The power of the radio in shaping society’s taste in music

Radio Influence on Media

Radio has always been a very influential tool in the music industry. The radio is what determines what songs are popular, and without it, you might not be listening to your favorite song or artist. For example, before Lady Gaga had any fame outside of New York City’s club scene, she was known for her performances on the NYC nightlife circuit. However once “Just Dance” became one of the most played songs on mainstream radio stations like Z100 and Hot 97 (and consequently also MTV), her popularity sky-rocketed overnight. Radio isn’t just about playing top 40 hits; it’s also about getting listeners’ input by asking them which songs they want to hear more often or less often through phone calls and social media interaction with DJs like Z100’s Elvis Duran. This allows the radio to see what songs are popular and get listeners involved in the music industry.   

Radio has always been a big influencer of society, starting with introducing new genres like Jazz or Rock ‘n’ Roll to playing top 40 hits. With so many people listening, all it takes is one song played on the radio to become a hit. For example, after being played on mainstream radio stations, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen became one of the biggest songs of 2012 as well as a viral video that sparked even more interest in her music. In an age where technology is advancing and consumers have so many different sources for finding new music, radio still has the power to make or break a song and influence society’s taste in music.

Radio History

Radio broadcasting is actually one of the oldest forms of electronic media in existence today, with many different types predating television and even motion pictures! The first commercial station began airing on January 15, 1920, and the first non-commercial station began broadcasting in 1906. The earliest broadcasts were primarily used for transmission of information or entertainment to a limited geographical area. This changed drastically over time as radio was introduced into cars and homes across the country.

Introduce Clear Channel and Commercialization

Clear Channel radio was the first form of airwave broadcasting, beginning with the concept of commercial advertising. The term is now used to describe any type of radio broadcasting that uses similar methods for revenue generation. It has its origins in the 1920s and 30s, when groups like CBS began toying with the idea. The equipment to perform clear Channel radio broadcasts was introduced in 1939, but it wasn’t until after World War II that commercial advertising-supported radio spread around the world. The original goal was very different than what we’re seeing today; originally it was to bring information and entertainment to people who had never heard anything other than their own voice or live music performances.

The transition from live programming to full-time stations broadcasting advertising-supported content has been a long and arduous process. It started Friday, January 15, 1920 when KDKA began airing the very first commercial radio station broadcast in history. KDKA was also the first of its kind to produce original programming on a regular schedule. Airing music and news reports by reading from sheets of paper isn’t what the inventors of radio had in mind, but it was the best thing they could do at the time. Even today, with so many more options available to consumers, most people still choose to listen to commercialized programming on their daily drives.

The clear Channel model is now used by every major broadcaster throughout the world. The introduction of the transistor radio in the early 1950s allowed listeners to take their favorite stations with them virtually anywhere, boosting sales of both the radios themselves and the programming they broadcast. The same model is used today by satellite and Internet radio broadcasters as well as traditional AM/FM stations.

Clear Channel radio has been controversial since its inception, but it still remains the primary broadcasting model in use today. Many people still think it is a waste of valuable bandwidth and others consider commercial radio broadcasts to be too watered down with repetitive advertisements, but those things also make them extremely profitable for both broadcasters and advertisers.

Radio Influences on Society

Mills (1981) noted that young adults who started listening to FM radio before 1975 preferred softer music formats, while the older groups showed a preference for harder rock music. The bands in the latter category were less likely to receive airplay, and therefore had fewer people exposed to their songs. Today’s FM stations are more likely to play tracks from newer bands than old.

Blumler (1980) found that the audience of early FM radio stations had similar tastes to those of AM radio listeners. However, as time has gone on and the FM format has matured, its audience characteristics have become more diverse.

In a study by Franca (1995), it was found that both early and recent adopters of new media technologies were likely to be younger than the adult population as a whole. The audience is also generally well educated and middle to upper income.

FM radio was said not to influence buying behavior because it seldom played commercials or ads that would influence buyers. However, Snyder (2004) noted that FM did have an effect on channel brand associations in the consumer’s mind. Consumers who associated a channel with popular music tended to assign other attributes to the same brand, which influenced buying behavior. FM radio may not have commercials, but it still has a profound effect on how people view brands.


The media, specifically the radio industry has had a tremendous impact on society. We all have our favorite artists and songs that we listen to, but what you hear is greatly influenced by the media. Whether it’s commercialized programming or not, your customers are still exposed to these messages which can influence their buying decisions in some way shape or form. The clear channel model is now used by every major broadcaster throughout the world with little debate as to its effectiveness; even though it may be controversial at times, this broadcasting model remains popular because of how profitable both broadcasters and advertisers find it for them.


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