Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Has MP3 killed the radio star?

A number of youth-oriented radio stations around the world have reported falling listenership.

Ironically, the rising popularity of music through MP3 may be the cause. (Someone told me today that some radio stations have a playlist as short as 25 song that they play in different order, so not surprising if they are losing listeners to an iPod with more songs.)

Will podcasting kill the radio station? How have people seen their radio listening habits change?


In the States at least, a small number of big companies own a majority of the radio stations and the music they play is, for the most part, boring commercial pop. Surprising since there is a lot of talent out there, but it doesn't get airplay unless it's signed to a big record label. Things are changing though since talent now has access to distribution that was once the preserve of big publishers and the audience can choose when and how to access it.

I listen to the radio and podcasts now more than ever because I can play them wirelessly through iTunes (the latest iPod also offers an fm tuner as an accessory) so my habits have changed in the sense that I give both mediums more attention than I might otherwise, but I'm finding that the competition for music is better online than it is on the radio. It is the prepackaged radio star that the MP3 has killed.

This post's tagline .. did you REALLY listen to synthpop like the Buggles, Tom? MTV or not, "ouch, I say, ouch".

FM radio stations - all youth oriented - are quite big in most indian large cities. And the sale of FM receivers, all over the place but especially in car and "auto" (the indian variant of bangkok's tuktuks) radios, has skyrocketed.

and then there's the list of fm channels currently licensed in india -

Here in the UK, the radio stations are certainly reacting strongly to online competition by embracing new music. BBC Radio 1 and the commercial XFM stations both regularly feature both new and unsigned bands live in session, available via radio and online. However, it'll be interesting to see if they can still keep ahead of MySpace when it launches a dedicated UK site and every new band feels obliged to have a presence there, too.

Colin Donald
Live Net Music

Howard Stern is still quite popular. I think there's a distinct difference between original content (Talk Radio) and the playlists + 20 min breaks of advertising most radio is these days.

I saw a study of people of had ipods and those who didn't - I can't remember the demographic breakdowns, but the bottom line was people who didn't have ipods thought such devices needed a built-in radio and people who had ipods saw no need for a radio.

I find myself listening to a lot of radio... talk radio. The music stations are unbearable and have been for a long time.
The ipod phenomenon is supposedly responsible for the "Jack" stations here in the US, which break down formatting walls with "randomized" playlists, but even those are largely relegated to Top 40 hits old and new.
It's too bad music podcasting is so hindered by copyright laws.
Howard Stern is now on satellite radio--a whole different story. I thought these subscription services would be seen as less attractive than free, on-demand podcasts, but Stern has attracted millions of subscribers.

I'm lucky. I live near Chicago, where we have a great NPR station, WBEZ, and a great rock station, WXRT. Both are available via the Web, so give them a listen.

I have an iPod and a car FM transmitter/thingy, and I still listen to XRT some mornings and evenings. They play truly fine, eclectic music from a HUGE library, and their on-air personalities are fun, knowledgeable people. They are *all* about the music, no matter if it dates from 1975 to the day before yesterday. Sad to say, their webcast plays the same 3 or 4 instrumentals in the space occupied by on-air commercials, so you're constantly hearing the same annoying snippets of "music."

Yes, a large part of my life revolves around listening to the radio, but then I've attended tapings of two locally produced shows, so I guess I'm radio ga-ga.

In Japan FM radio is pretty much unrelated to young people's music. The radio is never playing in our house.

In the US I stopped listening to the radio around 93 with the exception of Dr Dre & Ed Lover's morning show on HOT 97 in NYC. That died around 95 and when my radio broke I didnt get a new one.

Joi messaged me a year or so ago to tell me he was going to be on a local Tokyo radio station talking about blogging - it was then that I realized that I didn't own a radio anymore. (I managed to find their stream from their web site and listen that way.)

Traditional Radio in Tokyo is pathetic. A market that has 35 million or so potential listeners has just a handful of stations, with no dedicated Jazz or Classical.

A couple of years ago, I was in a little store, a little wooden-floored neighborhood shop in a 50 year old building, with a grandmother behind the counter and an old cat sleeping on one of the shelves and the music playing was "Enka," a post-war style of common music something like French Chanson or old country music. (Lots of sad songs about falling leaves and lost loves.) It seemed so appropriate a style of music for the place and it was ever-present, so I asked the woman if it was a radio station. She pointed up and said "Usen."
She was pointing to a small digital receiver on the top shelf, connected to a 100 megabit optical connection. This, in a store that had a black rotary telephone.

Usen is pretty common here - restaurants often have it streaming talk-free and commercial-free Jazz or classical or enka. I doubt satellite radio could compete here, given the high quality of Usen.

Radio in the US seems to be mainly car-related, people listening to morning DJs recount the previous night's television shows while they commute. Do people even listen to the radio for music at home anymore?
I don't have a car here, but people seem to prefer to stick to CDs or MDs or iPods, from what I've seen. Things like weather and traffic reports are better handled by in-car GPS navigation systems anyway.

We've been talking about getting a table radio, only because the "home entertainment system" isn't very user friendly when it comes to the tuner. But then, what we listen to on weekend mornings isn't very youth oriented: the news, the "Car Talk guys, a news quiz show, and a humor show. But really, most of the non-car radio I listen to is web-based these days.

Usen sounds a lot like Worldspace (which is again quite popular in india for background music in shops, restaurants, dentists offices etc and now has substantial localized content)

Yes, radio is dead, at least in my life. The only use for the radio in my car is to pipe in the podcasts from my iPod. The good stuff on radio, aka "national public radio," I now receive as a podcast which I can play on my own time. And I also have a lot of independent podcasts that fill the rest of my time. I can't imagine I'm alone.


Radio as it was has been dead for me for a long time. However, I just discovered Pandora, which is part of the Music Genome Project. At this time, it's only available in the US, though. I think it is a very clever system to introduce people to new music and make them easy for them to buy it. For this reason it purposely doesn't do requests or replay, but tries to find the kind of music you like and play more of the same.

I did a little write-up of it--available via the link on my name.

Radio has not died for me. My listening habits have changed considerably, though. I listen many of the public radio stations here in Chicago (we have at least three). The contemporary music stuff used to be with WXRT, but contrary to ginny's testimony, the variety of new and upcoming music is nothing like it was in the early 90's and before. So, my source for music has mostly been via podcasted shows and other radio stations that broadcast on the web (KCRW, for example).