Driving home late at night last week, with music lulling me in and out of restless sleeps, I realised that this was the first time I had listened to the radio in months. I started to flick between stations and see what was on offer, from the old classic tunes to new melodies and thought-provoking lyrics I had never heard before. It got me thinking about my music taste and the source of this. Am I getting boring with music now that I don’t listen to the radio? Does anyone listen to it anymore?
Stating that the radio is a dying- or dead- media platform is not controversial. With increased advertising, and many local stations being taken over by commercialised regional ones, many listeners have found that the radio is less about music and more about money, thus it has lost its appeal. Streaming platforms are on the up and I must admit, I cannot remember the last time a friend my age mentioned the radio. Nevertheless, I know my elders still do, having relied on the radio to fill the silence brought on by the lockdowns. My Dad says he enjoys the radio because it’s part of his routine and it plays his favourite songs all the time, which raises the question of how adventurous with our music were we being with the radio anyway.
But let’s for arguments sake say the radio has well and truly died- good or bad, it definitely has for my peers and I. Where do we find our music from now, and has it made us more restricted with our choices? Almost everybody that I know uses Spotify, an audio streaming platform with over 365 million users, a number that has grown exponentially since its launch, and continues to do so. The website states there are over 70 million tracks to listen to. That is an unthinkably large number of songs and array of music genres to explore and appreciate. There is the argument that it builds playlists off of your typical listening habits and so perhaps some users do not branch out much, but consider the millions of tracks that you haven’t listened to that aren’t that hard to find. With genre options to search through and new music releases each week, we can change our habits with just a few taps on the screen. Spotify gives us great access to so much music that surely it should scratch anyone’s itch for something completely different to what they are used to. There are other –often costly- newer streaming platforms too, or the tried and tested, well-loved YouTube. That still sounds like a lot of adventurous exploring to me.
That silver lining doesn’t necessarily make that big cloud look any less grey however, and for some people the death of the radio is still a big loss. My biggest worry that comes with the loss of local radio is that we are missing out on the chance to hear from emerging artists from our area. They now have to rely on their luck with social media, which has proved successful for some. Many new artists post on Facebook and Twitter, or even TikTok. We can ask our friends who they’ve been listening to and check them out. We can ask our older relatives what they like- being adventurous doesn’t just mean going for new things.
The death of radio may well mean that some people’s days of discovery are over. But for many others, it has not closed the doors on music adventures. Our music taste is still adventurous- arguably more so- with the likes of Spotify. Perhaps we feel we have more of a purposeful involvement in it rather than the person behind the radio making our decisions for us. If somebody wants to listen to something new, or if they want to listen to the same 5 tracks on repeat (guilty as charged!), they will find a way to do it. What I do know for certain now is that I am going to make an effort to support my local radio and see what music I have been missing out on.
Image courtesy of Eric Nopanen