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Radio: Proudly Giving Listeners More Of Less!

Posted by: Jon Fine on December 3, 2007

The New York Times’ Jeff Leeds had another excellent music biz state-of-the-moment piece, in Saturday’s paper, concerning how major commercial radio stations are playing fewer songs more frequently.

. . . This month, [OneRepublic’s hit] “Apologize” broke the record for the most plays of a song on the nation’s Top 40 stations in a single week since computerized tracking began in 1990. The song played more than 10,240 times in a week, reaching an estimated audience of more than 70 million listeners, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, an airplay monitoring service, and the chart-keepers at Radio & Records, a music trade magazine.
It’s also a sign of how radio stations are responding to the competition for listeners as radio’s audience fragments and rival entertainment choices abound. While the overwhelming majority of Americans still tune into traditional broadcast radio each week, they are listening less. And they are increasingly drawn to the dizzying choices of music and other programming available on iPods and satellite and Internet radio.
But many pop radio programmers appear keen to repeat the biggest hits as much as — or more than — ever. “Apologize” surpassed a record that had been set only in July by Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” according to the data. Of the 10 songs that have notched the most plays in one week, 8 joined the list in the last three years. And the oldest of the 10, Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” dates only to 2002.
. . Executives at some individual stations say they are playing hits more heavily than they did even two years ago. That is not so much out of concern over digital competition as it is a desire to respond to listeners’ busy lives, said Kat Jensen, music director for KKMG-FM in Colorado Springs, which played “Apologize” 78 times last week. “There’s a very limited window. If they’re going to listen 15 minutes a day, you want to make sure they hear their favorite song in that 15 minutes. It’s really the fast-paced life style that we all live.”

So this is how commercial radio responds to a world of infinite consumer choice--by playing the same songs over and over again.

Thank you very much, radio, but I’m sticking to my iPod when I’m on the road.

Reader Comments


December 3, 2007 4:53 PM

Jon, everyone is sticking to their iPod when they're on the road. Everyone except people whose tastes run to non-ipod type material such as:
Current talk radio
Music formats targeting people who don't currently own iPods (Classical, Country, Latin genres)

How any radio station can stay profitable playing popular music in 2007 is a mystery to me.

In 2010 I'm sure there will be 30 minute news/comedy shows that people download and are packed to the gills with information, unlike the stretched out talk radio of today.

Frankly, I think Jean Shepherd (A Christmas Story) would have been more popular in an ipod universe than he was in the 1960s.

Tim Penning

December 3, 2007 8:53 PM

Great post. I drive a lot lately, and am grateful for my iTrip and CD player as much as you.

Radio doesn't get it because years ago they stopped programming for listeners and started programming for advertisers and cost efficiency. Radio execs don't exist to entertain us; they exist to target us.

Well, we're a moving target, aren't we?

Tor Hershman

December 5, 2007 5:06 AM

I suppose Frank Zappa said it best, errrrrrrrrrr, no.....I said/sang it best

Stay on groovin' safari,

December 5, 2007 3:47 PM

Ipod isn't even a replacement for CD's in the car. If you compare the quality of playing an Ipod through the car radio it isn't even cd quality.


December 21, 2007 10:57 AM

Thank goodness for XM in the car. While I understand the popularity of iPods (I have one too), its just such a hassle to try and FIND new music, download, hook up device to car, etc etc.

It is so much easier to just flip on XM and actually LEARN about new music that I might want to buy for my iPod (which gets used in the gym or on the plane).

If you don't have radio, how do you actually first hear the new music? Do you really have the time to sit at your computer and browse? I don't...!

Now, what would be ultra cool is to have a button the radio that would save the name/artist and automatically send it to my account on iTunes to allow me to purchase when I get home.

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