What Broadcast Radio Can Learn From Social Music Sites

January 13th, 2009 by

Listening to music onlineIf there’s one thing that keeps my day flowing its music in my headphones; be it through my Zune, Pandora, or streaming a local radio station.  My Zune mysteriously lost all its juice shortly after I made it in the office today so I decided to stream KROQ’s Roq of the 80’s station for a change.  The streaming station plays in a small player developed by the stations parent company CBS, and has a nice little interface that tells you what song is playing, who the artist is and displays the album cover art.  As the day went on I got to thinking; if the CBS player can do all that why not create some sort of voting feature like those found on sites like Last.fm and Pandora to collect listener feedback?

More and more people listen to music via the internet these days and now seems like a better time than ever for radio stations to get in on the social music game.  By incorporating voting features in their players and developing listener profiles, they could easily gather listener data and get to know their audience better.  While sites like Last.fm and Pandora use this data to tailor stations to a specific user, radio stations could collect this data to tailor their stations to their audience as a collective.

I have taken part in a number of surveys for KROQ and I know that they are regularly seeking listener data trying to figure out what people local stations listen to, what songs they like and dislike and more.  I know that one means KROQ uses to gather listener data is through online surveys.  The radio station sends out e-mails periodically to its listeners who have signed up for their street team and asks that they listen to a series of song clips online and state whether they like the song, dislike the song, are unfamiliar with the song, or are tired of hearing the song.

If the radio stations could incorporate some sort of social music structure with their players in combination with their regular survey techniques the stations would be able to generate a continual flow of feedback regarding their music selection.  In turn the data could assist them in determining what kind of listeners they are capturing, what styles of music are most popular with their listeners, what songs are most liked, and what songs should be played less often, or not at all.  This same data could be used for spotting new trends in music, establishing demographics for advertising, and more.

While this concept is in no way new, obviously because we see it in sites like Last.fm and Pandora, it’s something I haven’t seen used in the broadcast radio industry.  While researching this post I took a look at 18 of the major radio stations in Southern California and found that of the 18 stations I looked into 16 of them had streaming broadcasts on their website, and not one of them had any sort of ranking or personalization features.  I think this is a great opportunity for modern radio, and if its not already in place elsewhere who’s going to be the first to do it?

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One Response to “What Broadcast Radio Can Learn From Social Music Sites”

  1. an interesting idea, I know that “old media” is starting to wake up to the possibilities of the internet and especially social media. We can only hope that the established identities enter into the sphere in a meaningful way, the problem is that they are so calcified in their thinking that they have miles of red tape to make any type of major decision, let alone the need for them to have good designers/programmers to make it successful. Last.fm and Pandora can afford to build up, I think that a major label has to do it right out the gate or it’s failure would frighten other major brands…

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