Thursday, May 22, 2008

Demise of Urban Radio

Last week I wrote a bit about the dwindling number of hip hop stations and today I found this excellent article by Eric K. Arnold called The Effects of Media Consolidation on Urban Radio on the Future of Music Coalition blog. His focus is corporate radio and how it's hurt smaller, indie stations that formerly served the urban (and local) community. He writes:

"Urban Radio is a multibillion-dollar industry controlled by a handful of large media conglomerates which program the majority of the genre’s stations across the country. To a large extent, the industry’s current state is the result of media consolidation. Over the last twelve years, independently-owned commercial stations have become a rarity, while corporate radio has become the norm.

Where once innovative program directors broke new music by emerging artists and DJs sought out hot local talent, today’s urban radio has become standardized and formulaic. National playlists and a reliance on market research have made DJs little more than button-pushers with limited say in what records get aired. Pressure to attract and maintain the widest possible market share has resulted in Music and Program Directors choosing commercially-established, major label artists over idiosyncratic or developing acts. In this ratings-driven climate, radio that actively meets the needs of the community — whether it be public-affairs shows or programming featuring local artists — has fallen by the wayside. The net result is that the average listener has fewer choices, especially when it comes to hearing local music."

To read more on this topic, see Eric K. Arnold's extensive SF Weekly piece about The Demise of Hyphy, which explores the practices of San Francisco Bay area radio stations related to hip hop-oriented music.

Since corporate, commercial radio is playing less and less hip hop, indie urban artists, and local artists, I wonder if college radio is helping to fill the void on the dial. What do you think? Is your station playing enough urban, hip hop, and local music? Are there stations that do this exceptionally well?

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