The Inevitable Death Of FM

By Melissa Steven
April 27, 2006

Where did all the music go?

FM radio was created as an alternative to AM radio’s pop format. It was a popular outlet for alternative music to deliver music to the masses on a clear-sounding frequency. Once that happened, AM radio flipped formats to news, talk and sports. No more music on AM.

Now with the growing popularity of satellite radio and iPods, FM radio has begun to feel the effects of people not choosing radio to listen to their favorite music.

“Talk radio is going to invade the FM dial, and in doing so, it’s going to save FM,” Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, said, according to an article in Philadelphia Style magazine.

In 2006, 94.1WYSP-FM lost Howard Stern to satellite radio. Since then WYSP-FM has turned into a personality-driven format, know named “Free-FM,” which means more talk and less rock.

Now WMMR-FM is the only station that plays mainstream rock music in the Philadelphia region.

Paul Blake, director of sales for Greater Media Philadelphia, said, “The notion that FM radio is going to talk is not accurate. The industry is embracing the concept of audio entertainment. That includes entertaining local content delivered in varied ways including online streaming of radio stations, podcasts and high-definition radio sub channels.”

Greater Media Philadelphia owns four radio stations including 93.3 WMMR-FM and 102.9 WMGK-FM.

“People have begun turning to internet radio stations, MP3 purchasing programs like iTunes, satellite radio and even online communities such as MySpace for variety and the discovery of new music,” Krista Mazzeo, former 89.1 WYBF-FM station manager, said.

Although the rock genre’s sales remain constant at 20 percent in the market, according to Nielson SoundScan, on the radio, rock’s numbers are declining both in audience share and in number of stations.

Blake disagrees and said that the rock genre is as strong as it has ever been with mainstream rock and classic rock. Every year, younger kids are discovering classic rock music that helps keep that format alive.

“Commercial FM radio has always been limited in the number of songs they can play due to format clocks and pressure from the record label to give a certain song a set number of ‘spins’ on the air,” Mazzeo said. “This leads to tired, overdone genres and play lists that cause the listening audience to quickly become bored.”

In 2005, Philadelphia’s modern rock station Y100 went off the air leaving listeners without any stations that play alternative rock music.

“From my observation, a lot of people are turning to satellite [radio] because they have the capability of listening to any type of genre of music at any given point of the day,” Craig Vagell, communications center supervisor and general manager of WYBF-FM, said.

Other people in the radio industry including Adam Carolla, a radio personality who replaced Howard Stern on some Infinity-owned FM stations, and Yahoo’s chief music executive both agree that “music will inevitably vanish from free radio.”

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@googlegroups.com . The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Brandon Edwards

Melissa Steven

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