Cars and Radio

That sinking feeling…


60 or 70 years ago, Detroit sold lots and lots of cars. They didn’t worry about quality all that much, and they didn’t worry at all about gas mileage, sometimes not even safety.
And yet they still sold millions and millions of these not-so-great cars.
It’s because there weren’t that many options for buyers and Americans LOVE their cars.
Buyers overlooked the flaws and the mileage and safety because they wanted a new car.
Then, Japan started to make cars. Smaller cars with better mileage. Better cars with fewer flaws and problems. Sweden too, and their cars came with better safety features.
In what felt like a sudden calamity, Americans began buying more foreign cars and fewer cars made in Detroit.
Tens of thousands lost their jobs. Detroit lost much of its identity. It changed America forever.
Radio is following the same path.
Americans love their radio stations, especially when they’re driving. So, they’ve overlooked incessant commercial interruptions and terrible air talent because they want to listen to their radio stations.
But for those who listen primarily for music, there are now options that offer fewer interruptions and feature deeper playlists than a typical, successful radio station airs.
And for those who want talent they can no longer hear on free broadcast radio, Sirius XM offers Howard Stern; they offer private concerts, more new artists and music, and experiences no longer found on your station.
You don’t have to be Faith Popcorn to see the similarities.
To be clear, I don’t think the CEOs of the Big 3 American automobile companies tried to make their brands fail. Maybe they were too close to the problem to see it clearly, or maybe they felt driven by the need for quarterly — eventually monthly, even daily — profits.
And I don’t think the CEOs of the largest consolidated radio companies in America are trying to make their brands irrelevant.
Nonetheless, here we are, facing Apple Music, and Spotify, and Sirius XM.
Like deja vu all over again…