Friday, May 22, 2009

Radio Panel Full of Gloom and Doom

An article today in Daily Sound recaps a "future of music" panel discussion at the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast. Former record execs and a guy from Pandora proclaimed the radio industry dead.

The quote that's really hard to swallow was from the chief technical officer of Pandora:

"'I can’t come up with a good reason why we’re still broadcasting from (antenna) towers,' said Tom Conrad, chief technical officer for Pandora, which is an online service that allows users to put the name of their favorite musician into a search and come up with many high-quality recordings.

'Radio is slowly going bye-bye,' said panelist David Cremin, managing director of venture capital fund DFJ Frontier. Cremin, Conrad and others spoke to a crowd of about 75 listeners Wednesday night at the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast at the Cabrillo Arts Center in Santa Barbara."

After reporting some news this week about the Augustana College radio station KAUR dropping their FM signal and going online-only, I did start to wonder if this would be a growing trend. As colleges look to get some fast cash during turbulent economic times, they may be tempted to sell off FM signals to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, these frequencies are more often than not bought up by non-local religious groups or public radio groups. You can see the unfortunate results of this on the left end of the dial in certain parts of the country, where the local radio presence is pretty much non-existent.

I do think there's a great reason to maintain AM and FM stations. Independent, non-commercial radio is still exciting and is the place where I learn about new music. I like hearing bizarre musical segues, strange sounds, and live DJs. I would much rather hear a curated hour of college radio than a DJ-less computer-selected mix of music on Pandora or an iPod on shuffle. I realize that Pandora can be great for music discovery, but it really can't be compared to hearing an intelligent DJ's personal selections.

Free, local, non-commercial radio still rules in my book. I don't think we should give up on AM and FM just yet.

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