It’s July 25, 2013. I’m watching a Wall Street Journal online video during my lunch break describing how a little-known sixteen year old musician named Lorde from New Zealand is being groomed by Universal Music in the U.S. for a break-out pop star launch later this year. I’m curious when I hear that Universal’s strategy is to bring her to fame through a slow public unveiling of her music and identity to maintain an air of mystery about her.
The plan is to not oversaturate the market too quickly with the young pop star—unlike the marketing strategy with Justin Bieber—and develop a longer-term fan base and career trajectory for her. In other words, Universal does not want Lorde to become another teen pop star flash-in-the-pan. Lorde is being slowly “discovered” as Universal sends links to her music to underground blogs posing her as an independent musician.
I’m intrigued, so I click over to Lorde’s website at the time, which is a simple page listing her five-song EP album that is available. There’s no bio or picture of her, just a primitive-looking webpage that looks like a dozen other indie artists’ webpages. Her music is a unique vocal techno style that captivates my attention, so I eagerly download her EP. Now, I regret it.
Fast forward to September 25, 2013, when Lorde’s “Royals” tops the Billboard digital songs chart at #1. I’m driving to the grocery store, and “Royals” is on the radio. I’m coming back from a quick Target run, and “Royals” is on the radio. I’m stuck in rush-hour traffic, and “Royals” is on the radio. You get the idea.
The very problem that Universal was hoping to dodge—oversaturation of the market—is exactly what happened, thanks to the radio.
Slowly unveiling an artist is a perfectly fine marketing strategy—maybe even a genius strategy—but when “Royals” was licensed for the radio to air, well, so much for that! To me, one of the problems with radio is that it kills perfectly good songs by repeating them to death.
Instead of maintaining that air of mystery or anticipation around a song, the radio sets the song straight on the path to Annoyanceville.
There are plenty of good new songs released during any given time period for popular radio stations to broadcast. Why must the “popular” stations only play about twenty songs over and over and over again for several weeks?? By limiting the available pool of songs to such a small number, the radio stations repeat songs way too often and prevent other perfectly good songs from ever being heard more publicly.
Now some people might say, “Hey, I love that the radio repeats a song so often because it’s darn good!” To those folks, I would say yes, the song might be fantastic and worth repeating, but there comes a time when the repetition is overkill. I love cornbread, but if I ate that day after day, week after week, I would get sick.
I regret downloading Lorde’s EP album not because her music isn’t good, but because I’m just plain sick and tired already of listening to her! The newness charm has worn off, thanks to the radio.
Do you think the radio plays the same songs too often?