Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why "Urban" Radio Sucks.

About 12-13 years ago, I abandoned black radio for good. By "black radio", I mean the terrestrial "Hot/Kiss/Power/Where Hip-Hop & R&B Live!" format that permenates the airwaves in every major US city. I still occasionally listen to "Adult Contemporary" radio (for the 35+ demo I'm in) when I don't have other options, but otherwise I'm listening to Sirius XM or my own music via Spotify or some other app. The reasons are many: repetitive playlists, corny "on-air personalities", and the "national show" trend that has made local stations somewhat obsolete. But mostly because of the music. It sucks, we all know that, and for years I've wondered why. Everyone has that artist they love whom they know would blow up if they just got more airplay. So why don't they get more airplay, when black radio can find time to play a Chris Brown song 8 times per hour.

Here's why.

I meant to post this awhile back. It's not a "new" video, since it's been out more than a year, but it explains precisely how black radio is programmed, and as a result, precisely why black radio sucks. If you're not familiar, New York's Hot97 is basically Black Radio's Flagship Station, and Ebro Darden is its Program Director, which is a nicer way of saying he's the guy that has to strike the balance between what listeners (presumably) want, and what makes the corporate entity that owns the station money. It's a precarious balance, and one that Mr. Darden seems to have a solid grasp on. Speaking with The Combat Jack Show's Reggie Osse, Dallas Penn (a friend of, and legendary producer Just Blaze, Darden explains exactly how records are chosen for airplay (hint: it involves advanced analytics and focus groups), why DJ's don't even really exist anymore, and (in a roundabout way) admits that this is why modern black radio is so awful.

I admire Ebro's honesty here. He knows he's part of the problem, and doesn't shy away from admitting that. He also knows he couldn't "fix" the problem if he wants to keep his job. This is in 3 parts, and there's some light banter at times, but there's some serious knowledge on the radio and music industry being dropped here. If you've got time to digest it all (and I think you should, it's pretty fascinating stuff), I'd encourage you to.

Question: Do you still listen to "black radio"? Was anything in these videos enlightening?

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