Pod kids tune out
Radio stations say they won’t take the tech revolution lying down
TODAY’S generation of music fans are no longer content to simply listen to their favourite tunes on the radio.
Whether it’s buying music online, downloading podcasts of radio shows to listen to later, or chilling out to streamed music broadcasts on the net, 21st-century music fans are very much in the driver’s seat.
No one knows this more than radio station chiefs, who are being forced to adjust to the new reality or be left behind.
A recent YouthSCAN study reveals radio has taken a hit. Many young Australians choose instead to download podcasts and listen to programs on devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players when it suits them.
The trend has seen tech-savvy listeners move away from radio in favour of recorded music, with teens spending fewer hours a week listening to radio than 10 years ago.
‘‘What we’ve seen is a shift in the number of hours that young people spend listening to radio,’’ Quantum spokeswoman Imogen Randell says. ‘‘It’s moved from 11 a week in 1995 to nine hours a week in 2007.’’
Over the same period, the hours spent listening to recorded music has jumped from nine hours a week to 14 hours.’’
Fellow Quantum market researcher Nick Dawes adds: ‘‘Young people today tend to take in only what they want to take in. When it comes to music, they can carefully choose their own playlists and load them on to an MP3 player, including radio podcasts.
‘‘It gives them control of what they listen to and when.’’
Triple J manager Linda Bracken says the writing has been on the wall for some time.
‘‘When I first got here a bit over five years ago, I saw that Triple J had to be more than a radio station,’’ she says.
Bracken says even though trad- itional radio broadcasting will ‘‘always be at the heart of what we do’’, she says Triple J, as the ABC’s multi-platform youth brand, has moved beyond being only a radio station.
‘‘That is absolutely to reflect the way young people are using media has changed dramatically, even in the past five years,’’ she says.
‘‘So that’s why we have made a lot of innovations in our online delivery.’’
She believes nothing backs this up more than the station’s long-running Triple J Unearthed competition, designed to discover new music talent throughout the country.
Whereas the process of physically scouring the nation to find the next big thing could take up to two years, technology has revolutionised the process for listeners and struggling musicians.
‘‘If you were a kid waiting in, say, Bundaberg for us to come, your band might have well and truly broken up by the time we arrived there,’’ Bracken says.
Two years ago, the station unveiled an MP3 upload site, allowing bands to post their songs online from anywhere in the country and listeners to rate them accordingly and download them free.
‘‘You can have a page up there, then we pull the best of those tracks off that website to play on air,’’ Bracken says.
THE statistics speak for themselves. Since the service’s launch, music fans have listened to five million streams and downloaded two million songs.
More than 18,000 artists have uploaded 33,000 tracks to share with listeners.
‘‘It’s about Triple J being wherever our listeners are and that’s why we’ve moved into the online space,’’ Bracken says.
Though there will always be a place for radio in its traditional form, Bracken says FM music stations that don’t try to keep pace with changing habits of listeners will not survive.
‘‘To think you can stay in one corner and not evolve and adapt and be responsive to the way your audience uses media, you may as well turn off the transmitters and lock the door behind you.’’
Laid-back: people today have the option of downloading songs and podcasts and listening to them later when it suits them.