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The radio industry in the era of hyper-niche music

The radio business is more competitive than ever and the audience is more diverse than ever. Why has this happened? Well, I guess we can blame the internet and YouTube, which allows small niche artists to gain a following, then there are the copycats, and then there are the sub-niches, and then there are the sub-niches of the sub-niche. People can download whatever music they want, whenever they want, so why bother listening to the radio? Well that’s it, most of the new generation don’t listen much to the radio anymore.

Even the yuppies in their BMWs, SUVs, and minivans that have satellite radio have 100+ channels, so what are the chances that they’ll tune in to any given local radio station, which if you live in even a medium sized city is probably more than 10-20 stations that serve that market. The New York Times published a decent article on February 11, 2013 titled; James McKinely Jr.’s “The Blush of Youth at the Grammy’s: A Music Awards Season That Leans Into the New and Fresh” and if you watched the Grammy’s you know how diverse music is today and how some of the Winners were never heard of in his life. Even many in the music industry didn’t know all the winners.

So how can a radio station make money? Well maybe you can’t, in fact there are a lot of very well established radio stations going out of business or merging. Look in your own phone book and see the number of stations, all run by various radio groups, as they usually call themselves. By bringing together various niches, they can interest their various advertisers so they can get coverage in the right demographic. In some ways, this helps advertisers target the market, but it also means that in order to be worth the cost, those ads need to be quite reasonable.

Another strategy for radio groups is to use syndication after hours, perhaps playing music from a similar station across the country, splitting advertising time with their national advertisers, and then the rest with local ads. No, it is not easy to operate in such a dispersed, diverse and hyper-niche sector, but that is not to say that some radios have not worked out most of the details in their strategy as they evolve with all these changes, some of which we point out in the Grammys in 2013. Indeed, we can expect these and new trends to continue into the future, they must evolve or the radio industry cannot survive. Please consider all this and think about it.

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