Faced with platforms, musical radio stations struggling but still essential

(AFP) – Hit hard by the drop in radio audiences, music stations remain essential for the sector but must reinvent themselves in the face of competition from streaming platforms.

Abandoned by the youngest in favor of YouTube, replaced in the car by Spotify or Deezer in favor of bluetooth… Music radio stations lost 1.2 million followers between the end of 2021 and the end of 2022, bringing together a total of 17, 3 million daily listeners, according to Médiamétrie.

The former first radio station in France, NRJ, thus misled more than 300,000 listeners over the period, as did Fun Radio, and Skyrock 260,000.

RTL 2 manages to keep its 2.2 million pop-rock fans, taking advantage of its “clear positioning”, its general manager Tristan Jurgensen told AFP.

In detail, the drop in audiences “is quite contrasted between so-called young radio stations and those aimed more at adults or young adults” underlines to AFP Stéphane Bosc, the general manager of Lagardère’s musical radio stations.

For him, addressing “13-24 year olds is equivalent to fishing in a lake empty of fish”, hence the repositioning of Europe 2 (ex-Virgin Radio) towards 25-49 year olds.

-Jukeboxes-

But “streaming” does not only attract Generation Z and its paid subscription formula is spreading among those over 35, according to a recent report from the National Syndicate of Phonographic Publishing (Snep).

According to the same source, audio and video platforms, with their playlists and recommendation algorithms, have even dethroned radio as the first source of musical discoveries for the first time, representing 48% of responses cited by the public surveyed, compared to 47% for the radio.

The radio world unsurprisingly prefers to highlight the figures of a Médiamétrie study, dated 2022, according to which the favorite medium of the French remains number one in terms of prescription for 60% of respondents, far ahead of music streaming (20 %) and video platforms like YouTube (28%).

“A platform is cold, a radio is hot”, argues Stéphane Bosc, comparing platforms to “jukeboxes”. Like him, the leader of NRJ Group, Maryam Salehi, argues the “human” added value of a “local media” while the algorithms “enclose their audience in an area already known or even boring”.

“We bring a little surprise, we take into account the weather, the mood”, abounds the antenna director of RTL 2, Guillaume Piau.

In any case, the radio remains “an extremely valuable partner for record companies” and “complementary” to streaming, explains the general manager of Snep Alexandre Lasch.

– Quotas –

“For me, both are essential”, abounds Vincent Frèrebeau, the founder of the independent label Tôt ou Tard, which notably produces Yael Naim or Vianney.

And to cite as an example the success of the song “Et bam” by Mentissa, carried by a “positive training phenomenon. The more you go up in radio, the more you go up in stream”, he summarizes.

“We have every interest in working together”, confirms Aurélien Hérault, director of innovation at Deezer, recalling that the platform distributes radio stations live.

But the match is not played on equal terms. Unlike platforms, radio stations are subject to quotas for French-speaking songs, recalls Maryam Salehi, calling for “loosening the noose of regulation”.

“Quotas are a bad fight,” replies Alexandre Lasch as two Frenchmen, Orelsan and Jul, dominate sales in France.

“It is essential that the radio continues to dig the furrow of the prescription, this is what will motivate the interest of the public,” he believes. “She has to play the novelty card to the full”, adds Vincent Frèrebeau.

Centenary media, the radio knows how to adapt and “does not remain inert”, insists Hervé Godechot, member of Arcom.

Evidenced by the deployment of digital terrestrial radio DAB + or the alliance of public and private radio within the application Radioplayer to counter the giants of the net.