Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Radio & Records 1973-2009 R.I.P.
They should have renamed it Downloads and Streaming.
Maybe it would’ve had a fighting chance. On line.
Let’s remember Radio & Records for its many achievements.
It was the publication for both the radio and record industries.
Nothing was more imperative to the record labels than an add and chart position on top 40 radio.
The format played its currents in high rotation and sold product.
In the days prior to electronic monitoring of stations the trades were dependent on “honor system” reports from top 40’s.
One problem. There wasn’t a set airplay chart for the labels and radio to agree on. You had a dozen influential trades – all kept in business by full-page label ads.
Both the radio and record industries wanted one reference chart.
Radio & Records gave it to them along with a new moniker for the top 40 format – Contemporary Hit Radio. CHR.
It weighted stations by market size and ratings – the Parallels: P1’s, P2’s, and P3’s.
It took a format that was nearly impossible to chart and categorize, gave it a new name, and tamed the beast formerly known as progressive rock radio into Album Oriented Rock. AOR.
For decades R&R sold full-page ads to the labels as an extension of the vinyl slingers’ and indies’ pitches.
R&R had the best writers, reporters and industry coverage. They could afford to.
There were years where it was R&R and everyone else. R&R was the trade; the others were tip sheets.
Two words: Street Talk.
Its annual conventions – particularly during the '70s and '80s – will never be duplicated. Not all the stories you heard about them were true. Just most of them. Well, maybe close to all of them.
What killed Radio & Records? In this brave new hyper-competitive market, competency is expected and only flawless execution is tolerable. But here’s the problem. That’s not enough. Today, the decisive competitive advantage is passion. When is the last time you heard that word to describe the radio and record industries?
It wasn't R&R that changed. It was the industry it served.
I feel bad for everyone connected with Radio & Records, especially for those format editors who have spent the past few years talking to and trying to help those who had lost their jobs. Now, they’ve lost theirs.
For those in the crippled consolidation radio and record industries, be afraid. Be very afraid. There are few things worse than being forgotten but not gone.
Let’s visit two other mediums – books and film.
The novel The Last Days of Pompeii by the Edward Bulwer-Lytton featured characters that presented a contrast from the decadent culture of first-century Rome with both older cultures and coming trends. It could easily be rewritten for the contemporary radio and record industries.
We’ve gone from the days of lines and noses to The Days of Wine and Roses. There’s that scene where Jack Lemmon says to Lee Remick: "I walked by Union Square Bar. I was going to go in. Then I saw myself, my reflection in the window, and I thought, 'I wonder who that bum is'? And then I saw it was me. Now look at me. I'm a bum. Look at me! Look at you. You're a bum. Look at you. And look at us. Look at us. C'mon look at us! See? A couple of bums."