If I wanted to explain to you why radio is still such a relevant, well-loved medium, I could bury you in Nielsen data and statistics. I could fill your in-box with with pie charts, graphs, and audience studies.
Or I could pull out a vinyl platter and drop the needle on some fine, 40-year-old progressive rock (hint: I’m not rooting for the data).
First, some quick Q&A: is radio still heard by around 90% of the US population every day? Yep. Even by hip, 20-something Millennials? Yes, at a higher percentage than 40 and 50 year olds. Are there credible, verifiable reasons why such a traditional medium so stubbornly holds its ground in the 21st century adscape? Yes– and plenty of statistics if you must have them. Back in 1979, however, the legendary Canadian power trio RUSH explained all of it to us in their song, “The Spirit of Radio”.
You can click here to listen to the song. If you’d rather not (it completely baffles me how anyone would rather not), read on to see what the progressive rock gods had to say about AM/FM:
Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion unobtrusive…
Whether it wakes you up, keeps you company as you get ready for the day, or entertains/informs you in the car headed to work, radio is a medium that is easy to access and with which it’s easy to get along. This blog has previously discussed how we love the familiar. Familiar is radio’s forte, as local radio hosts talk about local people, places, weather, and things. It makes us feel good when they gripe about the rain, or enthuse about the local sports team.
…Plays that song that’s so elusive, and the magic music makes your morning mood.
There are endless studies about the power of music to motivate, to soothe, to encourage, to refresh. No matter what other options are out there—CDs, iPods, Pandora, Spotify—nothing delivers music and information as quickly and as effortlessly as traditional radio.
Off on your way, hit the open road– there is magic at your fingers…
Two major strengths of radio: for one, it’s portable. You can drive and listen to it. You can cook and listen to it. You can go for a run, clean the house, work on your car, or build a ship in a bottle (if that’s your thing) and listen to it. For another, it’s easy. You don’t have to stop at a newsstand, deal with a remote, or set up a Bluetooth connection. You can literally push a button and be engaged— and people love shortcuts.
For the spirit ever lingers– undemanding contact, in your happy solitude.
We have all experienced that “decompression” time of being alone in the car in the middle or at the end of a long day, and being simply entertained by what the radio station offers. A favorite song, a relevant news story… we’re not asked to do anything but listen.
…emotional feedback, on a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.
“Free” is an important point. Will some people buy a subscription for specific satellite programming in their car? Sure. But most of us are more than happy with the variety of formats on the AM/FM dial, and “free” fits in everyone’s budget.
There are certain facts about radio that require no surveys, graphs, or statistics to verify:
- Radio is live, free, and easy to listen to.
- You can tune in from the car, the kitchen, the shower or the gym.
- There are no socio-economic barriers to listening.
- The content makes you feel good, makes you laugh, makes you think.
As digital transforms the production and delivery of nearly every medium out there, traditional radio is still basically the same: people talking into microphones, playing music, and keeping you up to date. Radio is still “the voice that whispers in your ear” as you stand in line at a store and don’t even realize you’re singing along with the station being played in the background.
Whether you’re a fan of Canadian hard rock or not… the spirit of radio is still very much alive in the music and advertising world.
Crank it up!