Our nation is overwhelmed in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy. It’s almost impossible to avoid social topics everywhere you turn, and emotions are running high. Now, weigh the current national temperature with new research that shows millennials who go to concerts and festivals are tied at the hip with social causes. In fact, 8 in 10 millennials are more likely to attend a concert or festival with artists who support social change and to show their support. Millennials, and likely many music lovers of all ages, are connected between their ears and their hearts.
Meanwhile, music radio stations are mostly staying on the sidelines. Yes, the primary role of music radio stations is to entertain and that must always be in the forefront. But, we’ve never seen a political climate like this in our lifetimes. Ignoring the anxious reality of listeners’ lives today leaves a wall around the heart and soul of your radio station, denying listeners the heartbeat they sorely crave.
Do you have to “take sides?” No. Can you have opinions? Yes. Frankly, in my world, unequivocal human and social equality is a given. Not everyone agrees, but (I believe, or hope) the vast majority of us do. So, instead of “taking sides,” why not promote a positive culture of “taking action?” At a minimum, “Take Action” is a term every music radio station can get behind. It’s self-empowering to the listeners without being one-sided. Acknowledge what is happening in our world and run “Take Action” promos and live reads that send listeners to your website for a list of links where they can take action. “Just go to our website and Take Action!” Use your social platforms to inform listeners of local ways to engage. There are many to choose from…there is a starter list with links at the end of the blog…and you can add more from your local area.
Beyond simple on air and digital efforts such as “Take Action,” why not throw a local “freedom of speech” rally and concert? Be spontaneous. Use local bands if you have to. Include inspirational and healing speakers. Just book a venue or outdoor space and go. Don’t commercialize and exploit this real opportunity to show your listeners that your radio station has a heartbeat, just like them.
And…don’t ignore the obvious, which are protest songs and songs that speak to our times. They’re out there…largely not played by radio. Right now, Blind Boys of Alabama “Pray for Peace” is coincidentally playing through my speakers for the first time as I audition the latest new songs this week. When listeners hear lyrics like this on radio, they realize there are human beings with heartbeats inside their favorite radio station.
I’ve spent almost 40 years in radio watching listeners gravitate toward and bond with radio stations that had the loudest heartbeats. Painfully, I’ve also watching listeners abandon radio for the opposite reason. If 2017 is not a time to let your radio station’s heart beat very loudly, then I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. C’mon music radio stations, it’s also time for you to Take Action.
Here are some community rallying organizations and links to consider: