How Long Before The Radio Dies?

Here’s something I don’t see talked about much: Radio. It’s a platform that has been around for quite some time now, providing listeners with music, news, traffic, etc. Who is still listening though? With the invention of subscription music services and alternative audio like podcasts, there are many options that compete with the radio for listeners. From a music standpoint, why bother with the radio when you can choose each and every song at any given time on Spotify? So, the question is, how long before the radio dies?

We are seeing a similar situation with print media. Readers simply aren’t subscribing to newspapers and magazines anymore. The same information is available in real time and generally for free via a smartphone. As such, newspaper publishers are dropping like flies. Radio has never really required any kind of subscription or membership, unless you count XM radio, but lets focus on the far more popular FM and AM frequencies. Most radio stations generate revenue by selling ad space. This is now a catch 22 though. Here’s why: Radio stations require advertisement revenues in order to continue operating, but if there are little to no listeners then why would advertisers continue buying? There isn’t really any way out of this and unfortunately this is just a downward spiral for radio. This is a case of “it’s not if, it’s when.” The Buggles said it: “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

Think about this from a musician’s point of view. When was the last time you heard a musician talk about wanting to be on the radio? With the exception of electronic music, when was the last time you saw the words “radio edit” at the end of a song title? They simply aren’t concerned with radio airtime. They are asking questions like: Would it be possible for me to headline Coachella next year? What kind of traffic am I receiving on Apple Music and Spotify? How many tickets have sold for this weekend’s concert? Even the musicians are losing interest in radio.

Let’s be honest for a second. Most of the stuff that comes out of people’s mouths, whether it’s on the radio or not, lacks any substance and you’d be better off not ever hearing it. This is the same thing as your friend who constantly posts that they are going to the gym on Facebook. It’s useless knowledge that clutters your life. Do not let me give you the wrong impression, there are some exceptional shows and speakers on the radio. NPR, for example, is a fantastic station that educates the listener. Unfortunately, for every one great NPR show, there are millions of brain cell killing morning shows with a hopped-up-on-too-much-Redbull DJ who prank calls people and then follows it with the same pop song he played 30 minutes beforehand.

So where do you, the reader, fall into this? Well, the simple answer is that you are merely a bystander. Chances are you don’t listen to the radio much anyway. Sure, the radio will continue to be around for another few decades…slowly dying; decaying into a few last minute attempts at rejuvenation. Ask Tower Records what this feels like. Twenty years from now, when you hop into your automated Tesla, you won’t turn on the radio; just like you didn’t this morning. You’ll ask Siri to play a specific song or playlist, or continue to binge watch some new Netflix series. Just like that, the radio as we know it now will be gone.