Clear Channel Killed The Dance Radio Star

I miss the good old days of eclectic radio programming, and no genre of music has suffered more under the new corporate regime than dance music.  Before Bill Clinton signed the Communications Bill in the 1990’s, there was a limit on how many stations a company could own.  Once the limit was lifted, Clear Channel went to work and ruined terrestrial radio.  Clear Channel’s vision (from what I can tell) was to kill the diversity in radio programming, and have 107.5 in one city play the same music as 107.5 in another city.  The result was that the same 50-60 songs were played over and over, day after day after day.  Slowly, the number of terrestrial radio stations that played dance music in their rotations flipped their formats at the request of ‘The Man’, who now owned them.  Plus, it became a Hip Hop nation.

When Elliot Spitzer went after record labels a few years ago for payola to radio, he really should have gone after the ‘higher ups’ at radio, and terrestrial radio itself.  I always found that whole investigation pretty ironic.  Labels have always kicked something to radio for spins.  It’s been going on for decades.

The demise of quality terrestrial radio has had a huge ripple effect on all of us who work in dance music.  Budgets continue to shrink and the audience (in this country) is so much smaller than 10-12 years ago.  So, where do we go from here?  I’m not really sure, but I do think that mainstream dance music needs to re-discover its community.

The main reason that I have started this blog is that I am a big believer in professionals exchanging ideas.  It’s healthy.  The conferences don’t do anything for me anymore.  It’s the same people griping about the same stuff, and there is nothing ‘fresh’ or ‘forward’ about them anymore.


5 Responses to “Clear Channel Killed The Dance Radio Star”

  1. AMEN to you!

    Clear Channel is just ONE culprit, albeit the biggest culprit. Citadel, Cumulus, Emmis, CBS Radio, Entercom, just to name a few, squashed all of the “mom & pop” stations out…which is why you only have 7 terrestrial stations in the US that have a dance format (3 of them non-commercial).

    We have been rallying the dance music community for quite a while now but certainly need a lot more support. We are constantly pushing for radio to give dance music that opportunity and get more markets in the process to “open up”. But just as important, we need to take care of our own matters within to help educate those “ups” (since their mentalities are stuck in that “disco sucks” mode) on what needs to be done.

    For now, we’re aiming at the college stations since they are non-commercial and can be open to new ideas and suggestions. If we can cause an effect below 92, then hopefully that can get the “powers that be” to take notice.

    Great comments!

    New York Dance Music Coalition

  2. I definitely agree that Clear Channel and other large corporate radio conglomerates have quashed a lot of variety that used to be on radio, but was there ever a time where dance music really thrived on radio (post ’70s)? My recollection of dance music success on radio was that a hot dance track would become a big hit in clubs and that would lead to requests for more traditional Top 40 stations to get the song into rotation. That option has certainly been quashed with the rise of national playlists that offer little variety or chances for regional requests to entry (think of hit dance tracks that used to make their way national from NY city station request lines). Still, outside individual hits, or stations devoting off-peak hours to dance music, I don’t know if any time where it got large radio airplay, but I’m not in the profession and could certainly be mistaken.

  3. For Andy P.,

    There was a period during the mid 80’s to early 90’s when dance music was thriving. Stations like WQHT (Hot 103/97) in New York, KPWR (Power 106) in Los Angeles and WPOW (Power 96) in Miami were riding high with club hits, house, techno and freestyle. It wasn’t as peak as the disco era, nevertheless things were going well. Once hip-hop “blew up” and the change over to SoundScan was no longer favoring dance tracks, things fell. It was because of my trips to Toronto after that period that I’ve witnessed a station (CING – Energy 108), a thriving club scene that had BEAT OUT New York City, and a society that was willing and accepting to dance music that made me believe that we could have dance music thrive again stateside.

    Just a matter of squashing ignorance and pushing education. As core fans and those in the industry, we are RESPONSIBLE for that. 🙂

  4. You think Clear Channel has had a more detrimental impact on dance music as opposed to indie radio shows? It seems to me that at least the occasional dance tune can be heard on top 40 radio stations a la KIIS-FM here in L.A., but indies are just screwed up the butt altogether. Obviously we both have personal ties to each genre, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on that.

  5. You might be right about indie radio shows. It’s probably a toss up, but I feel like there are more indie rock bands gaining steam to break through into the mainstream, so I guess I don’t view them in quite the same ‘wounded’ state as I do mainstream dance.

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