Future of Radio?

Macworld: Editors’ Notes: iPods killed the radio star
Some comments on the influence the iPod (and other music devices) have on radio programming.
The overall history of music broadcasting is pretty interesting and recent music devices certainly have their role to play in the current changes. Who knows, maybe the old “payola” system will soon be a thing of the past?
There’s a few deeper issues, I think. One is that the notion of shuffled playlists isn’t itself very new, as it was done on CD players and was especially powerful with CD changers. But the large number of tracks which can fit in the playlist of one of the recent devices makes the shuffle mode much more impressive on those devices than on CD changers. Not to mention that one usually selects specific tracks for a playlist as opposed to CDs which might include different tracks that we don’t really want to hear. So, in a way, the main change isn’t so much with the shuffle mode but with large selective playlists/libraries.
There’s something more, though. A radio station’s strength, according to some, is that professional DJs choose the tracks to broadcast. At least, that’s the impression they’re trying to give. In fact, Microsoft recently had a campaign touting music devices on which you can listen to FM radio because you can “Let a professional make your next playlist.” Now, whether or not people want FM radio on their music device is another issue, but touting it as “a key feature” on devices which are meant to hold the listener’s favourite tracks seems a bit clueless. Ah, well…
Still. The status of a good radio DJ is clearly changing. Some people may still love them, trust them, cherish them, worship them but other people have traded those professional human DJs with their own playlists.
There are other issues with today’s radio, as mentioned in this tongue-in-cheek piece about the Microsoft campain. Much of it is filled with ads, has way too commercial music, and may be outright annoying.
Personally, I almost never listen to any radio station unless there’s something specifically interesting. I did participate in a couple of radio shows but I tend to prefer being “proactive” with the music I listen to (or with the news I read). Call it foolish pride, but I don’t necessarily like to be told what I should listen to. “Push” technologies are an interesting concept when you can actually select what you want to be pushed to you. And it shouldn’t be pushed down your throat…
In the end, I wonder what role radio broadcasting will play in the future.
One thing that can be neat is a customized broadcast à la “podcast.” Eventually, it could be done in real time, wirelessly, from one music device to the next. Like jack sharing. If the recording industry were to see the light (yeah, right), this could be transformed into a viable mean of distribution with compensation to artists. As it stands, the radio doesn’t really help artists yet it’s backed and pushed by the recording industry. Since radio is sooo, like, you know, 20th Century, maybe musicians should invest more in other methods of broadcast and distribution…

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

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