The Growing Competitive Radio Market


Like many Radio Business Report readers, the time I’ve spent as an employee in the radio industry spans decades; more appropriately, it spanned decades. And it ended the same way a few thousand radio professionals recently ended their careers – with word that the company no longer found it necessary to have us around.

When I was let go in 1998, Clear Channel bought our station and passed around a list with the names of people on our staff that would be sticking around. My name wasn’t on that list. Due to the fact there were few stations not owned by Clear Channel, CBS, or Radio One in our town, options were slim. I had to find another career.

Fortunately I had another skill set for computers as I’d been hanging around them since the late sixties. I was also fairly in tune with the development of this new media called “the internet.”

Back then competing with my former station wasn’t really an option. Nor was it possible to continue working in any radio environment. Buying a station was way out of the question. Internet radio was in its infancy, and not a practical career choice.

Today, though, with the broadcast radio industry shrinking at an alarming rate, there is true opportunity for a radio professional to simply become an internet radio professional. All the same skills are required, plus the job comes with the added benefit of doing something so new and so “today” that setting up an online radio station can certainly be fun. It also puts you in direct competition with the company that just let you go – how rewarding is that? Instant gratification is quite possible if a former radio professional can get their hands on an internet radio station.
There’s another “fortunately” here because today I am a SVP with Spacial Audio Solutions, a global leader in radio software and ad insertion technology for terrestrial and internet radio stations.

Such is the genesis of an idea. With consent from Spacial Audio’s co-owners, Bryan Payne and Louis Louw, it was decided to give internet radio stations to “former” radio employees so they can create “great radio” – something which radio groups seem to have such a tough time producing today.

That’s how The Spacial Audio Radio Bailout Package was conceived, and why Spacial Audio is giving away $3.7 million in software, ad insertion technology, and stream hosting to 50 recently-released radio pros. A radio mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Response to The Radio Bailout was more than we could have imagined. That so many ex-employees in radio would want to establish their own online radio stations is an indication that the Radio Bug hasn’t quit biting. It’s just that the radio companies haven’t figured out that releasing the talent which powers the industry wasn’t a wise move to make. Besides lowering the quality of broadcast radio content, it opened up terrestrial stations for an onslaught of former radio employees who can now move online and start competing with their own radio stations.

Over the past eight weeks, Spacial Audio has given away 40 Bailout Packages. Each package is valued at $75,000, and each has the potential to be a competitor to what’s being played over-the-air.

Most important, each package is a lifeline to the person who receives it.
While the “genesis” of this idea was explained above, the satisfaction from The Radio Bailout can never really be put into words.
▪ “Wow! Thank you for the awesome gift! I’ve always dreamed of starting my own radio station and now you’ve helped me attain it!”
▪ “I look forward to getting setup and broadcasting…”
▪ “This is an opportunity of a life time. This will get me back on my feet.”
▪ “I think this is an awesome promotion that looks like it is doing a ton of good things for people who deserve it.”
▪ “Now I have a perfect excuse as well as all the tools.  I’m very excited and intrigued by all the possibilities.”

The Spacial Audio Radio Bailout started out to be a means of helping 50 recently-fired radio professionals back on their feet. It ended up placing a great deal of pride in the minds of Spacial Audio’s 30+ employees. Really, we can’t experience anything but fulfillment from the continuing stream of comments sent by Bailout recipients.

Oh, and it may end up giving a headache to those radio industry CEOs who think they no longer need to have talent in the studio to make compelling programming. Because, if nothing else, The Radio Bailout has created more competition for an already struggling broadcast radio industry. WiFi equipped vehicles will soon be common. Internet radio’s day has come.

If you have recently been pushed out the door of your radio station due to no fault of your own, try applying for the remaining Spacial Audio Radio Bailouts. You have until noon on April 7 to register:
Good luck.

Maybe you will soon be able to teach your old employer a lesson in competition, too.

— Ken Dardis, SVP Marketing, Spacial Audio Solutions, LLC