by Frank Lewis
In a clear sign of the rapidly worsening landscape for commercial radio and the major record labels, the bible of their symbiotic relationship, Radio & Records, has ceased publication. The June 5 issue will be last.
Record-label promotion staff and radio-station program directors lived and died by the trade publication, whose charts tracked the status of records at stations across the country. It was founded in 1973 when numerous labels competed for the ear of program and music directors, whose decisions about playing a record could make or break it. The labels fattened its pages with splashy ads announcing that a certain single was “going for adds” on such-and-such a date, hoping to create out-of-the-box impact that might snowball the song into a hit.
In a sense, the publication’s obituary was written well over a decade ago, when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 dramatically accelerated the consolidation of radio stations into a handful of chains that eliminated local control of programming. At the same time, the number of major labels shrank, and by the end of the ’90s, they were much more focused on disposable teen and pop acts that could be promoted on TV shows and other alternatives to radio. In addition, de facto payola filled playlists with songs that weren’t really popular with listeners. With the advent of the Internet and file-sharing, the role of radio as music tastemaker declined even more, and the distribution and promotion functions of major labels became obsolete. Once an essential read for people in the music business, R&R became a vestige of another era. — Anastasia Pantsios