Turn on the radio at any time of day and, depending on the station you tune in to, you’ll possibly hear a popular song being blasted over the airwaves. While this is how many people get their daily entertainment, it is also a source of inspiration for many songwriters who are looking to formulate their next tune.
The Power of Radio
Despite the slew of new media platforms that have been thrust upon the human consciousness in recent years, the radio continues to have the widest reach. In fact, statistics show that 93 percent of Americans listen to AM/FM radio each week according to the Nielsen Portable People Meter (PPM) survey.
As for content, the vast majority listens to music, with country music and pop contemporary hit radio being among the top formats listened to. That represents a lot of music and explains why listeners, on average, spend 12 hours listening to the radio each week. And why not, it’s a non-stop stream of musical entertainment…and potential fodder for new music.
If you have never listened to the radio for songwriting inspiration before, it’s something worth trying. Just ask renowned songstress, Diane Warren. The songwriting legend, who has written material for Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Jennifer Hudson, and even Justin Bieber, to name a few, pointed out in one of her interviews that listening to music on the radio was one of her biggest influences. According to Warren, she was always into Top 40 music from a young age and she listened to everything while honing her craft.
Then again, the music that was playing on the radio in Warren’s time is different from the popular music of today. Some will even argue that the quality is less now than it was back then. With that said, does radio still influence songwriting? The answer is yes based on responses from songwriters on Themusesmuse.com and MeFi Music website. In fact, in a survey on MeFi (music.metafilter.com), which asked songwriters whether radio, TV, film or literature was a bigger influence, the vast majority of respondents agreed that it was radio.
Why Radio is Appealing
There are reasons why radio is so appealing. For one, it is pretty easy to hear what’s playing on the radio, whether you are the one who turned it on or not. Its ubiquity is such that that you could just be walking down the road and hear somebody’s radio on, or be in a store and hear tunes blaring out of a satellite radio.
Another reason is because radio gives a sense of familiarity. All artists, including songwriters, tend to emulate someone from the past or at least elements of their craft. When you listen to the radio, you get exposed to music that you probably envision yourself writing or hear lyrics that you believe you could write better if it’s similar to the type of material you produce. In addition, you might have a favorite artist/songwriter, whose music on the radio inspires you to want to follow in his or her footsteps.
While there are other influences on songwriting, radio is definitely one of the biggest. If you don’t normally listen to the radio, maybe you should start doing so to see if your approach to songwriting is influenced in any way.