Tag Archives: Grammy Awards

Change Is In The Air, Can You Feel It?

This year’s Academy Awards on ABC recorded an all-time low in viewership with fewer than 10 million people who thought it was worth their time to tune in to see which picture was named the year’s best (Nomadland), or who won best actress (Frances McDormand) or best actor (Anthony Hopkins).

Was it because all the theaters closed down in 2020 due to COVID-19 that people didn’t care about the movies?

No, the Oscars telecast is suffering the same fate that has befallen the Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys and the Grammys; today there’s lots of competition for our attention.

Miss America Who?

I lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the better part of two decades. My WFPG-AM 1450 radio station was the flagship station for the Miss America radio broadcasts and continued broadcasting the annual beauty pageant to the South Jersey radio market long after network television took over broadcasting the pageant to the nation, via TV.

If you don’t know who the reigning Miss America is (Camille Schrier), you’re not alone, as only 3.61 million people tuned into the NBC telecast; continuing a downward trend of its audience ratings.

World Series Strikes Out

The 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays saw Game Three entering the record books as the least-watched World Series game since Nielsen began tracking ratings in 1968. Just over 8 million people watched.

Super Bowl 2021 Fumbles

With everyone being sequestered at home, and the annual Super Bowl telecasts being the most watched programs on television since 2010, you might scratch your head wondering how the most recent Super Bowl matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs only attracted 96.4 million viewers making it the lowest rated Super Bowl since 2007, when the Colts vs. The Bears attracted only 93.1 million viewers.

Before the 2010 Super Bowl, the season finale of M*A*S*H reigned as the most viewed television program for 27 years, with 105.9 million viewers saying goodbye to Hawkeye and friends in February of 1983.

The 2010 Super Bowl broadcast would garner 106.5 million viewers, and each Super Bowl broadcast after that would become the new most watched program on television.

Welcome to The Internet Revolution

In the 20th Century, the industrial economy was top-down, with all decisions originating from the CEO’s office. The 21st Century now depends on building relationships, collaboration and networking. Not since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s has America seen anything like what’s happening today.

You’re probably in one of two camps with regard to the speed of change happening right now: one group believes things are changing too fast, and the other group believes things aren’t changing fast enough. Business leaders no longer can sit on the fence about the issues that face us, but are being forced into picking a side.

The media industry that was birthed, and has been fully supported by the selling of advertising, is now looking towards selling subscriptions to support itself. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, PBS Passport, Amazon Prime, YouTubeTV, Paramount+, HBOMax, AppleTV+, Showtime, Starz, Frndly, and SlingTV are all subscription supported. Then there’s all the music streaming services you can subscribe to like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and Apple Music.

Do you like to listen to podcasts, well Spotify and Apple have announced those too will be adding a new subscription option for podcasts you might currently be enjoying for free.

In our house, we subscribe to seven different streaming video services, which grew from zero just five years ago and we currently use ad-supported audio streaming services from Pandora, Amazon and TuneIn. We access all of our streaming services by asking Alexa to play what we’re in the mood to hear via anyone of our four Echo’s and three Alexa equipped televisions.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I watched any commercial television channels.

Whether watching video, listening to audio or reading publications like The Washington Post, The Atlantic, AXIOS or the multitude of radio/TV publications that I devour each day, all of it comes to me ON DEMAND and via the internet.

Our household literally has more content than we have hours in a day to consume and still have time for a life with family and friends outside of the home.

The Future of Media Consumption

For the consumer, streaming consumption is the future, but there is a limit to how much media we can consume, let alone afford to subscribe to and we are approaching a peak in both.

For the media companies, understanding their future will demand a clear-eyed review at how the present came into existence. It will be survival of the fittest and not all will make it.

“Every model is flawed.

Some can be useful for decades or even centuries,

but eventually circumstances change and they become untenable.

After a period of tumult, they collapse and a new paradigm emerges.”

-Thomas Kuhn

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Radio & Urban Contemporary, Is the End Nigh?

35Once upon a time, radio was pretty much like the TV show The Voice. We only knew what we heard coming through the speaker on our radio.

Those pilots of the airwaves were magical.

We may not have had a clue as to what they looked like, but we created a persona in our minds as if we did. It was never even close to the real person.

Who’s the Black Guy?

I got my best friend hooked on radio and each day at school we’d compare notes of who we listened to the night before, how far away the stations we picked up were, and where on the dial they were located.

Music Radio 77 – WABC out of New York City threw a pretty consistent signal over Western Massachusetts at night and so that got a lot of my after dark listening time. My friend listened to WABC often as well, so you can imagine our surprise the first time we saw a picture of the WABC All Americans (that’s what they called their air personalities back in the 70s). We looked at one another and said simultaneously, “Who’s the Black Guy?”

That personality was Chuck Leonard. His cool factor just went up in our eyes. Chuck Leonard was not only heard over WABC late at night but on one of our local ABC network affiliated radio stations doing the feature show “Sneak Preview.” Chuck was famous for one-liners like “The best that ever did it, and got away with it.” Yes, we heard a lot from Chuck Leonard and loved everything he did. But in our minds, we had never thought of him as being Black. Once we found out, we didn’t care.

Urban Contemporary Radio

What does that name mean to you and what does it mean to your listeners?

Has the term “urban contemporary” migrated over the last several decades as to its meaning?

The answer in two words: Most Likely.

At the beginning of June 2020, Republic Records announced it would “remove ‘urban’ from the label’s verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and music genres,” explaining that “over time the meaning and connotations of ‘urban’ have shifted and developed into a generalization of Black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by Black artists.”

A few days later, the Grammy Awards announced it would be renaming its “Best Urban Contemporary Album” — category now being — “Best Progressive R&B Album.”

Motown Sound

Once upon a time, “kid’s music” was just called contemporary or Top40. Everything that wasn’t your parent’s music was embraced. It was the silent rebellion for many of us.

My favorite artists were The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Spinners, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Al Green, Martha Reeves, Gladys Knight, Michael Jackson as well as many others. Berry Gordy’s Motown Records out of Detroit would craft the sound that quickly integrated America’s contemporary radio stations.

But it was DJ Alan Freed at WINS, who coined the term “rock & roll,” that would be the first to break down the color barrier and integrate the music he played over the radio. It’s almost hard to believe that people in his day considered Freed a threat to society because he was playing “race music,” also known as music by Black artists.

WBLS

In 1974, legendary disc jockey and program director Frankie Crocker, coined the term “urban contemporary.” Crocker said his format on WBLS was a broad mix of R&B, hip-hop, disco, rap, and everything from James Brown to Dinah Shore.Frankie Crocker

In essence, it was the best music featuring the songs his radio station’s listeners wanted to hear most.

Black music stations, while popular with listeners, had trouble attracting advertising back then. So, the brilliance of calling WBLS “urban contemporary” enabled Crocker to evade being branded with the Black label. The urban contemporary imaging helped make white advertising executives more comfortable with placing advertising for their clients on that radio station.

Format wise, Crocker brought the concept of ‘playing the hits’ that made radio stations like WABC so loved, from AM to FM radio.

It’s hard to find any radio station nowadays that plays the wide variety of artists, styles and music that one could hear over a single radio station back in the 70s, as this 1970 Top 100 Songs from WABC demonstrates.

iHeart Phasing Out the Word ‘Urban’

Most recently, Rolling Stone magazine wrote an article about how iHeart, and the radio analytics company Media Base owned by iHeart, were working to remove the word ‘urban’ due to the word being controversial in industry-wide discussions around systemic racism.

The use of the word ‘urban’ will be removed from not just the way formats or playlists are described but from job titles too. A representative for iHeart says the term is “definitely outdated.”

Black & White

Unfortunately, this issue may not be as black & white as it might first appear. Not all organizations or individual Black executives are willing to give up the ‘urban’ descriptor, believing that it’s more of a distraction than action for change, saying the “problem lies in the infrastructure, in the system – not in the word.”

Real Change

This issue is not just an American one, but a global one. The student newspaper, The Boar, from Warwick University in the United Kingdom wrote about the “Institutionalized Racism in the Music Industry.”

The article, written by Bailey Agbai, perfectly summed up the current situation:

“As more people start to actively recognize just how deeply racism infests our society, it is no surprise that it plagues the music industry too. It’s important that we continue to speak up and advocate change so that the institutions within the industry amend their ways and finally reflect the music that they unfairly exploit. The industry is a pool of wealth and it is important that those with influence use not only their words to combat racism, but also their resources to impact real change.”

 

 

 

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