Radio’s unavoidable decline, and what it means for the music industry.

In a world governed by technology and the internet, music consumption is one of the fastest-growing, but more importantly, fastest-changing industries today. The internet has completely transformed the way the public consumes and interacts with music. Pay-monthly sites such as Spotify and Apple Music and free download sites like SoundCloud and YouTube that use advertisement are making the industry of audio-consumption almost unrecognisable from the not-so-distant days of LPs and hard copies. But one mode of listening to content that seems to be straddling the border between these two is radio, well, mainstream radio at least.

Just over a month ago now, Nick Grimshaw announced that he will be leaving his breakfast slot after six years to be replaced by Greg James after Grimmy’s ratings took a sharp decline earlier on this year.Whilst the BBC may have been smart in replacing the ageing Chris Moyles with fresh-faced Grimmy in an effort to stay relevant to their 16-29 target audience, what the BBC failed to account for was that it would take more that some gentle rebranding for listeners to ditch the freedom that SoundCloud and Spotify offers them to opt for the radio instead. It seems that, for Radio 1, it is not the content, but the platform instead, that is outdated.

With an aux cable or Bluetooth being an essential in every car and home, the need for radio has been in visible decline, because if you want to listen to the radio, it’s all there, somewhere on the internet. Essentially, it means consumers are taking more control over the music and content they listen to. Rather than just enduring the loop of 20 songs put out by, say, Kiss or Capital every week, listeners can choose from an ever-growing selection of music on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, or even just YouTube, that doesn’t restrict their listening to the artists that more often than not simply have the financial backing and label behind them to promote their music. So, with hard copies being in decline for a number of years now, it begs the question: is the radio next to go?

And this is just in reference to music. People nowadays are opting to listening to podcasts, rather than the talk shows or discussion panels broadcasted on the radio, as it gives them more autonomy over what they’re listening to. Listeners want content that is relevant to them: meaning any alternative to enduring hours of Jeremy Vine talk about random, irrelevant topics just aren’t worth it when there’s a plethora of freely accessible content available online to cherry-pick and stream. No matter how much radio shows scramble to keep up with the ever-changing world of music – whether that be with edgy content or some social media marketing techniques – it seems to be losing battle.

Nonetheless, music and radio bosses are more than aware of the ever-changing nature of this market, and are always trying to find the most accurate ways to bridge the gap between radio and downloads. For instance, the weekly charts, rather than being based on things like CD sales, have started to be measured using statistics from downloads and even music video views on YouTube. By measuring music success in this way, it is becoming less about something that can be bought, and instead based more on talent and quality. But is this fragmented way of measuring music too complex and variable to measure accurately? And what is our hierarchical obsession with measuring and competing music in this way about anyhow? Whilst we’re a world away from the music industry no longer being governed by the monopolies of money and power, music consumption seems to be heading in a more diverse, better-represented direction.

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