The talk of the radio industry recently has been the launch of Boom Radio. It’s a station for Baby Boomers aged around 60-plus: a demographic underserved by music radio generally. The music and the on-air team both reflect this market with at least one of the team well into his eighties.
This got me thinking about the radio industry generally.
We’ve been making some strides in increasing the representation of women and people of colour. Less so people with disabilities, though they are coming through the education system and I hope to see more there too.
But it’s all very slow.
Flicking through the ‘dial’ it strikes me that you’re hard-pressed to hear a music broadcaster over the age of forty. I’m lucky enough to still be allowed on air in my late 50s but there are so many of my generation who now work away in other industries, their years on air building experience and rapport a mere memory.
I’m struggling to understand why this is. At least I was until I tweeted the question out the other day.
It eventually comes down to economics. Show fees in the lower reached of the industry aren’t much more than they were ten years ago and as presenters get older and take on more responsibilities it becomes harder for them to pay the bills. This isn’t just a UK thing – it’s around the world.
Meanwhile, technology allows broadcasters to use less staff to cover the available gigs. Some older presenters find it hard to change their act to work in the new systems (something I’ll come back to in a future post).
So they either move on or get moved on.
Similarly, a number of women who have overcome all the well noted issues the industry has had in the past find that the hours and insecurity that go with the gig don’t match up with their life plans.
It’s not ageism – after all most of the senior managers I know are of my generation and they would have put themselves out to pasture if that was my mindset.
There are also many new starts willing to work (as I was in the past) for not much money but bring tons of skill and enthusiasm.
What does this mean for radio?
Lots of disenfranchised presenters talking down our industry from the sidelines, while appearing to be dinosaurs to the people coming in today.
This isn’t fair on anybody.
As Boom Radio has proven, you don’t need to be 18 to do a great show. Perhaps the ability to ‘put your money where your mouth is’ now requires less cash than before. Perhaps that means that some of these people can build a plan that works.
I hope so.