Is FM Radio still relevant?

When I used to be a kid, I would literally wake up to the music playing on radio – early 80s. Those days, we had Vividh Bharathi operated by AIR – All India Radio. There were set timing for every program and it would work like clockwork (as compared to today where even so called “Live” programs are recorded and played. So, from 6am to 6.40am, there would be devotional songs and News at 6.50am. That was the cut off to sleep, else hell would break at home. Dad would also listen to various kinds of music, from Carnatic to Film songs on Radio. Over time, I just took over this habit and till date addicted to music. For many years, the Alarm on my mobile phone has been Venkatesa Suprabatham; continues while I read newspapers, get ready to work, while driving, while working (if I’m alone, that is) and all the way till we go to sleep. No wonder, my kids have also taken to this habit – so much so that my younger one even has made a playlist on the iPod which is to play every night.

When the FM radio channels were privatized in 2003, I was hooked on to them. In Chennai, Radio Mirchi had exclusivity and at Bangalore where I moved in to in 2004, it was Radio City. They would play a mixture of songs across genres, moods and occasions (like rains n romance) as well as the talk shows were quite enjoyable. There would be spot quizzes, birthday wishes for friends as well as opinions from callers on current affairs. The RJs kept us hooked on. Over the course of the first five years, more Radio channels came in to the fray (at last count, I guess there are more than a dozen of them in Metro cities) and there is a problem of plenty.

Radio Broadcasters are advertising at Malls
My colleagues at work would be amused when I would say I hear FM more to know the Brands who are advertising, in which slots and in what frequency as opposed to listening to songs. In fact, I would shift stations when the songs were played. This was also because I had access to most new music online and wasn’t dependent on Radio FM channels.

I have suggested Radio as a great medium for various companies that I have directly worked for and even now as a Business Advisor & Consultant, I do recommend Radio Advertising when there is a new possibility and an opportunity. However, I am a seeing (or hearing) a different trend these days. As many of you would know, Music OTT Apps have flodded the market and there are atleast a dozen now which are popular and the ones who are heavily advertised. Raaga and Gaana are perhaps the oldest and have their ardent fans, thanks to their initiation on to web browsers many years back. Gaana offers a free subscription to Vodafone Mobile network users while Wynk offers a similar free subscription to Airtel users. Note: the Free subscription is for unlimited download of songs and not for listening; for listening is anyway free to use, except that it consumed mobile data or broadband data. Saavn and Hungama have cracked the mass market with aggressive advertising while the big daddy Amazon has got more downloads thanks to bundling its OTT service with it’s core offering, Prime. Industry estimates suggest that most users who have music OTTS on their handhelds have atleast three of them, depending on the content they usually listen to.

From college goers to home makers, bike riders to car users, almost everyone who has a smartphone and those who like music have these Apps and use them regularly. Meanwhile, I have been observing that the Top 3 Radio Stations (in Chennai) have not been playing the recent releases off late, I would say for more than 3-4 months now. At prime times in the morning such as 8am, 9am and 10am and similarly the evening slots such as 5pm, 6pm, 7pm and 8pm, one doesn’t hear the newest releases; instead I have been hearing slightly older releases – some are as old as a year or more. And even they are being rehashed, almost 4-6 times within a 3-4 hour block. There is a tectonic shift happening in the user behavior which am not sure the Radio FM Stations are capturing. Apparently, the firms are still counting user preferences through some data they collect. Wonder from where, though. 


  1. Very well written. Got to know how a maktg man's mind works e en through entertainment.


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