Is radio still relevant in breaking hits? – Jamaica Observer

Music industry insiders are divided over whether radio remains relevant in breaking songs and whether it is still as influential as it was prior to the expansion of social media.
In recent years several entertainers have resorted to social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube to create awareness of their music.
TJ Torry is the brother and manager of teen sensation Ninecea, whose hit songs Party Time (featuring Armanii) and Nawmal blew up on TikTok without support from radio.
“The songs took off on TikTok, but after they blew up radio came on board and started to play the songs. Yes, I do believe that radio is irrelevant in breaking songs. No one listens to radio like that to really break a song. [Still,] it’s good when you hear the song on the radio,” said TJ Torry in an interview with the Jamaica Observer’s Splash.
Clyde McKenzie, founding general manager for Irie FM and media consultant, shared: “Contrary to popular perception, radio is not dead as a promotional tool for music. The fact is that airplay is still an important part of that calculus which determines chart positions in the United States. Record companies still use audience impressions from airplay as an indicator of the viability of a recording artiste,” McKenzie explained.
He added, “Most decision-makers in the music business use their Shazam Map to make a determination on the popularity of a song. While terrestrial broadcasting is on the wane, it is fair to say that there are still many who are accessing traditional media online. It is therefore fair to say that the fact that people might not be listening or watching traditional radio and TV, many people are still engaging these entities through apps and websites.”
Publicist and music producer Ralston Barrett agrees with McKenzie.
“I believe that radio is still a very relevant promotional tool because there’s still a large percentage of the Jamaican population that don’t use YouTube or other online platforms to listen to music. There are people who don’t own computers, laptops, smartphones, or devices that you can use to go online and listen to music. I honestly doubt that radio will ever disappear from the entertainment landscape,” said Barrett.
He reasoned: “Radio play is very important for artistes because a lot of people travel in taxis or buses and, oftentimes, there’s always a radio on in these vehicles. And that’s how a lot of people hear new music. Also, remember that when an artiste receives airplay that is a validation that that artiste has arrived or is on his or her way up to the big leagues.”
DJ Smurf is a radio jock who also plays at several parties and events.
“Even though we are living in a digital space, where it seems like everybody is in tune to the different social media platforms, there are still people who are not in tuned to social media and depend on radio; moreso the middle-aged and mature people. You still have people driving in their cars and playing the radio in their business places as a form of entertainment for their customers. Radio has gone digital, where you have stations with mobile apps so people can listen on their phones and tablets, etc. Radio is still relevant in breaking new music,” said DJ Smurf.
DJ Wylyphe has been making a name for himself on the party scene having played at several parties in recent months. He believes that even though people may get a few hit songs outside of the traditional radio platforms, those hit songs are just for a short time.
“Radio is still relevant to break songs. Even though people might get one or two hits outside of radio, those hits are not going anywhere outside of Jamaica. Most of those songs are those with negative content. The good song dem weh have substance will travel borders. Those songs play on the radio,” he disclosed.
Keanu Gordon, aka Shot by Deth, is a well-known music video director and he is also a music producer. He produced trap/dancehall artiste AI Milly’s WTDO EP which was released last month.
“Some of the radio jocks have a following outside of Jamaica, so it’s still relevant to have the radio in promoting your music. In the case of AI Milly, the majority of his songs are not played, but I have heard one or two before,” said Shot by Deth.
AI Milly has a large following, especially on the north coast, and is known for trending songs such as Henny Energy and What Joker Said both of which have accrued more than 2 million views each on YouTube.
“We use social media and YouTube to break the songs,” said Shot By Deth.
Some of the other songs which have become popular on social media without initial support from radio include Verified Choppa 2 by Marksman, First Night by Roze Don, Tip Inna It by Laa Lee, Motorsport by Pablo YG and Valiant, Bank and Crook by Malie Donn, and Another Dollar by RajahWild.
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