Dear Radio: Will Spotify kill the radio star?
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) The local launch of the likes of Spotify and Deezer — and the continuing popularity of Apple Music — have presented the radio naysayers with a chance to kill off our beloved medium once again. (You’ll have to excuse me for using the lazy headline but are you really any sort of radio commentator if you don’t revert to it every now and again?)
Local radio is still quoted as being the primary music-discovery destination for key demographics but will this be the case forever? The majority of commercial stations in South Africa have fallen into the habit of trying to be all things to all people to hold on to as many listeners as possible, and we all know that music is an extremely polarising and turn-off factor on any radio station.
So, when Spotify launches with a lineup of heavyweight advertising partners such as Ballantine’s, FNB, Hunter’s, MINI and Pepsi-Cola — and Deezer takes over stations like Hot 919 — people take notice. Spotify also offers advertisers a chance to create premium, multimedia brand experiences and the questions about the long term future of radio advertising get asked.
Radio has so far been able to avoid the digital disruption posed to other media; can we avoid the disruption for much longer?
Yes, we can.
Advertisers have long since stopped advertising on radio because of a resonance with music. Most advertisers I encounter couldn’t care less about the music a station plays and, increasingly, neither do most listeners.
Important to advertisers
If radio looked at itself as a music-only business, there wouldn’t be many stations left. No station anywhere can compete with streaming services and it’s not new — it couldn’t compete with CDs; it couldn’t compete with iPods. It’s strange to say, since 70% at least of the airtime on music radio stations is dedicated to music, but music is not as important to radio or advertisers that it once was…if it were ever that important to advertisers.
Radio stations have realised they are content machines and are fuelled by the conversations around them. Music sparks conversation but so does life in general and, as long as presenters are tapping into that, radio will be safe. Advertisers are looking at radio for the connection, the local relevance, the adaptability, the short lead times and the relatively budget friendly advertising platform.
Gone are the days when the people on radio were disc-jockeys counting down the local hit parade. Remember those days? When a presenter played a song and then went into a monologue displaying his encyclopedic knowledge of every song on the chart — regaling how the song was produced, who played backup guitar, the studio it was recorded in and how many days that song spent at No. 1?
Presenters, not DJs
Great in its time, when radio was the only source of that information, but the majority of presenters today wouldn’t know about most songs past their cue sheets, and that’s ok. They are no longer DJs; they are “presenters”: they present what is happening around them with personality, heart, relevance and with a personal connection to everyone listening.
Radio does need to be aware of digital threats but Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Beats1, Pandora aren’t those. In fact, I’ve already heard and seen on social media loads of leading presenters promoting their own playlists. Radio has an amazing knack of not fearing the digital threats but adopting them into its programming. It’s only a matter of time before a station runs a Spotify Top 10, like there’s been Shazam charts or curated Deezer playlists by presenters…
Does that sound like a medium afraid of the innovation?
Paulo Dias (@therealptp) is the head of creative integration at Ultimate Media. He works closely with the programming teams at leading radio stations to help implement commercial messaging into their existing formats. He contributes the regular column, “Dear Radio”, looking at the changing radio landscape in South Africa, to MarkLives.com
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