Anyone that has been involved with internet radio or podcasting knows that the ability to do it is fairly easy with a little bit of effort and a minimum of equipment. They also know that because anyone can do it, everyone is doing it so it’s nearly impossible to draw any kind of mass audience to your station or podcast. For 99 percent of shows and stations, you are literally the tree falling in the forest.
The technology boom in recent decades has brought musicians, artists, writers, podcasters and many other creative pursuits the very thing they always asked for… a level playing field for everybody. This has had a side effect that some did not see coming… now everybody has run on to the playing field and started screaming about their music, their show, their comic book, their comedy show, their gig… but nobody can hear them over the cacophony of others doing the exact same thing.
In the case of radio, let’s say you start a new internet station like i have a couple of times now. I’ve also been a musician and a podcaster, so I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess. You start at the bottom, telling your friends and social media about it. They may listen for a minute, but unless you hammer them all the time, they won’t switch from their usual listening habits to come to your station unless it’s something that has a really unique niche. You make a Facebook fan page, you get a Twitter account, Instagram, on and on trying to get followers you can tell about it. You will get smatterings of attention but not a real sustained listenership There are so many choices that people go back to something else or move on to something new, leaving you with next to nothing again.
Despite having all this knowledge, tech savvy gear and website design skills that I use to create something amazing that stands above the rest, it’s still like pulling teeth to get anybody to devote themselves to it and listen on a regular basis with choices like Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn out there where you can flip to any song you want with relative ease.
In addition, things you expect to make a difference to your listenership don’t really do much. You go out and add your station to all the radio directories online and in apps, thinking it will help a bunch of listeners find you and a few do, but not the rush of new blood you thought you would get. There is simply just too much competition unless you’re doing something so outrageous or controversial that it goes viral.
‘Going viral’ on social media or YouTube is not something you can plan, it just happens and it happens rarely to a lucky few. It’s a real feast or famine kind of thing that vaults you up the ladder for a while. When it does, you have to take advantage of it and parlay it into something by striking when the iron is hot. If you don’t, then you will fall back into the quagmire of others at the bottom again.
I realize this article is a rather bleak portrayal of the whole creative process, but it’s a real problem with no solution. There are tons of cheap options for producing content, but there are no cheap ways to promote that content. In fact, most of them are very expensive and impossible to sustain without some pretty deep pockets or financial backing.
Social media is very compartmentalized, which means that the number one place to promote yourself to the world is the one where nobody will see what you do except your short list of friends most of the time unless you buy ads. Facebook is the most compartmentalized of all. Even their advertising doesn’t really work unless you laser target it to a specific niche, which defeats the whole point of letting millions know about your product.
With my latest station, I am trying a new approach. I am promoting it like a website that just happens to be a radio station. It is optimized for SEO and I am driving traffic to it like I would any other website as opposed to promoting the station itself. In a bizarre twist, it is actually working better this way.
The most insane part about it is, it doesn’t really matter how many listeners you get. It has no bearing on whether you make money or not. I use affiliate links and Google Adsense along with selling cheap ads on Fiverr and the station does pretty well. I’m not rich yet, but this approach is definitely less frustrating. The music programming, doing drops and voiceovers is something I’m good at and I enjoy it. Doing a weekly live show/podcast was fun, but it never really led to that big sponsorship or FM syndication I wanted. The show was great and very professionally done, but once again, so are millions of others.
I guess if I were to sum it up, I would say that if you plan on doing it for the sheer enjoyment of it, you will be very satisfied. If you are getting into it for the big money and the fame, 99.9% of you will be very disappointed. I am satisfied with my work but I’m still working on that big money success part. I think I am finally on the right track, though.