True Listener Control

There have been several attempts to do “listener controlled radio” over the past few years. Most have involved using some type of app to vote on what song should be next, and allowing listeners to somewhat program the radio station. Of course, there were always controls put on to prevent too much listener manipulation of the product.

While I applaud the attempt at something new, I don’t believe anybody has the guts to REALLY do it – let the listeners take control of your radio station.

I remember a feature that we started in Detroit a few years back called “MyPod” – where listeners would send in their 10 song playlist, and we would play their 10 songs, and let them tell the story of why the song was on their playlist. I thought this was somewhat innovative at the time, and it really stemmed from a book that I was reading at the time called “Lovemarks” by Kevin Roberts. In it, he talked about letting your biggest fans – those who love your product the most – help design the next generation of your product. Traditional radio stations like to THINK that they do this by conducting lots of research and focus groups – but I didn’t think that was unique enough, so we literally let listeners pick 10 songs they wanted to hear in the order that they wanted to hear them.

Now imagine a format that allowed everyday listeners off of the street to do precisely that? And then you let them tell a story about why they like that song… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How interesting and diverse would those playlists be? And how interesting would the content be? Listeners sharing their memories of a certain song, or what they were doing when they first heard it, or why it reminds them of a time that they miss.

This may be crazy, but we need a little crazy right now. Broadcast radio is boring listeners to death. It has become predictable and stale at a time when it needs to be a laboratory to try new things. Not everything will work, but you don’t know unless you try. Innovation has to start somewhere – with somebody taking a risk. Will it be you?

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