Will Apple Finally Kill the Radio Star?

As I was growing up, the only way I could get introduced to new music was listening to a few select stations that I could pick up in our back-woods log cabin.   Aside from one musically enlightened friend who gave me guidance (thanks!), I was at the whims of these stations DJ’s and program managers for the music I was exposed to.

What is the dynamic today? What brings to my attention the hidden gems that would otherwise hide in my thousands of songs? What tells me what new music I could listen to?

Of the several options I have tried I find myself returning to the Genius Playlist Creator and Genius Recommendations on iPod/iTunes. I suspect that many others of the other iPod/iPhone users out there have done the same.

In some ways this is a great thing:

  • The music is tailored to your tastes (the ‘demographic of one’)
  • It fits with your schedule, and not some time slot defined by radio listener demographics
  • Its location independent (well, ok satellite radio offers this too)
  • You don’t have to hear ‘popular’ songs multiple times a day
  • While the radio station was keen to appeal to everyone they risked pleasing nobody
  • As your mood changes, so can your music
  • You can easily try new music and buy

But there are drawbacks:

  • Your music is now controlled by an algorithm; while its amazing, I notice many song show up VERY often (almost like iTunes is trying push certain artists… hmmm)
  • You are only pointed to new music in iTune’s library; it makes me wonder what I’m missing… does iTunes bother with fringe artists?
  • There is always the risk that Apple decides to actually manipulate the results to promote music not based on taste, but who is paying more to be promoted (hey – this sounds familiar)

I’ve tried the new forms of radio: internet-based, satellite radio, even a brief foray back into local radio, but they are all basically the same formula…  I think they have finally lost me to the ‘demographic of one’.


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