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Station not on the Internet? You’re Losing Young Listeners, Big Time

Your broadcast station–LPFM, community, college–needs to have its programming on the internet, one way or another. Now.

Why? Because you risk missing a generation of listeners whose media intake is primarily online. YouTube is where they hang out the most, but online radio is also a destination. Where they’re moving away from is your AM or FM broadcast.

That’s the big takeaway from the 2017 Infinite Dial survey of American online listening habits conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital.

The results are stark. 87% of young people aged 12 to 24 listen to online radio every month, yet only 50% say that AM/FM radio is important for keeping up with new music.

The number one way young people keep up with new music: YouTube. Amongst the 70% of people aged 12 – 24 who say it’s somewhat or very important to keep up with new music, 80% say YouTube is their first choice, followed closely by friends and family (77%), and then Spotify (59%) and Pandora (53%).

Radio is the fifth choice for those aged 12–24, compared to ranking third amongst all Americans who keep up with new music, ranking just behind friends and family at 68% and YouTube at 64%. So, even if YouTube isn’t beating radio with all ages, it’s neck-and-neck.

These results aren’t too different from last year’s report–which we discussed then on our podcast–yet the trend towards YouTube and internet listening only becomes clearer and clearer.

The point of this post is not to scare monger or to play Chicken Little. I’m also not claiming that young people don’t listen to broadcast radio or listen to your station. However, my own unscientific poll of college students I’ve talked to in the last five years tells me that if they listen to terrestrial radio they only really listen in the car. If they listen to radio at home or in the office they’re listening online.

Luckily for non-commercial broadcast stations, live online streaming is much less costly than it is for unaffiliated internet-only stations, which means a large percentage of college and community stations have active online streams. However, it’s understandable that the added cost and resources are still a challenge for many smaller stations and new LPFMs. This means that they have to delay being online for a while, or even indefinitely.

YouTube Is a Resource, Not a Rival

That’s why YouTube is a boon for non-comm stations, not a competitor. All that content on YouTube, it’s got to come from somewhere. Why not your station?

I’m not talking about posting your regular music shows played from CDs, records and MP3s. It probably isn’t worth the effort, and copyright challenges will complicate the effort.

Instead, take advantage of the music already happening at your station. Being artist-friendly is one of community and college radio’s greatest strengths. The planned or impromptu in-studio performance is a hallmark of great non-commercial radio. So when those happen, get them recorded and post them on YouTube, ASAP.

I have no illusion that a teenager looking for the newest Drake track is going to inadvertently discover your station this way. However, there are probably teenagers who follow bands in your community, or who play in those bands. If you have those artists live on air and post their performances on YouTube those young fans will look for and find those videos.

By no means is this a new idea. Radio Survivor contributor Ann Alquist made the argument for video in a post more than two years ago. She also pointed out that videos serve as marketing, and are something that grabs the attention of local funders and underwriters.

Make It Easy On Your Station

When we discussed this on our latest podcast, my co-host Eric Klein cautioned that it’s better to edit that audio together with the board feed, for better sound. The audiophile in me agrees wholeheartedly with that sentiment. But the part of me that wants your station on YouTube now doesn’t want that extra effort to get in the way of it happening in the first place. Plus, judging from many live videos I see on YouTube (not just of famous musicians) that have tens of thousands of hits, the quality of the performance matters more than the quality of the recording.

So, when a singer-songwriter sits down behind your mic to share a quick tune, take a moment to whip out a smart phone and shoot it on video. As soon as she’s finished, upload that sucker!

To me, this is a case where perfect threatens to be the enemy of finished. I’ve been part of too many prolonged discussions at stations where well-meaning staff members’ and volunteers’ nitpicking to make things better ultimately mean things don’t get done. Don’t let this happen to your station’s YouTube efforts.

Over time you can improve your videos. Wouldn’t it be great if a young video whiz checked out your channel to see her favorite local artists and decided she could do a better job, and then decided to volunteer? That’s how I’ve seen so many projects move forward in volunteer-driven radio – less than perfect execution often attracts that person who can make it one or two notches better.

Consider partnering with your local public access cable channel, or a high school, college or university that has a video production program.

To be clear: if your station isn’t able to live stream now, be sure to start a YouTube channel and upload all the musical moments that happen on or off-mic. If your station is streaming but not using YouTube, get to it.

Even if there isn’t much live music happening, upload short profiles or interviews with DJs talking about their favorite music, or even videos of your talk programming. Anything is better than nothing!

Make Your Mixes On-Demand with Mixcloud

Another option I want to point out is Mixcloud, which is a free service for posting and sharing DJ mixes. And what is your average music show, but a long DJ mix? Mixcloud only streams shows, so downloading isn’t allowed. But this is why it’s free for both your station and the listener. Mixcloud covers the royalties and the hosting; you just have to upload the shows.

Did I mention it’s free?

Mixcloud isn’t nearly as well known as YouTube or the major online radio platforms, whether Spotify or iHeartRadio, so fewer people browse it. Yet the folks who do are true music lovers. Plus, just like YouTube videos, you can embed them on your station’s website.

I can’t emphasize it enough – the key is to just get started. Whether it’s posting a few shows to Mixcloud or videoing your first in-studio performance for YouTube.

Inspiration

For some inspiration, here are some college and community radio YouTube and Mixcloud channels to check out:

YouTube

The Lounge from WKNC at North Carolina State University

KCR at San Diego State University shares news and other highlights.

Community Radio WEFT in Champaign, IL partners with local public access TV channel UPTV for WEFT Sessions in-studio performances.

Community Radio WMNF posts performances from Live Music Showcase

MixCloud

WERW Real College Radio at Syracuse University

KBGA at the University of Montana

Limerick City (Ireland) Community Radio

KVWV-LP Community Radio, Bellingham, WA


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