Brian (@bdeoleo), a student at William Paterson University of New Jersey, is doing his capstone project on the relationship between radio and the internet. He asked me the following questions and I answered them from my perspective as a programming executive at Hot 97 in New York City.
How does an artist with a decent internet buzz break through and get his music onto the radio for airplay?
I think the buzz needs to be more than decent. There needs to be a loud racket. So loud that radio starts asking about the artist and not the other way around. Music that translates to a mass audience is key. In addition, there needs to be a plan for the music. Putting out songs with no blueprint on how an artist plans to promote and work a project makes it pointless for radio to support. After that hot song, then what? Is there a mixtape? A video? An album? What’s the long-term layout for the artist? It does a disservice to an artists to play one hot song when the act has nothing else in place to keep the ball rolling.
What is the main distinction between an artist on the radio and a solely online artist?
Hard to say. There are a lot of songs online that could possibly translate to radio but never do. There are a lot of songs online that would never get radio play for various reasons. The saturation of the craft makes it more difficult for artists to break through the clutter. Eventually, the cream rises to the crop. That could mean a big online act with a cult following. Or it could mean a big radio act with a mass audience. Everyone gets to define success for themselves. For some artists, radio isn’t even a component of their strategy and that works out just fine for them.
Do you think the internet can ever completely replace radio?
I think there will always be a need for terrestrial radio. I don’t think the internet will replace radio, per se. I think radio will continue to invade the internet and find a home both online and on the dial. We are already in both places with much success.
How does the radio broaden an artists reach in ways the internet can’t?
People who use the internet all day, several times a day, are not the norm. We think they are the norm (I’m including myself here), but there are many regular folks who don’t use twitter and/or never log on to a facebook page or peruse blogs. Radio still breaks music for a mass of people who are not obsessed with a life online and don’t spend their days looking for the next MC from Queens. Radio takes music from a small online audience of music nerds and fans and exposes it to a huge (and sometimes more passive) listening audience.
Since our culture is becoming internet based, what are the benefits of being played on the radio?
When Hot 97 plays a song on the radio, the iTunes sales shoot up immediately. Over 90% of Americans are exposed to radio in any given week. Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated. Does the internet infringe upon our reign a bit? Sure. It’s another option and choice kills. All media outlets are always competing with each other for time and space. The more options, the less time everyone gets.
At what point can an artist look to make a successful transition from online to radio?
Don’t call us, we’ll call you. It will be obvious and we’ll be in touch. We watch everyone with a buzz and see everything as it’s unfolding and reach out when it’s time.
What are some trends you’ve seen with newer artists getting air play?
No new trends. Artists are excited to be played on the radio, period. There is a level of validation that comes with it, especially with a brand like Hot 97.
Will the blending of genres, and general hip-hop influence on pop culture, change the landscape of what is played on the radio? is this positive or negative?
Surely it has and it will. I don’t think it’s positive or negative. It just is. Change is the only constant, and if you’re trapped in the 90s and can’t see the value of a new act or sound, that spells trouble. The world keeps on spinning and trends will always come and go. Radio will roll with the punches as it always has.
What do you think the future of radio is?
Online, on air and on TV.
Artists like Joey Badass, Chance the Rapper, and Schoolboy Q have been breaking through to the radio format, what do you see in them that allows them to change what is traditionally heard on the radio?
They have movements that support their sound and the quality of lyrics and production to go along with those movements.
Ratchet Turnup Molly, the first single from The Turnup Twinz f/ Tina Turnup!
My friends are amazing.