The New York Times’ Jeff Leeds had another excellent music biz state-of-the-moment piece, in Saturday’s paper, concerning how major commercial radio stations are playing fewer songs more frequently.
. . . This month, [OneRepublic’s hit] “Apologize” broke the record for the most plays of a song on the nation’s Top 40 stations in a single week since computerized tracking began in 1990. The song played more than 10,240 times in a week, reaching an estimated audience of more than 70 million listeners, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, an airplay monitoring service, and the chart-keepers at Radio & Records, a music trade magazine.
It’s also a sign of how radio stations are responding to the competition for listeners as radio’s audience fragments and rival entertainment choices abound. While the overwhelming majority of Americans still tune into traditional broadcast radio each week, they are listening less. And they are increasingly drawn to the dizzying choices of music and other programming available on iPods and satellite and Internet radio.
But many pop radio programmers appear keen to repeat the biggest hits as much as — or more than — ever. “Apologize” surpassed a record that had been set only in July by Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” according to the data. Of the 10 songs that have notched the most plays in one week, 8 joined the list in the last three years. And the oldest of the 10, Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” dates only to 2002.
. . Executives at some individual stations say they are playing hits more heavily than they did even two years ago. That is not so much out of concern over digital competition as it is a desire to respond to listeners’ busy lives, said Kat Jensen, music director for KKMG-FM in Colorado Springs, which played “Apologize” 78 times last week. “There’s a very limited window. If they’re going to listen 15 minutes a day, you want to make sure they hear their favorite song in that 15 minutes. It’s really the fast-paced life style that we all live.”
So this is how commercial radio responds to a world of infinite consumer choice--by playing the same songs over and over again.
Thank you very much, radio, but I’m sticking to my iPod when I’m on the road.