Radio Dares To Be Mediocre

I don’t live through the rearview mirror. But I’m sure that life used to be more fun.

I was reminded of that on a recent Zoom call with some radio friends. We recounted the crazy things we did at KISW in Seattle, during rock’s heyday. We shredded the rule book and weren’t satisfied until listeners became rabid fans.

And we had huge amounts of fun.

Demand was so great for KISW’s iconic ‘Rock’ window stickers, we sold them (for charity). Forget about generic announcers, Van Halen was KISW’s signature voice. We flew Pink Floyd’s pig above our studios. While competitors did dumb contests, we gave away $20 million ($1 a year, for 20 million years). And KISW’s morning genius, Bob Rivers, staged an annual ‘Nudestock’ gathering for 2,000 naked listeners. Yes, those are bodies.

People had a passionate connection with their favorite stations. Listeners cared about the Top 40 jocks who pumped the wattage into our cottage. While rock stations turned us on to cool bands.

But that’s all been squandered.

Radio has lost its courage and conceded innovation to SiriusXM, Spotify and Apple Music. Now, music is an afterthought to stations. Filler content that’s squeezed between commercials.

When popular personalities got canned, it greased the skids for radios’ sprint to oblivion. To most people under 30, radio is irrelevant. It’s just another appliance, like a blender.

Here’s my take. When it comes to playing music, radio can’t compete against the personalization of streaming services. Game over. To win, radio must be everything that Spotify is not. Beat the soulless algorithms with exuberant fun!

And for 50 years, KISW is still having a blast.

Beau Phillips is President of Rainmaker Media. 
He’s a creative marketing consultant, strategist and speaker.
Reach him at 203-256-9347 

1 thought on “Radio Dares To Be Mediocre”

  1. Beau – you are exactly right-on. We never met, but I developed KISW’s first website back in 1994. I, too, am a former radio programmer, who left radio in the mid-90’s for the Internet business when radio became corporate and boring. It’s so, so, sad what broadcast companies did to radio. I recently subscribed to SiriusXM to finally get some music and creative, good jocks back in my life. I still have hope that terrestrial radio will re-emerge someday. Will we live long enough to see that? Who knows….

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