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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Will It Take to Make Radio Relevant Again/How I Would Fix Radio

I know another radio post...(Much of this, is stream of thought so be prepared)

For the past 15 years, I've been a sucker for the radio. It has introduced me to some of my favorite bands, provided me with some fantastic entertainment, and helped to develop my imagination. Yet commercial radio is in a terrible state. Online services such as Pandora, LastFM, and Spotify have taken a large chuck of the listening audience away from it. Radio stations continue to play the same songs by the same bands over and over and over again. And it always seems like they are going to commercial breaks. For all in tense and purposes radio has lost its excitement. You really don't have a reason to tune in on a regular basis.

This makes my job of running a college radio station extremely difficult. It is not easy trying to teach students the art of radio broadcasting when you cannot provide them with adequate examples of exciting radio. But then it dawned on me. I shouldn't be looking at radio's present for examples. I need to look to radio past. The golden age of radio was exciting, experimental, and a can't miss experience. Now I'm not just thinking of radio from the 1930s and 1940s, (although a lot of those old SciFi broadcasts such as X Minus One, Superman, or Sherlock Holmes are terrific), I'm also thinking of radio from about twenty years ago.

WXRT in Chicago is a prime example. XRT would play underground music on a regular basis. It was XRT that first introduced me to bands such as Wilco, Sufjan Stevens, and The Flaming Lips. Now a days it is rather hard to find XRT playing that unknown band about to break it big. In order for radio to survive, it needs to be fearless in the bands they play. Radio cannot be afraid to play music no one has heard of. They need to re-embrace this! Because even bands like the Beatles or Rolling Stones were unknowns at one point.

Secondly podcasts. Radio stations need to completely embrace podcasting. Why not view podcasting as radio on demand. Podcasting is a forum that allows you to be completely experimental. Because of this, there are some really great podcasts out there. My personal favorite podcast from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) and is called WireTap. Some other great podcasts include The Nerdist, The Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana, and This American Life. One day I hope that someone could use podcasting as a way to create new radio theater play.

Ultimately I just hope that radio becomes exciting again. There is no reason why it can't be. Someone just has to be willingly to try something new and take that risk. Who knows, maybe that will be me. Actually I should use a few of the ideas I talked about and apply them to college radio. Hmmm.....

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