What happened, pop pickers? Teenagers & radio

The DJ as teen hero (American Graffiti)

The decline of the teenage radio listener is not unique to Radio 1. I wrote this piece about the demographic challenge for The Guardian this week.

One of my key sources in researching the piece was Will Page, chief economist at PRS for Music, which represents songwriters, composers and publishers. He’s been researching the changing consumption of pop music and put me onto this American response, below. As well as young people turning to free Internet streamed music, such as Spotify (70 such legal sites in the very keen UK market alone), a key factor is how the demarcations between different age groups have broken down.

The BBC claims to reach nearly half the 15 to 24 year old demographic through Radio 1. They’re the target. But is it their job to stop older people listening to it as well?

50 years ago your parents did not do the equivalent of trying to get you into the Beatles or The Clash, or take you to Glastonbury or Latitude. Nor would they sing along to Bruno Mars with you on the school run and go to see Take That with the rest of the class mums. Footloose-style religious fundamentalists aside, musically speaking, adults no longer put childish things aside.

An American industry insider has since offered me some further insights into Radio’s 1 dilemma.

First, it seems most American FM radio stations almost certainly have median listener ages of over 32, but there’s more to it there too, than changing technology. Under 25s today are perhaps the first in the past century to partially embrace, not reject the music of their parents. The success of Glee is testament to that and reinforces it, too.

With parents more eager to share their children’s music, too,
in short, there is so much more cross generational listening to the same music today than 20 years ago. It’s doubtful you could have a major radio station with a median age of 21. Maybe all Justin Bieber all the time, but even in that case one suspects that a stunning number of parents would be tuning in along with their kids. Just like Radio 1, perhaps.

About samiraahmed

Journalist. Writer. Broadcaster.
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