Veteran Bay area Hip Hop journalist Eric K. Arnold is unhappy with urban radio. Arnold, a longtime writer and urban music culture critic for The Source, VIBE and elsewhere, has explained his grief with urban radio through a recent piece he’s written.
“Let’s cut to the chase: urban radio sucks. You know it, artists know it, and programmers know it too. It offers little room for creative programming, tends to favor established artists at the expense of new voices, and kills any halfway-decent song that does manage to land in rotation by playing it as much as three times an hour. Most of all, urban radio sucks because it rarely meets the needs of the local community from which its listeners are drawn,” he wrote in a piece for The Future of Music Coalition.
The piece also described some historic context for the state of mainstream radio, explaining that the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which made it easier for big companies to own radio stations, creating a slew of stations all owned by the same people. This in turn, has created a chain, where many radio stations around the nation play the same music and the same artists all day.
“Urban radio programming has become stagnant, alienating many hip-hop heads who once listened religiously to mix shows,” he wrote.
In the article, radio staples form the early ’90s, like Julio G. and Bobbito Garcia also voice their complaints on the issue.
“It’s become national radio, not urban radio,” noted Garcia, who with DJ Stretch Armstrong, held post as one of Hip Hop’s most seminal radio shows, the New York 89-Tech9 show.
“I started with a passion to find the best record,” Julio G. said. “Why do I gotta be just another guy playing [chart-topping rapper] Plies?”
Finally, the article demands key points listed below to be followed by radio listeners:
“* Help remind Big Media that it broadcasts on public airwaves. Community members have the legal right to examine radio stations’ public files upon request. And commercial radio licenses must be renewed every eight years. The FCC does accept comments from the public during the renewal process; any station which is found to be operating outside the public interest can be fined or have its license revoked.
* Get Involved. Becoming a part of an organized effort seeking more community accountability in commercial radio is an effective way to put pressure on stations. At the very least, undertakings like the CCMA’s campaign or R.E.A.C.’s crusade have let urban radio’s corporate bosses know that somebody’s watching them, and at best, have hit these companies where it counts – in the pocketbook.
* Become an active listener. Without community feedback, MDs and PDs can only rely on research and consultants. If a station gets enough requests for a song by a local artist, it could result in increased mixshow spins or even being added to rotation.
* Use the Internet. Usually, Web addresses for key station personnel can be found on that station’s homepage. It only takes five minutes to send an email to every urban station in your region!
* Inform urban stations of events they should be covering. Most of the time, a commercial station’s idea of outreach is to send their promotional street teams to clubs and concerts. If you know of an event promoting positive community values, don’t hesitate to contact the station and let them know about it.”
The piece can be read in its entirety at The Future of Music Coalition.