It may be a surprise to anyone younger than myself (28), but there was once a time when radio played a pivotal role in the development of musical careers.
Before you could access every album your heart desires for a $10 monthly fee, before artists could reach superstar heights with little more than Vine and SoundCloud accounts, an artist’s relevance depended heavily on their representation across traditional platforms like television and radio.
While satellite stations and podcasts have lent an extended lifetime to the relevance of radio, their place as tastemakers has shifted to a more docile role of amplifying the pre-existing status quo.
This is painfully apparent to anyone that’s been a fan of independent and underground music, but there’s still a staggering percentage of music listeners that get the majority of their suggestions from turning on their radio.
Pharrell Williams is aware of this reality and as a lifelong rebel against expectations of normalcy, he took some time out during his recent interview with The Breakfast Club to heap praise onto fellow creative force Childish Gambino, asking Charlamagne The God to “turn him up.” The moment appears around the 38:00 mark.
Of course, this is nothing new, we’ve been hounding radio personalities to champion our favorite artists for as long as radio has been around, but what’s different about this interaction is Charlamagne’s response, a rare moment of honesty in a realm of entertainment that relies on half-truths and backhanded code words to circumnavigate awkward situations.
Charlamagne offers up the opinion that radio’s place is no longer to create voices, but to amplify existing ones. His answer is still kinda-sorta a cop-out considering "Awaken, My Love!"sold over 100,000 copies, but it’s still a blatant, honest admission of something that very few people in his field are willing to divulge.
Pharrell is right, there must always be a rebel to challenge the status quo for any actual change to manifest, but Charlamagne's statement feels like less of a "this isn't my problem" proclamation and more of an outright admission built on the premise that change would be welcomed.
At the end of the day, as much as it hurts to hear Charlamagne openly admit radio's inability to break new sounds and voices, it was also refreshing to hear his honesty, and hopefully, it can inspire some legitimate change. Otherwise, the standard radio platform will never survive the digital era.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: YouTube