AM/FM radio stations are on the decline, particularly among younger audiences–hardly earth shattering news. But the reasons given are misleading. Recent surveys by Jacobs Media Tech Survey (radio’s largest survey), shows listener decline while other research by iHeart Media continues to show that 9 out of 10 Americans listen to radio every day and the recent survey revealed that 84% of respondents said that radio is their most trusted source for information. Is this contradictory, no, but this conundrum is rooted in the definition of “radio”? Is it terrestrial or Internet and is streaming and Internet radio eating terrestrial radio’s lunch?

Let’s first focus on the state of conventional, terrestrial FM radio. Urban music dominates the traditional airwaves; BORING! Not just for Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials or Gen Y but for everyone, there is little diversity. The number of FM stations playing Blues, R&B, Pop, Rock, Jazz have diminished to a trickle; Gospel and Country are alive and well — for the most part, choice and diversity are gone. Internet radio provides a real alternative dominated by iHeart, Sirius and the BBC. The market for online audio in the United States is massive, with the average user spending well over 16 hours per week on these services. Over two-thirds of Americans report that they listen to online radio on a monthly basis, while 62 percent consider themselves at least weekly users. Particularly young people are alienated from the lack of diversity of FM radio and rather stream.

So what happened to diversity of music on FM airwaves? Filtering is gone. What s filtering? Friday, March 24, I had the pleasure to interview Myron Ruffin, founder and owner of Unlimited Wealth Entertainment, on my weekly show The Jazz ConFusion Power Hour on SORC Radio Network, WTSN Washington DC. Myron is the consummate artist manager/promoter/distributor. Myron referred to “filtering” as the process of identifying talent across genres in music. This, according to Myron. was the province of record labels, called A&R, Artist and Repertoire. A&R was responsible for finding promising new artists for a record label or music publisher to sign, while building artist(s) careers in the recording Industry. But A&R became a double edged sword, according to Ruffin, at once promoting and distributing quality music at the same time gradually along with technology, limiting music diversity and quality.

By the 1980s A&R began to follow rather than lead musical taste and style. Limited music variety according to Ruffin was, in part, the legacy of the Ragan and Clinton years assault on liberal arts in public school education, removing music classes as a staple of cultural significance. This had been a key source of music diversity and creation. It was reflected in the narrowing of musical variety in the 90s. Now coupled with the evolution of music technology, everything changed quickly; computers and “teams”, not musicians and lyricists “composed” music while replacing real instruments with apps. Syncopation, “beats” replaced music orchestration. There were moments of lyrical poetry, but not music composition. Computer programs such as LogicPro, WavePad and GarageBand replcaed the recording studio and the studio engineer. Sound and distribution changed too. Digital recording and streaming replaced analogue and radio while the “sound” lost its coloration and warmth. Quickly the deep experience and music history stored in the memory and experience of A&R professionals was totally commercialized while increasingly inexperienced A&R “professionals” even under age 21 emerged. Without record label A&R to ferret out high quality and new emerging music and to build artist careers, coupled with distribution moving away from traditional radio, music broadcasting narrowed; quality and musical diversity continues to suffer.

So why do more and more young people stream and fewer listen to terrestrial radio? Not because of a “technology” preference but because they are bored with the limited scope of commercially dominated Urban FM radio and that even includes college campus radio stations too.

Internet radio, however, is growing in leaps and bounds. The largest Internet broadcasting company, the BBC (SORC® Radio Network is a BBC affiliate), with nearly 70 million listeners (38 million listeners and about 32 million additional weekly listeners across all of its network affiliates) signifies radio’s new direction. It become easier for musicians and vocalists to be heard via streaming but just as hard, if not harder, to carve out a living in music entertainmenrt. Now, more than ever, multiple streams of revenue are required to succeed and distribution, no longer contolled by record labels, is far above the expertise of most artists. This is where artist management is so critical. There are few successful artist do-it-yourselfers, so talent and careers become stalled and too often non-emergent.

Now, with Indie artists predominant, the new big “2” replacing record labels and terrestrial radio station are Internet radio and management/distribution professionals. Listen to the recorded interview with Myron Ruffin on the SORC® Radio Network’s, Jazz Confusion Power Hour, and tune in each week to find out what’s behind the mind in today’s music.

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