Sunday, January 10, 2010

Is radio a "dying medium for music?"

This email hit my in box today:


Hi Jaye,

In his latest Lefsetz Letter, that relentlessly negative industry blogger, Bob Lefsetz, made the following “prediction” about the future of terrestrial radio, which he called “ a dying medium for music.”

Here’s what he said:

“The stations are overleveraged, or already in bankruptcy, and they're cutting back infrastructure and banking on 20-plus minutes of commercials per hour. You're supposed to double down, innovate in a crisis. But terrestrial radio has done just the opposite. It's dying, and it will never come back. In a world where no one experiences a commercial they don't want to, do you really expect people to listen to what you tell them and be sold to every third minute? You're dreaming.

“Terrestrial radio will be about news and talk, those elements that are immediate,” he continues.

“Music's been recorded previously, there's no urgency to sit through the b.s. to hear what you want to.”

I’m reaching out to a handful of smart people to get a rebuttal or response to Bob’s opinion, and was hoping you might have a few minutes to make a short comment between now and Wednesday for a story in Stark Country/

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Best regards,

Phyllis Stark
Executive Editor, Country Music Country



Lucky for me, you don't even need to be a smart person to debunk this line of thinking. Facts trump baseless assertions every time.

In just the last eight weeks here are a few other statements Bob made:

* "The number one thing a fan wants? To be able to go backstage."
* "Music used to be regional."
* "Most of what the major labels create is not fully desirable. It’s made to run up the radio chart, not to do live business."
* "The younger generation has embraced Led Zeppelin, can they ever embrace the Moody Blues? I think so."
* "The hardest thing to do in this business is find a hit act."
* "The Black Eyed Peas tour is a stiff."
* "Cadillac driver? Must be an oldster."
* "Rock and roll doesn’t work on TV."

A provocateur requires no facts to back up his outrageous and over-the-top statements. He's just trying to elicit a response. He is a verbal terrorist, setting off written explosions in hopes someone will panic. Lefsetz, in my experience, never likes anything that's mass appeal or popular. The best way to make him disappear is to ignore him.

Arbitron's 2009 Edition of "Radio Today" has 109 pages of facts and data which demonstrates the continuing story for radio overall is its remarkable, enduring reach. Far more than 90% of all consumers aged 12 and older listen to the radio each week—a higher penetration than television, magazines, newspapers or the Internet. PPM-measured data does show average quarter-hour (AQH) ratings were lower than what would otherwise have been reported using an all-Diary methodology. At-home AQH ratings in Fall 2008 were 22.2% below those in Spring 2007, while away-from-home figures were 18.8% lower. These differences should not be regarded as actual declines or losses in listening, but as a shift in measurement methodology.

Lefsetz may see that as signs of impending death, but I sure do not. Despite availability of numerous media alternatives, radio’s weekly reach declined only modestly in the past several years,from 94.9% in Spring 2001, when the iPod®was introduced, to 91% in Fall ’08, according to the latest ARB national ratings data.

Nielsen, The Media Audit, Edison Research, Bridge Ratings, Eastlan/FMR, BBM and many other researchers and numerous studies around the world corroborate these trends. Music radio tends to drive even stronger usage in metered measurement than it has in diaries.

The CMA' s 2nd Annual Study of Country Music Consumers, which will be made public at CRS-41 is just the latest in many, many proofs that country music radio remains - by far - the top source of music discovery for country music's Prime Prospects.

Allow me to add my voice to the chorus of folks crying "B-S" to Lefsetz's screed. The possibility of his predictions coming true anytime in the next decade is about as good as running into John Hogan, Fareed and the Dickey Family at Jerry Delcolliano's "Future of Media" seminar.


Jaye Albright, Consulting Partner,
Albright & O'Malley Country Consulting/RadioIQ

PS: do YOU have something to say to me, Phyllis or Bob Lefsetz? Please post a comment below!


Facebook Thread said...

Chris Squires
I want to be on your side but the pendulum in the "Art vs. Science" analogy really needs to swing back to the "art" side of things. For example, look at the number of San Diego music radio personalities recently fired to address the bottom line. I think music radio will have trouble competing with new media if it's only a jukebox and doesn't find the next Real Don Steele, Jim Ladd or Kevin & Bean.

Dave Morris
Jaye, you're spot-on with your rebuttal of Lefsetz. Hardly a death-bed situation, but if we continue eroding our product, this chest cold will turn into pneumonia. Music radio will be fine, as long as we don't forget the "radio" part.

Over the weekend, as I listened to my iPod, it struck me what a lonely endeavor that is. There is no sense of camaraderie, no feeling that other people are hearing the same song as you, no pondering whether it is making them feel the same. No DJ buddy alongside. We are social beings, and for all the benefit of being able to pull up any song on a whim, I think we'd rather feel like we're part of something bigger.

That is why music radio will be around for a while. And when owners get back to the business of creating, it will be as strong as ever.... See More

(Also, we need to get busy promoting ourselves in an emotional way. We need television and radio commercials with more than just song hooks and slogans. Let's TOUCH people, remind them why they grew up with radio and why they need it today.)

Phoenix also recently saw similar firings at KMLE.

Dave, try the Zune, complete with wireless where you can share podcasts or music with other Zune users in your area while they listen, in the subway for example.

Your ideas of entertaining, creating and touching people is clearly the deal maker here and your outline is beautiful.

Dave Morris said...

I’ve noticed that television commercials are getting harder to FF through when watching the DVR. Is it just me, or have they gotten MUCH more creative?

Radio needs a national ad campaign. An emotional approach, as I alluded to in my FB comment. Don’t you think? Picture two vehicles side by side. In one, a family of headphone-wearing iPod listeners, each listening to their own individual content, emotionless faces, blank stares. The other vehicle has a great song cranked up, and everyone is dancing in their seat, singing, smiling and relating to one another. Light turns green, one pulls away, the other sits there, nobody seems to notice it’s time to go.

There are lots of variations of that theme. I think it would make a great campaign.

How is life treating you? I hope all is well, and I look forward to seeing you at CRS this year!

Dave Morris
The Morris Creative Group
O'Fallon, MO 63368

Larry Wilson on KINK via Oregon Media Central said...

"..Most of the radio companies out there today have too much debt. It's not their fault. They were on a spree and the game changed in the sixth inning and they didn't see it coming. Nobody really saw it coming. And so here they are, they had been paying these huge prices, which I had been doing the same. The only difference is, I got out when the getting was good, and they stayed in."

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said...

“Sirius XM is going to be a very profitable company."

Dennis Heinz, Results Radio said...

Radio needs to reinvest in itself. If you’re not going to reinvest in on air talent at least invest time and some money in fully training your sales people. For the love of God, the days of “here’s the rate card, these are our stations and here is the phonebook now go sell something” have to come to an end.

I love radio and still believe in its power but in some ways radio has become a real bizarro world. In other ways some things haven’t really changed. Does anyone at the top real give a crap anymore?

Anonymous said...


Everytime we hear doom and gloom in our industry, it's always great to hear from the proper resource in the! Beautifully worded. Thanks.

You're old friend.
Willy Cole
620 CKRM, regina