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November 24, 2004


Christopher Grove

Recently in the UK, a 65 year old DJ died... (actually, English DJ died in Sth America). So what does this have to do with this? Well, he was one of the most popular radio DJs in the country, mainly on a 'youth' radio station, and had been since it started in the 60s (for those of you who know the UK, I'm talking about John Peel & Radio 1). Now, this is a guy without whom groups like Blur would maybe never have had the sucess they got because he supported small underground groups. He'd get them to record session tracks (versions of their songs for his show) and had one of the most eclectic music collections around. Last show of his that I heard, he was playing obscure punk, alternative rock and electronica. A large number of the general public of all ages turned out for his funeral. Surely that's proff that there is a future for radio. At the same time, his show was radcally different from any other shows on that station, and that was the case for decades. So maybe the answer is just to break the formula. You can go all over the place, like he did, but he genuinely invested in groups and his show. Oh, and by all accounts was a very nice, selfless and not at all arrogant man. I went back to the UK a week or so ago, and I'd really wanted to listen to his show again.
Yes there is a problem with payola, but there's a larger problem: playing safely to the mainstream, trying to do the cool fashionable thing for whichever social group you target. He did his own thing, and was one of the coolest people around. So, maybe that's the answer.
Will radio stations work that out? Fat chance. Unfortunately.

PS: If that's got anyone curious, some of the artists that he's had record for his show have released the session tracks on CD. Look out for any albums that are marked as The Peel Sessions (I know Warp released some by Boards Of Canada, Plaid and I think Auterche).
PPS: for anyone curious (and kinda going back to the previous post), his favourite track was Teenage Kicks by the Undertones.

Jon Strande


Wow, great point - radio stations also "sell" exposure to music, but, as you point out, most are too afraid to step out of the mainstream. I'm going to have to check out The Peel Sessions. Thank you for taking the time to share the story!

Do you ever watch Jools Holland? I've seen Oasis and Blur on his show - great stuff!! I guess that he has more estbalished acts, huh?


K. Todd Storch


Full disclosure: I am a General Sales Manager for a Susquehanna Radio Corp. radio station.

Now, all of this technology is a definate threat. In fact, I'm an avid iPod freak. I've posted a number of times that the automobile holds the "keys" to the full mainstream listener.

Probably most of us don't mind creating playlists, downloading podcasts, updating our iPods, etc, but mainstream American won't do this as a choice. They want to hit the "on" button, presets and scan (sometimes).

One of the challenges radio does have is connecting and being "cool and cutting edge" to stay relevant to the 12 - 24 year olds. One of the ways to do this is with multi-channel Internet streaming and Digital Broadcasting.

Most stations will be digital within the next 3 to 5 years, but the need for this conversion is now. With the digital capabilities, a station could broadcast multiple formats (ie. a Rock station could have a Led Zepplin channel, a Music to Bang Your Head to Channel and a New Releases Channel).

As long as advertisers are getting results from the medium, they will continue to place $'s. Also, and nearly as important is the method of which radio stations are rated (ie. Arbitron).

There are test markets right now for a wearable device to track what radio stations you listen to and there is plenty of dispute if this works or not, but as long as a rating system is seen as reliable, advertisers will trust the medium.

Are there challenges ahead? Definately, and now is the time to address them.

I haven't even touched on local vs. "national" type programming and the "McRadio" Clear Channel effect on stations across the country...

Keep up the good work Jon and have a happy Thanksgiving.


Jon Strande


I'm so happy that you commented - I was hoping that you would!! You bring a nice "insiders" perspective to the issues at hand for commercial radio. Thank you!

I'm curious what your thoughts are on the automobile as the "keys" - can you provide some links?

You write that mainstream America wants to "hit the ON button", I'll agree with that statement - and I think that the companies that make devices understand this. Over time, these lifestyle devices will be much easier to use. I like to use my wife as a barometer for such things - she hates computers (odd huh?), but now she has two of them, one at her salon and one at home - and she is getting quite good at using them.

Now, that having been said, there are some people (I'm sure) who haven't upgraded to from 8 Tracks and Records - you'll only get everyone when they have no choice but change. But by that time, the devices and services will be quite easy to use...

Wow, no wonder I don't like radio! I haven't been your demographic, "12-24 year olds", in over 10 years!

... It's like you just don't care about me anymore...


Very interesting, I didn't make this connection when I was writing my post but if I have an Internet enabled car device, I can get Internet radio stations, right? The thought here is that you are no longer competing with just the other stations in your market, you're competing with every radio station everywhere. Am I off the mark on this one?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Clear Channel effect - if you'd be willing to share!

Thank you again for the insides perspective! I really appreciate it!


Christopher Grove

I used to watch Jools Holland, but can't get it over here. That said, it's not really the same as he'll get groups to play live/accoustic or various musicians to play together. Session tracks can give different versions of tracks, that can just be live/accoustic, or can be quite different...
And yes the acts are more established, but some of them may well have been on his show earlier on in their careers.
I don't listen to radio any more in France as the quality isn't that great, and yes there's no variety as you say is the case in the States. I have to admit that I miss the concerts and new artists/exclusive music. I think another thing is therefore that not only should radio stations be ready to move away from the mainstream, but they should also look into getting more ‘exclusive’ music, stuff that you can’t just buy on CD easily/anywhere… Then radio will be very relevant again. That could mean broadcasting concerts by well known groups that the record companies want to promote, why not? If the recording isn’t on sale then their business won’t be cannibalised, and it will promote their artists. Everyone wins, including the listener.

Jon Strande


Yeah, content wins. If they offer stuff that you can't get anywhere else, people will tune in, no question. It's odd, I have several concerts recorded from TV that I still listen to frequently. I think there are a number of people who really like live shows, rare tracks, and cover tunes from their favorite artists... more of that type of stuff would make me tune in. Great thoughts!



Wow. Right on with the idea of transmitting mood. That's how I select and program my own "radio station"--my collection of mp3s on PC and those self-burned CDs. If "it's the experience economy, stupid" (and it is is right?) why the hell are so many industries that should really know better repeating the past *rudimentary* mistakes of the IBMs and the Railroads and you name it? Fear and uncertainty sure does make "smart" people do stupid stuff.

And Happy Thanksgiving, Jon!

Jon Strande

Fouro, Happy thanksgiving to you as well!!! :-)

Yeah, what is the old saying you've used? Don't curse the darkness. Light a candle. Very true in this case. What they're doing doesn't seem to be working... so they should try something else.

I mentioned to someone in an email that the radio was once a bonding device for the family. [insert Normal Rockwell imagery here] Stories would permeate from a box in the living room and the whole family would sit around transfixed by the stories being told.

Fast forward a couple of years and we had album rock, where DJ's would actually choose the music - we got the feeling that the DJ cared as much about the music as we did... the music turned the radio into a bonding device for friendships...

It just doenes't 'feel' that way anymore though, does it?

Yeah, I love the thought of mood progamming... I'd love to hear about some of the various playlists you've put together!!


K. Todd Storch


Sorry for the delay!

Few points to consider:
#1: comparing the "On Button" mentality to your wife using 2 computers isn't a perfect comparison in my opinion. What is the relevant reason she chose to learn? Email, internet shopping, using Quicken,etc? She chose to learn because the computer became relevant. To the masses, radio stations are relevant to their lifestyle, but many choices are coming.

#2: As far as streaming internet radio. Does this mean local stations are competing against all the others? Yes. But again, it goes back to being relevant to the listener.

I really don't think you feel alienated! The point I was making is that the 12-24 year olds now don't view a radio station as cool, hip, cutting edge. Nintendo DS, WiFi, SMS, IM, iPod, Podcasting, etc. That is what they are doing.

Radio needs to tap into this.

As much as people love to hate Clear Channel, their size provides them with opportunities to effect change. Yes, when you hear a "Mix" station in Dallas, it probably sounds almost exactly like the "Mix" station in Seattle. This affords them cost savings with voice tracking, imaging, etc. But unless that local station is relevant to the lifestyle they target, it does just become "McRadio".

As far as the "keys" to radio and any mass entertainment platform, I believe the auto and the cell phone hold the power. I've got a few postings that touch on this:

Thanks Jon,


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