Pod kids tune out

Ra­dio sta­tions say they won’t take the tech revo­lu­tion ly­ing down

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - GREG THOM

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.

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