The audio revolution is upon us, and all the big players are scrambling for real estate. SiriusXM has been very active this past year, expanding its channel offerings, launching its new 360L in-car interface, and marketing its app aggressively to stimulate usage outside the car. As we've covered here, the New York Times has been especially aggressive, acquiring more podcasts and launching its all-audio app.
More familiar to radio broadcasters, iHeart and Audacy have been very busy in 2021, bolstering their holdings, cutting partnerships, and launching podcasts in an effort to expand their audio empires.
Yesterday, it was a new collab between Audacy and the Hard Rock Cafe franchise. Earlier in the week, it was iHeart shacking up with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer to create an audio arm for Imagine Entertainment. Partnerships are becoming a huge part of most companies' audio engine growth strategies.
But then there's Spotify. Last spring, I wrote about their 15th anniversary, looking at the many tentacles they've added to their audio content offerings. For the most part, the company has enjoyed success.
Earlier in the month, Cumulus and Signal Hill Insights presented a new research study revealing that Spotify is now the #1 destination for podcast fans, passing both Apple and YouTube. Their data matches other research conducted this past year.
Not only does Spotify have premier podcasts like “The Joe Rogan Experience,” but they're the first stop for many podcast devotees.
And earlier this month, Spotify released this year's “Wrapped” project – that's where they release their subscribers' personal metrics via their listening habits.
Packaged and distributed to fans since 2015, it includes their most listened to songs and artists, along with lots of cool data points to entertain and amaze their massive user base.
Many Spotify subscribers now look forward to their “Wrapped” data, the event that now follows “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”
Last month, we talked about the appeal of countdowns, like Casey Kasem's “AT40.” “Wrapped” works in much the same way for personal playlists and music tastes. And many of Spotify's users are amazed and delighted with their results, posting highlights on their social media pages.
But this year, “Wrapped” was accompanied by pithy little quips and observations about their users' musical preferences. The New York Times reports these comments – very much like one-liners – are designed to bring a little personality to their annual metrics fest.
Whether they are accomplishing Spotify's goals to warm up their cool data is in the ear of the beholder. But lines loaded with buzzwords and slang, like “You always understood the assignment” or “You deserve a playlist as long as your skincare routine” remind me of a fledgling DJ working in rim shots and not-so-clever accompaniments to the music.
That Spotify is attempting to get more personal seems clear. While they have invaded virtually every other nook and cranny of the audio space, they simply don't have any degree of humanity. They're a utility – like Netflix. They're an algorithmic pipe that aggregates and plays lots of music, but if a bigger, better deal came along tomorrow, it's not hard to imagine herds of current Spotify subscribers moving over to a new platform.
Like in radio, no one's loyal to a transmitter or a tower. And there's usually no traction for most “more music morning” shows.
It's those voices in the air studio where the magic is made. It comes down to personality, virtually each and every time. And that's the element Spotify (and Apple and YouTube) cannot seem to overcome.
Spotify has even made its way into our dating lives. They have recently partnered with Tinder to amplify the role of music in the dating machine.
TechCrunch reports that a new feature called “Music Mode” allows users to hear a preview of a prospective date's favorite song, the theory being that if you share music tastes, you might actually be able to get along with one another.
But again, these are the trimmings of personality, not the real deal. You don't go to Spotify for that local, personal blast of humor, controversy, or other elements that pique your emotions, and keep you coming back every day for more.
Like 40 years.
That's how long Pierre Robert has been entertaining the citizenry of Philadelphia on the WMMR airwaves. The station – and its parent company, Beasley, are in the middle of a well-deserved Pierre Fest this month, celebrating a midday guy and what he has brought to a station and a city. Pierre has never been a “that was, this is” jock. He was not built for the “PPM rules,” confounding outside ears, like consultants, for decades.
But Pierre's results are undeniable. Not only are his ratings consistently stellar, what he brings to the WMMR brand is incalculable. Pierre is not a “four and out the door” talent. He goes the extra mile, he revels in doing those momentous artist interviews, and he shows up for pretty much everything, especially the music. This is a guy who got into radio for the right reasons, and has fun every day, celebrating the music and the artists who make it.
Earlier this week, market manager Joe Bell, announced the WMMR main air studio has a new look. It has now been officially renamed in Pierre's honor, a reminder to every current and future personality who walks through the studio door the Crocs they must try to fill when they get behind the mic at WMMR.
Programmer Bill Weston and I have had no shortage of discussions over the years about Pierre, and what he brings to the station.
Yes, there is the ratings, but it's the intangibles that make Pierre such a unique ambassador for a station that has had no shortage of fantastic personalities over the years, including the current lineup that includes recently inducted Radio Hall of Famers Preston & Steve.
Now I know the cynics among you are thinking – or shouting – “But how many Pierre Roberts are there?”
In reality, of course, only one. But there are many, many core personalities in markets all over America with personalities that matter.
Should there be more? Should radio be actively looking to recruit more voices that move us? Should companies be investing in more personality training and coaching? Of course.
Talents like Pierre Robert are just what Spotify needs, but sorry, he belongs to Beasley, WMMR, and the City of Brotherly Love.
Same as it ever was.
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- An Open (News)Letter To Radio - December 6, 2023
- The Case For Handcrafted Radio - December 5, 2023