Does Radio Airplay Matter?
3. New forms of radio are providing airplay opportunities for more musicians.
While commercial radio airplay remains highly coveted, it’s no longer the only game in town. A number of radio-like alternatives have emerged in the past ten years, from stronger noncommercial radio stations, to webcasting services, to Sirius XM. Many are now serving huge listener populations and playing music that wouldn’t fit easily into today’s commercial radio playlists.
Returning to the top-level data from the survey, we see a measurable difference between respondents’ experiences receiving “frequent” or “some” airplay on these newer forms of radio. While only 10% of survey respondents reported frequent or some commercial airplay, 27% reported frequent/some noncommercial airplay (NPR, college radio), while 26% said they get played frequently or sometimes on internet radio.
Overall, the numbers are still quite small, but a greater number of survey respondents reported getting “frequent” or “some” airplay on noncommercial, internet and satellite radio than on commercial radio. This also shouldn’t be a surprise. Getting radio airplay is still difficult but, unlike commercial radio, these other radio types have more programming flexibility, can program more diverse formats, and have more capacity for more music; think of Sirius XM with its hundreds of music channels, or Pandora with its limitless, personalized radio structure. In other words, there are more opportunities for a greater array of musicians, and music types, to be played on these new formats, and the data may reflect these changes.
Interviewees also talked about the alternatives to traditional commercial radio. Some artists focused on the difference in accessibility:
Others highlighted the characteristics of the noncommercial radio’s audience:
Additional quotes further on in this report underscore a point made here; that the very definition of “radio” has changed in the past ten years. Whereas commercial airplay used to be a singular goal for many musicians, today’s landscape now offers a lot more opportunities. As a result, musicians working in a huge array of genres – everything from experimental, to classical, to metal – can often tailor their PR strategy and promote their music to genre-specific outlets and channels, or services like Pandora that build customized stations. We suspect that the higher percentage of survey respondents having “frequent” or “some” success getting airplay on these platforms is partly due to this expansion in opportunity.