Song request programs date back to the early days of the radio format. It was a time when music fans had only two options if they wanted to hear a favorite song: buy the vinyl recording or call a station and ask for the song to be played on the radio. Another less convenient option was to play the song on a jukebox. Demand programs have become extremely popular. They were used to bind the listener to a station. After all, if someone could call up a program and play their favorite song, that station had a real chance of becoming that listener’s favorite station. The demand programs also had a social side. A listener could dedicate a song to a special friend and that friend could then hear the song played especially for them. And then the Internet arrived…
With the advent of the internet, music fans have been able to listen to their favorite music genre through platforms such as Spotify. Soon after, music fans were offered subscription services like Amazon Music and Apple Music that gave them the option to download or stream specific songs and albums. Amazon Music now boasts of having a library of 90 million songs and podcasts. This is real musical variety!
Radios no longer have the advantage of music on demand. Research has shown that listener interest in song request programs is declining. And yet, many stations are still hesitant to drop the song request program. Of course, there are markets around the world where internet penetration and access to digital technology is limited. However, these markets are quickly becoming the exception.
Although digital audio consumption is booming, many radio operators are being left behind. Despite audience research findings to the contrary, many carriers simply don’t want to admit they no longer have a monopoly on audio. The reluctance to accept new realities is a big problem for broadcasters.
PerryMichael Simoneditor of all access.com, described the challenge facing radio succinctly when he wrote:
You can stay in your comfort zone, keep doing what you’re doing and hope for the best, or you can adapt and try different and even risky things. Alright, three ways: You can also quit.
Although most radio operators are not ready to give up the fight, the “keep doing what you are doing and hope for the best” this option reflects the attitude of far too many people in our company.
Creativity and imagination have always been the hallmark of our industry. When television arrived, many people said radio was doomed. However, the radio did not fade, but rather changed. New formats such as top 40, old classics and album-oriented rock found audiences eager to hear their favorite music. The development of talk radio brought to the industry an audience that many had given up for lost.
The radio is once again facing major challenges. Doing the same simply won’t work in today’s highly competitive audio market. We need to try new things and encourage new ideas. The future of our industry belongs to creative risk takers.