Since the 1950s, radio has been an accessible medium where the general public can discover and enjoy new music. It is everywhere: in the car, at home, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. In other words, radio is hard to avoid. A 2009 study showed that 93% of the U.S population is reached by radio at least once a week. However, thanks to the internet and sites such as Pandora and last.fm, the way in which people consume radio no longer entirely depends on the traditional AM/FM format. Given the fact that terrestrial radio stations primarily air music of their preference rather than that of the audience, listeners are beginning to turn to internet radio where their niche is more likely to better represented. Instead of waiting hours for a requested song to be aired, the listener now has the option mold his or her own radio station
Terrestrial radio is indeed a way for new music to reach ears, but is the music that is aired on FM and AM radio music that everybody wishes to consume? There are genres and particular artists that will probably never receive airplay on any AM or FM station despite talent. This is primarily because they lack economical and social resources to get their music on major radio stations across the country. Lack of airplay does not destroy an artist’s career, per se, but it does tend to hinder artists from not only reaching more people, but from expanding their fan base at a faster rate. The artists who do have the opportunity of having their music on a rotating playlist, most likely belong to major record labels or have connections to powerful players in the music industry. But now that the internet has made a significant impact on people’s lives by allowing everyone to disperse ideas at lightning speed, radio innovators have created an entirely new atmosphere of music listening.
One of the biggest radio innovations and a popular trend has been the usage online radio. A person like me who listens to independent Latin music has a harder time identifying and relating to music played on terrestrial radio. I am more likely to connect my iPod to my stereo than turn the radio on in my car. I take advantage of the internet to decide what I want to listen to, not what terrestrial radio wants me to hear. Online radio stations such as Pandora and last.fm allow me to focus on my particular genre of preference. On both websites, listeners can type an artist or genre of their choice and will be redirected to a “station” where music of similar artists will be played. Online radio has facilitated the process of bands reaching new people. Prior to this innovation, artists and bands would depend on terrestrial radio to spread the word of a new single. That was only if radio stations did not decide to filter out the artist for airplay. Since online radio is a venture where the listener finds his/her perfect fit, musicians not only have the advantage of targeting specific audiences, but are likely to gain more loyal fans.
Although terrestrial radio is still a medium the typical listener will depend on for new music, AM and FM radio both face a threat. We have yet to see terrestrial radio vanish due to online radio, but because online radio has gained attention from many internet users in such a small frame of time, it puts the life of major radio stations in danger. In fact, from 2000 to 2010, the percentage of young adults ages 12-24 who listen to terrestrial radio has decreased 30%. Of course, it may be too soon to decide how this radio innovation will change the medium exactly, but we can say that online radio is now entirely about the listener and not necessarily about the record label that is pushing to promote the artist.
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