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The Homicide Called FM Radio

    A few months ago Google bought the popular streaming music service Songza for a reported $39 Million. Recent studies show that Pandora is actually the most popular radio music service in 14 of 15 of the top FM radio markets in the entire country. Spotify continues to make business headlines with their remarkable deals and growing 10 million plus paid subscriber base. With the near future of the YouTube music service and the the emergence of Beats Music, as well as other transitions in the industry to add more diversity to the online streaming music world its obvious the way we listen to and will be listening to music will continuously change over the course of the next decade. Its no secret that times and trends have changed, thus birthing a completely new music consumer.

    In the past 10 years as digital downloads have replaced CD sales and pirated music has become all but a regular day-to-day music consumption ritual for anyone aged 12-25, the entire means of how we listen to and share music has completely evolved into new avenue of socialization.

    Major labels have lost millions and been forced to merge in order to save what’s left of an unfair, and archaic business model. As streaming music comes into full-force we are looking into the future of how music is played and what music is played.

    To not be weary of the future of FM radio is to be not only naive, but archaic in one’s perspective to how the business model has changed in the past 15 years since Napster, and is continually changing day by day with the emergence in new capabilities of technology. So here’s my take on the annihilation of FM radio and why its doomed to a slow and painful death over the course of the next several years.

    When mainstream music listeners search through their FM radio dial, chances are they are probably going to only hear less than 30 artists, regardless of the station or genre they are interested in hearing. Those of us who have experience in the industry know why that is, and those of you who play consumer to the products being shoved down your throats don’ t know any better because either you aren’t paying attention or just don’t care. Thus the cycle continues and instead of a new, and engaging artist from Seattle in regular rotation, you’re forced to listen to Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Big Sean, Rihanna, and an old Maroon 5 record from 8 years ago. Once again, there’s a reason for this and if they can convince you that these artists are the only ones worthy of radio-play then you’ll buy into the hype and everything else they’re selling.

    Enter 2009 and beyond, as we have seen listening habits shift from online radio via desktop to mobile devices; we’ve also seen a change in the music people are choosing to listen to, i.e the fans decide what they want to hear with no need to wait for their favorite song to be played or requested like the golden oldie days of the past. New vehicle models from GM, Audi, and Chrysler will have built in wifi access which will have a drastic affect on the music services new car owners will be using. Even downloading MP3’s will soon be a thing of the past, as none of us need 50,000 MP3 files hogging up HD space on our laptops. Therefore, streaming will be the go-to source for all music listening habits, both new and old.

    As this shift in consumer trends change, so will the music being played. Once listeners realize, they can choose what they would like to hear instead of being forced to listen to the same 15 songs for 6 hours a day, they’ll never go back. Those of us who have Auxiliary inputs in our vehicles already enjoy our choice of music; for example I am subscribed to Spotify and switch between Songza and Soundcloud (with my own set of various playlists to choose from) for my music listening needs while driving. Though I’m sure I’m in a selective category of music listeners I know its only a matter of time before the average listener decides enough is enough with FM radio’s lack of options.

    And let’s be completely honest while we’re on the subject. I’m a part of a generation that has grown completely sick and tired of the same repetitive nonsense played on FM radio stations over and over again, day in and day out; as if no other artist not currently on the Billboard charts deserves your recognition. Sorry FM radio but you’re far too behind the rest of us in the digital music era. By the time you sort out the legal complications it takes to spin a record, its already been circulating music blogs and fan RT’s for months. Face it, you’re a dying business, that will have zero relevance in the near future. And to be honest, I’m not the least bit sad to see you go, as you’ve monopolized how the masses received new music for far too long. Truthfully, I’m surprised you’ve managed to last as long as you have.

    This being said it puts fans in the driver seat for what they want to hear and it gives artists more opportunity to leverage their music using more DIY services and with a decent promotional budget, will garner far more exposure. Thus, giving the fans a more diverse array of music to enjoy, hopefully transitioning what they listen to and expanding their horizons. Because truth be told, there’s far too much amazing music out there to go on unheard, unnoticed, and unplayed due to the monopoly mainstream radio and major labels have had since the 50’s.

    Yes its a brave new world for artists and fans alike in the music industry. I do believe with the success of independent artists in recent years, the tides have turned and we’re looking towards a bright future, with artists leading the way, and fans steering the charge. And oh how marvelous a sight it has been as an artist and fan alike, to see it all happen so fast.


    Matt G