Paid airtime killed the radio star

Published: April 30, 2010
The writer is a musician and a self-employed businessman (

The writer is a musician and a self-employed businessman ([email protected])

Let’s see if this sounds familiar. You’re driving in your car, listening to the radio. A song starts off with a jingle that is fairly well known because some company has made it their trademark. The song isn’t bad, in fact it’s quite catchy. The “song” is actually an advertisement but you bear with it because it’s sung by your favourite artist and you’re happy that he’s finally getting paid.

A week passes. The same song repeats on the hour every hour. What was previously a pleasant tune has now become monotonous and irritating. Despite your growing annoyance you find yourself humming it in the car, at work and at home. Another week passes. Every time you’re stuck in traffic the song interrupts your musical bliss and drives you into a murderous rage.

You frantically try to switch channels but to your horror you discover the song is playing. On all the channels. Simultaneously. You come home, rip your stereo out of the car and bash it against the pavement. Still, the song plays in the distance and you realise it’s coming on TV as an advertisement. On all the channels. Simultaneously.

You go find an axe and/or a noose. You could argue that if you don’t like something, listen to something else. This is where the real diabolical stuff happens. The companies buy up airtime so that the song plays on all your favourite channels at the same time, so that you’re forced to hear it, or hear nothing. No matter how good a song is, if you play it constantly people are going to hate it. Any artistic merit will be drowned out by the screams of people who are forced to listen to the song every day.

I have no problem with musicians signing endorsement deals to promote products. But how does one artist compete for airtime when the other one can simply buy it? Other artists simply cannot compete on the basis of taste and merit. It becomes a ruthless equation. If you can pay more, more people will hear you. Once that becomes the standard for our industry, a song will no longer be played because you or I want to hear it. It’ll get played because a group of people in suits decided that is what you are going to hear.

I see no winners except the companies. They get their brand name out there and achieve their goal. The artist who they promoted might be a little richer, but they will have suffered a dent in their appeal because of overexposure. The biggest losers are, of course, the general public. We no longer have a say in the content of our entertainment. Our opinion will not decide who gets airplay and who doesn’t. That’s an industry I simply don’t want to be a part of.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • James
    May 1, 2010 - 3:05AM

    Ok. I love your music and think you have a good blog. Some of the really crazy comments in your first article were undeserved. But this is, and I was rooting for you that it wouldn’t, is an appalingly bad article for an oped, or even a blog of good standing. Oba you could have done better or simply taken a break till real inspiration strikes so your true writing comes out.
    ET, you guys have to be stricter with columns from now on, otherwise you will get a really bad name that will be hard to lose.Recommend

  • May 1, 2010 - 12:57PM

    Hey James,

    Thanks for the feedback, I invite you to read the article in it’s original, un-edited form, maybe that’ll change your opinion.
    I’ve put it up on my blog at

  • Hassan
    May 4, 2010 - 10:17PM

    Hey Omar,

    Ok…I am that very person who puts the spots on all radio channels so that everyone is listening to my client’s branded song.Firstly,one thing I would like to clear out is that its not up to the singer how many time we put the song.His job ends at the recording. But when the client tells us I want to hear the song during drive time on all channels, you can do nothing but to acquiesce to their request, no matter how strong your argument is.Brand & Marketing Managers love listening to their own brands getting promoted through the song, they fail to see it from an average Jamal’s perspective,who’s finds it irritating and hates the monotony of it all.
    Well my rant ends here….but I hear you my friend I really do…


  • Mahvesh
    May 5, 2010 - 9:47PM

    Brand & Marketing Managers love listening to their own brands getting promoted through the song, they fail to see it from an average Jamal’s perspective,who’s finds it irritating and hates the monotony of it all.

    What?! As brand and marketing managers, aren’t you SUPPOSED to see it from the ‘average Jamal’s (or Jameela’s, in my case) perspective?! If you KNOW the public (or as you refer to us, CONSUMERS) is going to hate what you’re doing to their auditory senses, shouldn’t you be concerned that they might get turned off by your own products?

    As for the article itself… thanks OBA. Compared to the rest of the stuff on the site, which starts off at A, reaches T and then ends at L, this one makes sense. Recommend

  • Hassan
    May 9, 2010 - 3:30PM

    @mahvesh: if you read my reply again, you will know that is exactly what we try to convince the brand and marketing managers as an agency.Message Bombardment is plain irritating and a waste of good money.If only they could ever understand.Recommend

  • Anum
    Jun 15, 2010 - 4:55PM

    @Mahvesh Totally agree with your comments, most brand managers don’t know their target audience.. Recommend

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