All Access. In four weeks, it's no more.
Did you see it coming? I didn't. And outside of its founder and publisher, Joel Denver, I don't think too many others in the radio and music business did either.
As I've discussed in this blog a lot this year, we are at a moment in time in our business where there's a lot up for grabs. Technology is rapidly changing the rules and how the game is played. The way content is being created, distributed, and monetized is undergoing tectonic shifts. It's no wonder that many business are looking at cash flow, employee count, and what's in the pipeline with renewed scrutiny.
I'm not going to name names, but there are companies we all know that could announce their demise or declare bankruptcy this week – and we wouldn't be surprised in the least. For some, their downward trajectories have been visible for some time, punctuated perhaps by questionable decisions and shaky strategies.
But All Access? It's been in business for 28 years, dependably reporting on airplay, formats, and the news of the industry for its entire run. Led by the always positive, ebullient Joel Denver, All Access has always been the epitome of consistency. It may be the last trade publication to successfully walk that line between radio and records. And it's been the most successful at eschewing the printing press, and committing exclusively to online publishing and delivery.
Joel enjoyed innovation, and brought that spirit to All Access. When we launched jacApps in 2008, he was among the first to call and inquire about how long it would take for us to build an app for All Access. It wasn't a conversation about “Should we?” – it was about how long would it take for us to develop it so All Access could be the first industry trade to have one. (They were.)
Many also don't remember the original several Techsurveys were limited to Rock, Classic Rock, and Alternative stations – the nucleus of our client base in the early 2000s. Joel approached me in 2011 with the idea of opening the survey to all music and spoken word formats. And with his and All Access' support and connections – along with the help and urging of their many editors – Techsurvey transitioned into the study it is today, representing fans of many different formats, including Country, News/Talk, Hot AC, and Sports Radio. For us, it's been a true game-changer.
Each year at Joel's conferences (originally partnered with Sat Bisla for the Worldwide Radio Summit), I've had the good fortune of a prime slot to present the highlights of each year's Techsurvey, a true honor and a privilege for me. The All Access Audio Summit stage has helped showcase our research, also allowing me to sharpen my presentation skills. Again, thanks to Joel for having the vision to put me and this study out there.
During the COVID years, the conference went virtual, continuing to provide top-notch industry guests, panels, and food for thought. Joel confided in me a number of years ago that while his Summits were financially successful, they lacked the presence of radio's CEOs. Joel worked it hard, eventually nailing down Bob Pittman for a “fireside chat.” At this year's Summit, I watched him masterfully interview Ginny Morris, thinking about how far he and the Summit had come.
Over the years, I've gotten to know Joel well – his highs and lows, personal and professional. In good times and bad, Joel has always been about relationships…and friendships. That's his superpower, and it is what has allowed him to thread the needle between the music and radio businesses. Joel is first and foremost a radio guy, but has never been afraid to call out stupidity and shortsightedness that has hampered radio's growth.
I'll let him explain the economics behind “what happened?” But suffice it to say, radio is playing less new music than ever, and record labels believe they can find more effective sources and investments for their marketing dollars. We've seen this movie where radio slowly but surely hits the iceberg, where the dreaded ratings reward conservatism while punishing risk. As part of that, the industry keeping its distance from young people has made new music more and more of a liability.
Cutting back their advertising in a world of music where brand influencers now dominate is affecting many other industries and marketing plans. It was just a matter of time before this marketing wave exacted its toll on radio.
Funerals are a mandatory attendance experience where we mourn the departed, while also considering our own mortality. We think about the deceased and try to rationalize that he/she was older than us, in worse health, had questionable lifestyle habits, or had some undesirable traits and flaws. And we rationalize that their sorrowful outcome will surely not be ours.
But in fact, it is hard to disassociate All Access' fate from our own. This isn't just about what befell Joel and his staff – it is a referendum on radio and all of us who work in it.
Joel and his great team (more on them in an upcoming blog post) provided a great and valuable service to all of us for the better part of three decades. Thanks to All Access, thousands of people found employment, every format under the sun has received fair coverage, and the staff worked hard to get out the “breaking news” stories and alerts we often take for granted. I personally use their industry directory every week, and love to read those “10 Questions With…” features that are always insightful because they focus on people. Their Net News is an essential way of keeping up. During its 28 years in business, All Access has become a beacon of information and pride for both radio and music people.
Their loss is our loss.
But the death of All Access is also troublesome for what it symbolizes about radio and the denial that has dogged us for decades.
This is not just about the loss of a trade publication. One of the industry's most vibrant voices has been silenced by a series of business model fails that make commerce no longer practical nor workable.
A few weeks ago, Joel Denver heard the doorbell, looked out the viewer, and saw that hooded figure carrying a scythe on his front porch. If there were other options, you know Joel would've pursued them.
Sadly, that Reaper dude has more house calls to make.
If it can happen to them…
Thanks to Dave Beasing, Keith Cunningham, and Lori Lewis.
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- The Case For Handcrafted Radio - December 5, 2023