The streaming revolution has reached every corner of the music business, but its effect on radio has always been greatly exaggerated.
Last week’s RAJAR figures showed radio is in ruder health than ever. Radio 2 posted another increase and even Radio 1 – probably the only radio network in the world ever to be ordered to shed some of its audience – saw itself back up towards 10 million listeners.
There are similar stories every quarter, despite streaming’s exponential growth. But one effect the rise of global streaming charts may be having is on radio’s support of domestic artists.
BBC stations are obliged to play British artists and embrace that responsibility enthusiastically. But a decline in the number of UK artists in the 2017 airplay Top 100 suggests not every station feels the same in the face of an international streaming hegemony.
Thankfully, it looks like streaming – newly focused on local music – might yet pick up some of that slack, with an Ed Sheeran-assisted rise in the number of British artists in the 2017 Top 100 Streaming tracks.
And a modest decrease across one year of airplay is no cause for panic. But streaming’s relative lack of human interaction around its championing of artists will never compensate for the impact of a trusted tastemaker introducing you to a new band.
Especially when it’s one from just down the road.
Spend any time in a foreign country trying to find a station that isn’t just pumping out the same half dozen global megahits and you’ll appreciate the huge diversity available via our airwaves. British radio, like British music, is the best in the world.
But the two things need each other to maintain their unique connection with UK music fans. Let’s hope they realise that before it’s too late.
Mark Sutherland, Editor