Music Festivals Thrive On Diversity. So Why Can't Radio?

LOS ANGELES (Hypebot) — Today: Why? Tomorrow: An interview With Radio Paradise's Bill Goldsmith

Part 1 of II: Look at the line-up of acts at the most successful festivals in the country like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and you'll find tremendous diversity. Old and new, urban and rock, world and folk music all blend together to provide a rich experience that music fans are supporting with their wallets.

But most commercial over the air broadcasters are stuck in one musical rut or another. Sadly, the practice seems to even extend to internet radio.

There are many reasons that music on the radio has become both more segmented and within each genre more homogenized. The race for ratings is paramount. Chasing a particular audience for advertisers can mean producing programming that targets them exclusively whether they are young white males or Hispanic women.

The race for ads became crucial in the 90's when new laws set off a buying spree that pushed up station purchase prices and the need for revenue to pay for them. These new broadcast groups then found cost savings in syndicated and voice tracked programming as well as national programming staffs that further contributed to a sameness across the dial.

A few radio formats like Jack-FM have meekly tried to bring back some diversity, but they done so with safe playlists and random song selections that have all the warmth of a slot machine. Listen awhile and maybe you'll get lucky and hear a few songs that move you.

But the audience wants much more. A look at almost anyone's iPod playlists usually reveals a host of wonderful surprises and contradictions. And remember the eclectic FM DJ's you used to listen to in college?

If broadcasters hope to stop loosing listeners perhaps some of them only need to look at the most successful festivals in the America for answers.

TOMORROW: An interview with Bill Goldsmith of Radio Paradise – one programmer whose blazing the trails to what could be radio's future.

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