Radio Industry In the Age of Hyper-Niche Music

Dorian Whitmore

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 it on the Internet and YouTube which allows small niche artists to get a following, then there are the copycats, and sub-niches, and then sub-niches of the sub-niche. Folks can download the music they want, anytime they want, so why would they bother listening to the radio – well, that’s just it, most of the new generation doesn’t listen to radio much anymore.

Even Yuppies in their BMWs, SUVs, and Mini-Vans who have satellite radio have over 100 channels, so what are the chances of them tuning into any given local radio station, which if you live in even a medium sized city is probably more than 10-20 stations that service that market. The New York Times had a decent article posted on February 11, 2013 titled; “The Blush of Youth at the Grammy’s – A music awards season tilting towards the new and fresh,” by James McKinely Jr. and if you watched the Grammy’s you know how diverse the music is today, and how some winners were folks you’d never heard of in your 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 many 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 putting together several niches they can interest their various advertisers so they can get coverage in the proper demographic group. In some ways this helps advertisers target market, but it also means that for it to be worth the cost, those ads need to be quite reasonable.

Another strategy for radio groups is to use syndication on off-hours, perhaps playing music from a similar station across the country, splitting up the advertising time with their national advertisers, then the rest with local ads. No, it’s not easy to operate in such a diffused, diverse, and hyper-niched sector, but that doesn’t mean some radio stations haven’t worked out most of the details in their strategy as they evolve with all these changes, some of which we noted at the Grammy’s in 2013. Indeed, we can expect these and new trends to continue well into the future, they must evolve or the radio industry cannot survive. Please consider all this and think on it.

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