. It’s like they’re coal miners fighting for market share in a world that’s become about natural gas, solar and wind.

The revolution has happened. It’s just that those with power refuse to acknowledge it. Sales are a dead metric, like counting the number of landlines in a mobile world, it’s all about streams. But how do you get people to stream if they don’t know what playlist to check out?

Paul Simon put out a new album. Reviews say it’s good, I haven’t listened to it. Where do I start?

Same deal with Tom Petty’s Mudcrutch.

The acts make LPs in a singles world, get traditional publicity in an online social world, and then they blame the system when their new projects gain no traction.

Used to be we tuned into the same radio stations.

Then we all tuned into MTV.

These outlets pruned the wares, they told us what to listen to, they gave us clarity in the face of chaos. But now there’s even chaos in the playlist world!

We need fewer playlists.

But even more, we need a handful of targeted playlists, that would allow listeners to check out new music.

That’s right, the baby boomers, who are active consumers…where’s their one playlist with the best new work of the old and the work of the new they should be aware of? I’d listen to it, you would too. Instead, the whole scene has been hijacked by non-comm stations who believe they’re arbiters of quality, but are really gatekeepers of the graveyard. Yes, these stations have some active listeners, but they’re a zit on the ass of the total populace. And, at best, they feed us track by track over a period of years whereas an act might have a few good cuts worth listening to all at once.


Spotify. This is your job. Apple Music is moribund, a vehicle for the industry to complain that someone moved their cheese. And YouTube is for youngsters and it’s about subscriptions, not playlists, so…

The Swedish outlet has to lead. Has to create one playlist for old people with the best new stuff. To give not only Paul Simon and Tom Petty a chance, but Neil Young too, who’s been bitching on Marc Maron’s WTF.

Right there on the homepage. A veritable radio playlist, only this time it’s on demand, on a streaming service, and you can scroll through and sample and discover.

Sure, Discover Weekly is good, but those playlists are too personalized. They can’t break an act. We crave community, and the streaming services have done a piss-poor job of giving it to us. But this could change, and benefit everyone, acts and listeners alike.

Then again, oldsters hate streaming. But that’s the only way to get paid for recordings! And the more acts promote it the more listeners will clamor for it.

So, create an Adult Playlist.

Sure, I could comb through Spotify and see which of the Simon and Mudcrutch tracks got the most spins, but that’s way too much work in an overwhelming world. Can’t you get a curator, like a programmer of yore, to cull the best and serve it up?

It’s the job of Spotify to break acts now. Radio’s the last hurrah, even in pop. It’s time for the streaming service to step up.

Special thanks to Bob Lefsetz for allowing us to share his insights on RadioToday. You are welcome to join his mailing list here or check out his LefsetzLetter website.

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