Corporations Are Missing the Mark & Killing Urban Radio Format


Radio Corporations: Demands on Staff Killing Product?

July 18, 2009 · Posted in Editorial/Opinion, radio facts 

Kevin-Ross-225In this ever changing and evolving digital music world, listeners are able to get their music fix from numerous sources. While urban radio’s PPM ratings are not bad nationwide, there are some stations that are struggling pretty badly. Either way corporations needing to cut costs are eliminating black programmers in certain markets and using the music director as the eyes and ears of the station that is now being programmed by a PD who is not only another state but another region. This is a practice that is going to come back to bite urban radio on the ass. In urban radio, a programmer NEEDS to be in the market to understand it. Second, a programmer in one market already has his hands full maintaining THAT station. Third, the effort makes it more evident that urban radio is moving further and further away from what has made it successful for decades, community-oriented programming. The constant shoving of more and more homogenized commercial urban radio down the throats of urban radio listeners, WAY too much syndicated programming (from hosts who are older and out of touch with today’s music), eliminating important job posts and putting stations on auto pilot and finally overworking current employees JUST because the ratings don’t seem to reflect a problem, is like relaxing on the beach and while a tsunami is about to hit. You sense the rumbling but you ignore it and play with the possibility of it existing it to see if it reacts. When it does, it’s too late.

Once you take away an urban programmers creativity and ability to build a winning station (singular), train new talent and to hone in on his or her market’s needs, you might as well be a cereal factory and give him the job of gluing box tops together all day. I am amazed that someone like Cathy Hughes, who I have a great respect for and who has risen through the ranks or urban radio has not realized how important it is to allow each station in each market to have its own identity FIRST.

If I was doing marketing for one of the cell phone companies with all the twitter, facebook and other apps to add to my cell phone service, I would not be comfortable promoting a product like that on any of the current syndication urban radio morning shows. It would immediately appear to me from 30 minutes of listening to the show that I’m not going to reach my target. Do they even know what twitter or “apps” means? Regardless of what the PPM ratings might reflect, it appears these syndicated hosts are simply out of touch, many don’t even like hip hop and have no problem stating it and they are stuck in the 70s and want to bring back the music of the Commodores and Earth Wind & Fire…. (laugh) they admit it too!!! That’s the problem with hiring out of touch hosts, they are… well…. OUT OF TOUCH! In addition few if any of the shows even have a representative of the younger generation on the show. What kind of option is that for an innovative product trying to reach a younger demo? Urban radio is complaining the economy has created a revenue slump in advertising for urban stations and to a large extent that’s true but what has also caused a revenue slump in advertising at urban stations is an EXTREME lack of innovation and the ability to appeal to who advertisers are trying to reach, today’s young consumer.

The No Account DISCOUNT…
Finally, while there is a larger list of issues with today’s urban radio I’m not covering today, another important one that I have to address is how urban radio is still missing the mark on the internet. When I go to many urban station websites, they are basically using one company to design the sites to save money, or to get a better deal for 30 stations, who knows, what is evident is that a majority of the sites look EXACTLY the same and they are not maintained for the most part, dated news, old pictures of celebrities and there is no eye catching appeal or anything to keep a web visitor interested. A discount in some instances doesn’t ACCOUNT for shit. The people doing these sites are obviously removed from urban radio culture and urban radio is not paying enough attention to this valuable resource. A radio website is a great opportunity to make extra revenue for the station but it is not something that you can just add a couple of stories to, it has to be promoted and manned daily. The internet rankings for most urban radio station websites is very poor. This clearly indicates the station is not paying a lot of attention to a tool that clearly can compliment the main product and can offer added benefit to advertisers. I’ve asked several urban programmers about this and they all say it’s not a priority with the corporation. In addition, it is almost impossible to find a web person who is familiar with urban radio or an urban radio person who is familiar with building websites. I have to agree on this one but there are some out there. How hard to urban stations look? Who knows but one thing’s for sure, urban radio programmers are doing way too much work right now and it would seem damn near impossible to offer 100% to any one job when they are doing several per the corporation’s instructions. There are many reasons urban radio is successful and struggling at the same time and while cutbacks and increasing responsibility is important to maintain stability, so is taking a second look at the product itself.


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  1. atl_wake_up says:

    Unfortunately Cathy Hughes is no Dorothy Brunson
    🙁 we are in a new error/era and it’s about failing for anything.

  2. Your article is very informative and right on the money. I wrote about this very subject at my blog a couple of months ago: http/

    The Performing Rights Act is not an end to Black Radio. Syndication, out of touch hosts, narrow minded programmers and the complete inability of the powers that be to change with the times on and offline.

    As a veteran artist, who has always thought outside the box since my solo career, I’d also like to say that everyone over thirty or forty does NOT want to hear old school, or is only interested in new music that sounds exactly like old school. It’s not just the young ‘urban’ audience being shortchanged. I have discovered so much music via the shows on NPR and hosts like Garth Trinidad, Jason Bentley, Tom Schnable – even the website is streamlined, you can listen to podcasts, listen live, archived shows, etc.
    Commercial or terrestrial radio doesn’t get it. My son is 16 and even he doesn’t find music on the radio… he listens to his iPod and discovers music elsewhere.

    As a fan of music, I love the diversity and energy of music not found on commercial radio from 4Hero, J*Davey, Little Dragon, Aloe Blacc, Fertile Ground and so many more – not to mention my own continued music evolution as an artist experimenting in electronic soul, quality dance music and jazz tinged grooves. Other music is simply not embraced – all of which would still fit nicely among all of the music which is decidedly a carbon copy of the next auto tuned manufactured sound – it’s about options and balance. It’s 2009 – not 1979!

  3. the industry as a whole has been stuck in a warp, not a time warp though, just stuck, if this was 1979 you know right now don’t stop till you get enough would be booming everywhere and also once the fall of 79 hit we would b bouncing to the second time around, this certainly isn’t 1979, but 2009 won’t be remembered like 1979 musically, commercial radio has puppets running it going along with the defacto standard, “make money.” even if that means marginalizing music and listener audience, the sad fact is that many people in our community champion these type of ideas as being part of the game.