Hey, radio people! Give this column from consultant Sean Ross a good read. And if you're not in radio, give it a look, anyway. It'll give you an idea as to what goes on behind the scenes.
It’s a familiar trope in the broadcast owner’s argument about what constitutes “radio”: Radio is companionship. Radio is produced entertainment. Most of all, pre-programmed radio’s music is curated. If radio is no longer the only place where music is available first, it is still the place where trained professionals sort through the zillions of available offerings to find listeners the best music.
Those are all perfectly reasonable points of differentiation. They are, of course, not as easy to find as you’d think. Especially the part about radio as musical curator. It’s no secret that the heroic Music Director of yore has been scarce in recent years. Few programmers have had the time or inclination to go on to that superstar album and find the next single. There's no B-side left to flip over and find Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” or the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” hidden on the flip of some already pretty good singles.
The weekly “Ross On Records” column has been an ongoing litany of songs that hid in plain sight from radio for months. CHR PDs don’t even consider The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” for nine months, well after their 14-year-old daughters are already aware of it. Foster The People’s “Pumped-Up Kicks” gets eight months at Alternative without a CHR taker. Fun.’s “We Are Young” needs “Glee,” a major TV-spot and iTunes sales before Top 40 recognizes it as a hit—and why, for that matter, has no CHR found a second song to play from that band?