If ever there was a sign that radio is a promotional thing of the past when it comes to breaking a record, Pink recently visited every Spotify office and Apple Music headquarters in order to muster support for her latest release. This seems to be a growing trend, where artists are ignoring terrestrial radio in favor of streaming services.
From the standpoint of economics, you can see why this makes sense. Artists get paid for streams, but not for terrestrial radio airplay (songwriters do), and in the case of a huge hit, the revenue can be substantial. Not only that, streaming happens so much faster than radio these days that radio program directors actually look to what’s hot on the streaming networks to influence their own playlists.
In Pink’s case, the strategy for the visits was to help sustain the release of Beautiful Trauma past the usually hot first week, which was accomplished as the stream count remained high, which helped propel the release to #1 on the Billboard charts.
Visiting stations was once a staple in the promotion of artists, either those already household names or new artists just trying to break, as it was a way to influence the people that actually played the music on-air. The problems with this strategy came when more and more radio stations where gobbled up by large station groups, and the playlists then were created by a far-flung corporate office. The local DJ no longer had any influence on what was played (and in many cases, everything was automated anyway), so these visits became non-consequential.
Radio is still important to the progression of a major hit, but the playlists are so tight that a visit is not worth an artist’s time unless it’s for a particular station event. Even then, it’s almost always limited to major stars. Where once radio did it’s best to look after local artists, this no longer happens with today’s corporate ownership.
Terrestrial radio can continue to trot out all the statistics it wants about how vital it still claims to be, but it sure looks like its glory days are over.