53% of Young Americans Listen to Broadcast Radio in the Car—Radio Heavyweight Joel Denver Has Thoughts On How to Reach Them

a conversation with joel denver about broadcast radio
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a conversation with joel denver about broadcast radio
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Photo Credit: Joel Denver

Joel Denver is the President & Founder of All Access Music Group—which built out a radio trade publication even before most businesses were online. His life-long obsession has been radio and he’ll discuss how the medium will survive in the future.

Denver says he was fascinated by radio from the age of six, spending time with a transistor radio “glued to my ear and my parents spent a small fortune in 9-volt batteries to power it.” By age 14 he knew he wanted to be an on-air personality on radio and he made that happen just a year later. Radio has been a passion of Denver’s since childhood, prompting him to create and maintain All Access Music for 28 years.

Denver shut down All Access in August 2023—pointing to major changes in the music industry. Denver’s publication kept tabs on radio’s trajectory for nearly three decades, giving him a unique position to offer insight into the direction which radio is headed. We’ll hear from Denver and other panelists during our upcoming DMN Pro event, ‘What Is Radio in 2024?’

One area Denver notes could be improved is how radio leverages its current market share. “All the attraction for media buyers is focused on DSPs, not terrestrial/broadcast radio,” Denver notes. That’s despite commanding more audio consumption market share than streaming, too. “With 36% of all audio consumption vs. streaming 20%, YouTube 14%, Podcasts 11%, and SiriusXM 8%—radio should be the go-to for media buys.” Why isn’t it?

“With so many commercials and interruptions, lack of real personalities and super-tight playlists that offer little variety, terrestrial/broadcast radio is no longer convenient to listen to—and I have always believed that convenience wins,” Denver told Digital Music News. Denver says it’s time for radio to expand into digital as one day soon AM radio could be considered obsolete, with FM hot on its heels to the retirement home.

“I love radio—and unless terrestrial/broadcast radio gets away from programming to a device for ratings (Nielsen PPM) and creates exciting programming again and bonds better with community and monetizes with something besides 20+ minutes of commercials an hour—with a move to digital—it will suffer a slow and steady yearly decline.”

Part of what radio needs to do to reinvigorate is attract younger generations to active listening again outside of the car. Denver says radio faces the potential issue of aging out of the listening habits of Americans. Right now the average listener to a Top 40 radio station is a 35-year-old female. So where is best place radio has to reach those younger listeners? In a vehicle. Edison Research says 53% of the teen and young adult demographic are reached by broadcast radio in the car—every single day.

He also mentions the fact that U.S. terrestrial radio is the only country aside from North Korea that does not pay royalties on master recordings. Time for radio to evolve in several ways—which includes paying royalties. What would that look like in the future? Would radio stations shift more towards talk or strike separate licensing deals to avoid paying master record royalties?

So how do we make radio more convenient to listen for a younger demographic outside of the vehicle? How should radio programming evolve to attract the audience that is now hungry for podcasts and other programmatic content beyond music? Those questions and more are some of the considerations for DMN Pro’s radio-focused event.

Want to learn more about the state of radio in 2024? Tune in for the DMN Pro event ‘What Is Radio in 2024?’ on April 25. Other participants for this upcoming event discussing every aspect of radio include:

  • Joel Denver | Founder, All Access Music Group
  • RJ Curtis | Executive Director, CRB
  • Mike Huppe | CEO of SoundExchange
  • Rahul Sabnis | EVP, Chief Creative Officer, iHeartMedia
  • will.i.am | Producer, Award-winning Artist, & Technophile Futurist
  • Lee Abrams | Commander, Lee Abrams MediaVisions
  • Paul Resnikoff | Publisher, Digital Music News

When Is It?

This Digital Music News event is taking place April 25 at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET.