This FCC auction said a lot about the future of radio
Once the ultimate music industry tastemaker, radio’s ability to make or break an artist has diminished over time, as evidence by a recent FCC auction of radio stations, where many went unsold.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
If you’ve been on the planet for a while you remember a time when radio was king. It could make or break a song or an artist, and had a huge influence on many industries. At one time, the goal of every mogul was to own a radio station, and those that owned them were pillars of their communities. That’s no longer the case. Thanks to music streaming and podcasts, radio still has an audience (although much less rabid) but it isn’t the moneymaker that it used to be and this auction proves it.
The FCC recently held an auction for 4 AM stations and 135 FM stations. 42 of them, including all the AM stations, went unsold! That’s something that would have been unheard of in past years as even a local station in a small community would have been subject to a bidding war.
Granted, many of the stations were in small communities in Alaska and Wyoming where no one was even willing to meet an opening bid of $750. Others were in New York State and Colorado with much larger populations, but an opening bid of $750,000 was still deemed too high to make a decent return.
It turns out that the FCC has put some restrictions in place that facilitated the apathy. Normally an existing station would gobble up a local station that came up for bid, but ownership restrictions now mean that’s not possible in many cases.
Still, in the past investors would be jumping through hoops to own a station, even if it wasn’t in the community where they lived.
These days, radio isn’t the revenue generator that it once was, and many are questioning if it will ever reach those same heights again. It’s certainly not going away, as there’s nothing better than a local station that meets the needs of its community, but the glory days seem to over.