Millennials, Music and Radio | TALKERS magazine - talk media trade : TALKERS magazine

Millennials, Music and Radio

| December 17, 2013

By Jerry Del Colliano
Inside Music Media


delcollianoSCOTTSDALE — There are over 80 million “Millennials” coming of age the oldest of whom are already 30-years-old – 12 years older than the youngest 18-49 money demo cherished by advertisers.

Millennials have their own technology just as baby boomers had records, radio and TV.

Except technology has very little to do with the impact that “Generation Y” is making on media and just about everything else.

Sure there is Facebook that they went to college with, and Napster that helped disrupt the record business, iPads, apps, smartphones, Instagram and their latest devilish work – to unbundle cable and make Netflix the new standard for the on-demand content they, well – demand.

Radio consolidated about the time the first Millennials were in grade school and the industry just assumed that young listeners would always be there to like radio.

The music industry that consisted of old white men who were lawyers thought Napster needed to be sued out of existence – and they succeeded.

But the damage was already done.

  1. Music is a condiment today, not the main meal it was when you took someone home to listen to your album collection.  Then, the album was the main course with liner notes, fabulous art and songs presented in some type of deliberate order.  Now, thanks to downloading, music exists to be cherry-picked.
  2. Streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora, and coming soon Dr. Dre’s Beat Music are the new replacement for music downloading.  Again, no reason for a consumer to pay for music as long as it is available for free.  But streaming is not really going to be a big business.  It costs too much to license the music and there are many competitors entering the race.  All streaming has done is give consumers another good reason not to buy music.
  3. YouTube is the new top 40 radio.  Ask any teen.  YouTube is it.  YouTube will add another streaming competitor after the first of the year but it already owns the space with its video service.  Radio stations can’t get it through their heads that a video service can clean their hot clocks, but it is true.
  4. Radio deejays used to curate music for audiences but where they still exist, deejays hold no influence.  Friends don’t let friends listen to stiffs.  So music travels through more meaningful social circles on the route to discovery.  Meanwhile radio is well out of the discovery business choosing to make nice with PPM rather than their young audience hungry for discovery.
  5. Texting is the new talk radio.  This may sound preposterous to the older talkers who still believe there is a place for traditional talk radio in the order of things.  But times have changed.  Gen Y likes conciliation not confrontation – a talk radio staple.  They are liberal on social issues while talk radio is conservative.  Millennials are fiscal conservatives who are being driven away by discussions on vaginal probes, abortion, immigration and racial issues.  Talk radio needs a Plan B (and I’m not referring to the next day birth control pill by the same name).
  6. Netflix is the only guaranteed expense most Millennials are willing to pay for every month along with their student loans.  They hate cable and the bundling that goes with it.  They will never pay for satellite radio.  Millennials will pay for more Wi-Fi bandwidth before they will saddle themselves with fees from content providers.
  7. Music is toothpaste to Millennials.  They love it, need it, it makes them feel better but they are no longer emotionally involved with it.  Beyoncé figured that out which is why dropping her own new album along with videos without the help of her label sold 800,000 units the first week.  But record sales die off quickly.  The first week is usually the best week.  And deals with companies to buy albums influence sales.  The music industry is in its sunset years.  Artists acting like record labels is a non-starter.  Music is destined to be free or worth what a text message is worth.
  8. Binge watching is not just the rage for Millennials and now older generations for enjoying content from online purveyors like Netflix, it will be a requirement for radio as well.  So far, no radio company has addressed this.

Millennials are upending not only media, but the world.

Our mission, should we accept it, is to spend more time learning about them than becoming enamored of the technology and social media that changes constantly.

Facebook is only about 10 years old and it is falling out of favor with Millennials.

Yet radio and the music industries embrace it.

They should be embracing Instagram – until, that too, falls out of favor, which will be even quicker.

Steve Jobs had in his DNA what we need to acquire if we were not born with it – that all media must be directed at the change makers, in this case Millennials, because they are early adopters.  Then the other generations follow.

Apple invented iPods for kids and older people own them.

Smartphones for texting, photos and social media and older people embraced them.

Tablets for young people who wanted a kind of portable computer and 70-year-olds love them as well.

If we design products and services for older people, we get The Zune.

The secret to success in the media business is not about simply the latest technology, but the sociology of how these new devices become part of consumer’s lives.

We can do this.


Jerry Del Colliano, publisher of Inside Music Media is a media industry advisor whose background includes television, radio, publishing, digital media and professor of music industry at the University of Southern California. He will be presenting the fifth annual Media Solutions Conference in Philadelphia on March 26 at which legendary radio genius Jerry Lee and TALKERS/RadioInfo publisher Michael Harrison will be speaking as members of the faculty.  Jerry Del Colliano can be phoned at 480-998-9898. 

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