Would I have been against the Gutenberg printing press? Do I consider “Wings” the last good movie ever made? Should I finally sell my stock in the Wolverine Horse and Buggy company?
I don’t think of myself as a Luddite. I was carrying a Kaypro Computer before most people knew what a “Portable” computer was. Not exactly portable by the way: the size of a small suitcase barely fitting in the overhead of airplanes and the darn thing did almost nothing.
I was early with a Smartphone and a Smart TV.
I have pretty much been an early adopter when it came to technology in the past. I am less so today as I realized that newer does not always mean better. It often means more expensive though.
Anyway, I was thinking earlier this week about how the business I have been in since I was 19 years old has undergone changes in the intervening years since. There are forces that have put broadcast radio under attack in the last 5 years or so. It comes not just from the technological side but from the soft side. The delivery side and the supplier side.
The dashboard in automobiles is changing rapidly and that could be the real shifter in this fight for heart, head and ears.
My hometown automaker, Ford is leading the charge. They redesigned the dashboard first and have been the most aggressive about marketing it. As an aside, I think that I might kick Mike Rowe in the shins if I ever see him.
Their Sync system seems to have everything except AM/FM. I know that it’s in there somewhere but you might have to search long and hard to find it. I know that you can play with the MP3 integration, hook your phone (or a computer) via Bluetooth for audio streaming. Some of the systems have an SD card slot so that you can load more music or video. Some have dual video screens and Internet connectivity. You can even have your own Wi-Fi hot spot.
Where the heck is 540-1610? Where is 88-108?
GM was actually the first to hook us up to a cell signal with On-Star. Apparently GM had other things on its mind, like staying solvent, so Ford got a jump in the entertainment part of the race.
GM, with the backing of the taxpayer, is back in the contest. The new Cadillac challenges a 767 with the CUE System.
I started this by saying I am not against technological advances and I am not. But I am struck that Broadcast radio is still the first choice of consumers in discovering new music and being entertained in the car and at work.
Broadcast radio still has a huge lead today but is this only because we are at the beginning of the Dashboard Revolution?
Clear Channel is dragging the Broadcast industry into the digital age with iHeartRadio and this is finding its place on the dashboard, which may ultimately be the way to stay in the contest. iHeartRadio may end up being the one button in the Sync or Cue system that gets the listener out to up to 10,000 “broadcast” radio stations.
I guess that if/when that happens broadcasters will have to work harder to be entertaining. That is the one thing that broadcasters have over the other buttons on the dash.
If my screen comes up and I see Pandora, iHeartRadio, MP3, Sirius, SD Card I do not see equal access. All of those buttons say music to me. Only one has KIIS-FM and Ryan Seacrest, WJR and Paul W. Smith, or WAMZ and Coyote Calhoun.
My friends in the record business are excited about the additional opportunities to get their music in front of the consumer. They should be. They should not be excited about trying to make an end run around Broadcast radio though. I believe that it is in this environment that more music can be sold and introduced.
We know, from a recent Country Music Association research project, that the addition of the passion and knowledge of the disc jockey can complement the music and make it more appealing to the listener.
If technology was the only issue I would be worried about Broadcast radio’s future. Because the industry is filled with smart and entertaining people I am encouraged about what is ahead.
Now, if I could just afford a new car with all that dashboard stuff.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)