Radio, as a medium, has always teetered between being a popular, innovative and youthful form of cultural expression and a dying medium.
Like any art form, it has its main competitors – BBC Radio 2, Radio 1, Classic FM and Kiss to name a few – which dominate and define the market, and provide the counterweight to the huge number of smaller, and often more specialised, radio stations. Though these large, and very successful, stations help in popularising radio, it seems that the huge majority of independent, specialist and innovative music is only represented on independent, community and student radio stations.
Artists in top 40 charts rely heavily on daytime radio; the two end up supporting each other because artists bring in the listeners to the radio and big radio stations bring listeners to those same artists.
But it’s different for independent musicians, or even just artists who aren’t in the charts. Big names like Mumford & Sons, One Direction and Rihanna, who are basically guaranteed chart success with each new release, are too big to tour around cities spreading their name, and so rely on radio to broadcast their newest music to the masses.
…their publicity is as important to them as it is to any band…
For smaller artists however, almost all of their money and publicity comes from touring, and, depending on their popularity, downloads and CD and merchandise sales at gigs. I’m not saying that the main radio stations should disregard mainstream artists because, like I said, their publicity is as important to them as it is to any band, and I’m not saying smaller artists aren’t given any representation (Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephen’s, for example, are experts at finding and publicising the best new bands), it’s just that these stations famously play and replay the same songs for a long time, when they could be introducing new, and just as talented, bands to keep independent music alive and thriving.
Having said this, I think it’s worth noting that in places where there are local radio stations, these community driven shows are more popular than the larger London ones, and, though it is still predominantly chart music they are playing, there is a wider mix, and certainly a greater percentage, of smaller, independent artists being played as well.
…a great outlet for you to either listen to or get involved with…
It’s easy to underestimate these shows and be drawn in by the ‘professional’ appearance of companies like Radio 1, because they don’t have lots of money for celebrity guests or wide coverage, but really the community shows hold the real experts and the people who, even though they make much less money, often have a truer insight and a more sincere passion for what they are doing. If you have a specific taste in music, then why not seek out a specific, independent radio station or show that specialises in it? That way, rather than waiting through a lot of music and complaining that you hear it all the time, you can enjoy the music you want from someone who desperately wants to play it to you.
So if you are a music fan, and you find yourself constantly saying that you hear the same songs everywhere, then that’s easy to change. Radio is everywhere, and whether it’s online or broadcasting on AM or FM, it’s still playing good, professional music in all it’s different forms. Student or community radio is a great outlet for you to either listen to or get involved with, because sure, big music broadcasters are going to do a good job, but when you’re doing it as a hobby for little or no money, you are going to have your heart in it.