With the rebirth of Rancho Radio, I’ve been thinking about radio, and internet radio in particular. I believe, as others have written, that traditional radio is dead. I haven’t listened to an over the air radio station, even for a few seconds, in over a year and a half. Like most people I listen to music mostly in my car. These days, I either burn a bunch of MP3s on a CD-R or listen to XM Satellite Radio (Particularly Webb Wilder‘s shows on Cross Country). I’ve talked to a lot of my friends about this and it seems most people who care about music even a little are trending the same way.
Why? Two reasons. First, traditional radio has a rotation that is both too narrow (being generally set by some suit at the home office of Clear Channel or some other corporate entity) and too broad (there is only rock, alternative, classic rock, oldies and country, whereas XM and internet radio have many subcategories of each). The other reason- the ads. I use a TIVO (which while not as dead as traditional radio, is dying on the vine due to DirectTV‘s failure to fully embrace it) to watch TV and always (and I mean always) fast forward through commercials. My 7 year old does the same thing (which doesn’t bode well for TV advertising’s future). I simply cannot stand to hear or see commercials anymore. That makes traditional radio highly unattractive to me. And from what I can tell, a lot of other folks feel the same way.
So, that leaves MP3s on a CD-R (except for long airplane trips, no one over 40 uses an iPod and headphones as their primary music source) or satellite radio in the car and my own music collection (often on shuffle play) at home. But part of the love of music is the joy of finding a great new band or song (I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Uncle John’s Band). Internet radio has, I imagine, become the primary venue to mine for new music. A long time ago, a lot of it was free, but internet radio stations have to pay the bills too. So now you have to pay for it, which is fine and appropriate, but unless you’re filthy rich, you have to choose which stations or services you pay for. Personally, I like Rhapsody (though the fact it was bought by Real Networks will eventually be its ruination) and MusicMatch (owned now by Yahoo, a slightly better bet). I also enjoy independent stations, like the ones you can hear (for free if you can tolerate a few ads) at Live365.Com, the service that hosts Rancho Radio (Update: No more) . These stations, created and operated by people who last century would probably be ham radio enthusiasts, provide an almost unlimited number of sub-genres and mixes.
Cost prohibits these stations from getting too big or too popular, so if they are successful they become little listening communities that enjoy the same sorts of music. Nobody is going to get rich off of an independent radio station, but it is a way to connect to others and share (legally) music you enjoy.
At least I hope that’s how it will develop. I’d like to see independent internet radio stations follow Blogging (which is only a better executed version of the mid-ninties “internet journal” craze) and Podcasting (more on that later) as the next big internet thing.
More on this later. In the meantime, tune in to Rancho Radio and let me know if you like what you hear.