Internet Radio: What Do Younger Listeners Want?

By Michael Schmitt

In reading and covering radio and Internet news for RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter, I’ve come across a lot of frustration over my generation. Generation Y, The Millenials, the Echo Boomers, whatever you want to call us, we’re radio-less, meaning, we never grew up with a cherished radio station, never rushed home from school to hear a radio program or hear what new hits are playing. But as I have a foot in both camps, and spend my days writing about radio’s transition into the digital medium, maybe I can offer some youthful perspective on how to best target the new generation. Here’s how one new 20-something sees it:

– We know what we want

Whether it’s through the Internet, friends, magazines, or whatever, we’ve discovered what genres and artists we like. Music discovery  has shifted from radio to the Internet. I can find new artists on my own online. I know when new albums are coming out and I know what songs I like on that album. I don’t need singles to tell me what songs to like and I don’t need radio to inform me about new music. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll take music advice from my friend Elizabeth (or even from Twitter pal @christinajacobs) over some DJ any day, thank you very much.

— We know where to find better jukeboxes

If all a radio station offers is a continuous line of songs, broken here and there by commercial breaks or DJ chatter, I’m not interested. I have at least half a dozen other choices for jukebox-like playback, all of which cater specifically to me. I’m referring of course to Pandora,, Imeem, iTunes’ Genius playlist creator and more. Heck, there’s even just the “Random” button on my iPod. Many of these allow me to continually shape my radio station as well, helping it adapt to my ever-changing likes and dislikes.

— We want more, please

This doesn’t mean that all we want out of music is a jukebox though. Far from it. Frankly, I’m tired of my Pandora channels. I want more. Remember how I said we know what we want? We also want more of it. Satisfy us. Give us something we can’t get from our iPods, our Torrent sites, our Pandora jukeboxes.

Here’s what radio can offer

Use your contacts and talent to create content I can’t get elsewhere. Interviews, in-studio performances, unreleased B-sides. Anything that goes beyond the album and gives fans of artists more of what they crave. I’ll tune in. And if you do it well, I’ll come back for more.

I was driving home late one night and — as I had forgotten to bring a CD along — was seeing what the radio had to offer. I came across an interesting interview with an artist, discussing how she had customized her Gibson guitar since getting it ten years ago. I was hooked. She turned out to be a blues artist – a genre I frankly can’t stand – but I listened to the whole interview and her in-studio performance. I actually sat in the car in my driveway until the segment concluded. Content like that is unique, interesting and attractive to music fans—no matter what generation they belong to.

Michael Schmitt  is Associate Editor of RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter and Music Programmer for FuturePerfectRadio.


One response

  1. The Gen Y dissatisfaction with radio has been around since you guys came home from school and watched MTV instead of listening to the radio.

    As we struggle with how to make a mass appeal medium live in an era of personal mediums.

    We get it… we know that no one can build a perfect radio station for you except you… after reading your diatribe above I’m not certain you are qualified for this job either.

    As a group of people you are self centered, moody and narcissistic (not a judgement just an observation). You grew up with every convenience (a trophy just for being on the soccer team), a TV in your bedroom, dinner in 10 minutes, cell phones, texting, cd players, cd recorders, mp3 players, DVD’s etc.

    Why can’t radio provide you with content that suits you when you’re in the mood for it?

    1. Because there no money in it (now)
    2. We can’t read minds yet.

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