The guys at MusicBiz.com, with whom I usually agree on a lot of things, are taking an oddly defensive tone to the recent report from the Future of Music Coalition exploring how government-sanctioned consolidation has choked off a once vibrant industry. [Note: How I wish MusicBiz.com would add permalinks -- by Tuesday, their post will be off in the ether.]
I spent ten years working in radio before starting my first business, and I worked in radio for two more years as a manager while letting that business grow. My last day "on the books" at a radio station was in 2002. I know that, even with my experience and my connections and my skills, if I wanted to get back into radio full time, I would probably have to move my family (again) to a market with an opening and take a job that pays about $28,000 a year. And I'm one of the lucky ones.
Granted, I fully agree that no industry has a mandate to employ somebody -- the free market decides that. In most cities, ownership groups can control eight stations. That means, ultimately, that one group of people is doing what eight groups of people used to do. Supply and demand -- it's no surprise that people want to be on the radio so badly, that many folks work for just above minimum wage. You're only making bank if you're a sales exec or a top-10-market morning show host. (Many radio folks I used to work with are pulling shifts in the early morning, then working as waitresses or salespeople in the afternoon so they can make ends meet.)
For the most part, creativity got flushed down the drain. While technology allows stations to fill up the airwaves with content, it lacks the bluster and the bravado and the verve of radio before 1996.
By stripping down their assets, station owners made themselves irrelevant -- and opened the door for listeners to get their needs met by online and satellite radio. (When you have millions of listeners ready to PAY twelve dollars a month for something they used to get for free, shouldn't alarm bells go off?)
I may post more on this later, after taking care of some client projects on the plate for today...