As Madonna’s accusations of ageism against Radio 1 continue, Shaun Ponsonby tells her to wake up and smell her audience.
Originally published on Getintothis
Madonna has been kicking up a fuss about the fact that Living For Love, the lead single from her current album Rebel Heart, hasn’t been playlisted on Radio 1. She has branded it ageism, which she has called a “taboo”.
“My manager said to me, ‘if you’re not in your twenties, it’s hard. You might get your record played in your thirties. There’s a handful of people who do – Pharrell got lucky [pun intended? – ed.]. But if you’re in your fifties, forget it,’” she Madonnered.
“Really? Is that how it’s broken down? I’m so stupid. I didn’t know it was anything to do with my age.”
Well, yes. In a way, you are so stupid. Because that it is how it’s broken down if you take an uneducated stab at it. That answer is the equivalent to the student on the maths exam who is asked to “find x”, and circles “x” in the question. It’s slightly more complicated than that.
I’ve been in and out – mainly in – radio stations for the last decade (and currently produce and present a couple of lame ducks if you care to check them out and listen to a man nearly having a public breakdown). I have a degree in radio production and radio management etc, with a dissertation on audience consumption. So, unless someone out there reading this wants to give me a job, I’m probably not a true “radio insider”, but I do feel fully qualified to tell Madonna that Radio 1 were absolutely right not to playlist Living For Love.
Radio stations are absolutely bound to the remit they draw up when they apply for a broadcast license from regulator Ofcom. They can apply for changes to that, but must go through a helluva lot to do so. You can actually can get into a spot of bother for not doing targeting the people you’re so supposed to target and neglecting what it says in your remit. Even at the BBC.
Radio 1’s states that their output is aimed at 15-29 year olds. In 2008, their average audience was aged around 33 – which you may notice is a little off. So they had to take measures to change that, such as finding a presenter on their roster who was popular with this age group to take over the coveted breakfast spot (hence, Nick Grimshaw), and playing music that young people are listening to or want to listen to.
Although they have lost some listeners on the whole as a result, they have successfully increased ratings within that age group. Despite what the press might tell you, the BBC aren’t supposed to chase ratings like commercial broadcasters. They don’t have to. Commercial stations chase ratings so that they can attract advertisers. With the license fee, the BBC are more obliged to hit other targets with their output rather than mere numbers.
Now, as a rule I do have my issues with the assumption that young people won‘t like a song by an older artist. I understand Madonna entirely when she says her age shouldn’t be a factor. It shouldn’t. I also think that when people hear a song for the first time, their first thought isn’t “how old is the person singing this?” As a kid myself, I was wholly uninterested by the pap I endured on the radio, and instead found a lot of solace trawling through music history.
However, everyone knows who Madonna is, and that she’s been around for a while. Kids are aware that their parents – and in some cases, grandparents – love Madonna. So the key argument from Radio 1 is that Madonna’s age doesn’t factor in whether or not they playlist her single, but rather the age of her audience. As Scott Mills said over the weekend; “They’re trying to get the average age of the listener down and, to be honest, most Madonna fans are in their 30s and 40s. When you’ve got more relevant, up-and-coming artists and bands and there’s a space on the play list, then its in the Radio 1 remit that it should go to a British artist anyway.”
As much as Madge wants to keep a younger crowd, at some point you’re going to have to wake up and smell your audience. From personal experience, even over the last ten or fifteen years, with massive hits like Music and Hung Up, I didn’t know any kids at school who would have picked Madonna over Christina Aguilera. Except me, given my loathing of Christina’s absolute disregard to potential human suffering with her inability to reign her fucking lungs in from time to time.
Ergo, she’s on Radio 2 instead.
But the fact that she considers being “relegated” to Radio 2 in any way contentious is bizarre in itself. Radio 2 is the most listened to radio station in the UK. More people will hear the song if it is on Radio 2 than Radio 1. In fact, Radio 1 is currently 3rd, behind Radio 4.
So…what’s the problem? She is complaining about ageism, but I wouldn’t say this is ageism per se. The BBC are still playing the song, and on a bigger station. Is she going to complain that her shows are sold out too? Is she going to berate her audience for not being young enough? Now who’s being ageist…? Hypothetical Madge, that’s who.
I spoke to a definitely not made up psychologist, who is positively really named Dr. Cher Gobemouche. In between not being made up and talking to a sock, she told me “occasionally we experience misdirected ire. For a completely hypothetical example that is in no way related to anything that is happening in the news at the moment and therefore cannot be deemed as commentary on it, let’s say I was an artist who had 30 years of hits behind me, and I released a new record that wasn’t getting played on Radio 1. If I was to be angry about that, I might actually be merely bitter about no longer being viewed as cutting edge or capturing the zeitgeist.”
Of course, Dr Gobemouche also lifted up her skirt and spent around thirty minutes performing the most offensively explicit ventriloquism act I’ve ever seen (whilst being undoubtedly real and not fictional in the slightest), so maybe we shouldn’t read too much into what she said. She may be unstable.
For the record, I’m not slamming Madonna. I actually quite like Madonna. Particularly when considered as a performance artist who happens to work in music, rather than a musician.
However, in suggesting that Radio 1 have been bigoted by not playing Living For Love is completely misguided and comes across more like a pampered superstar stamping her feet and whinging about not getting everything she wants.
The same thing happened with Status Quo in the mid-90s. They even proved how out of touch with reality they were by ridiculously starting legal proceedings over the matter. Hardly anyone remembers that. Dads continued to listen to them, and Radio 1 carried on not playing Status Quo. This may be a hot topic now, but nobody will remember when Madonna gets used to the status she now has.
There’s nothing wrong with appealing to a more mature audience. They’re the ones with money to spend on you.
David Crosby allegedly hit a 44 year old jogger with his car in California. I like to think the exchange afterwards mirrored that of Crosby and Barney Gumble. “You’re a musician?!”
Taylor Swift has bought the URL “taylorswift.porn”. It is unknown whether she intends to use it. Perhaps a back-up plan when she falls from grace?
Walking knob Chris Brown is finally off probation. About time too! All he’s done since going on probation for beating the shit out of Rhianna is get involved in a violent scuffle with Drake, punching and directing homophobic abuse at Frank Ocean in a parking lot, a hit-and-run where the case was dropped, but was still given more community service as a result, beating up two men with a barrage of homophobia with his bodyguard and getting kicked out of a rehab facility for his violent behaviour. And that’s before we factor in his terrible, terrible music. So, congratulations Chris Brown, you massive, vile cockweasle. I await the moment when you inevitably find yourself back on probation.
One of the Directions has now officially left the group. Whathisname? Zayn Spice? Shall we start the countdown now…? Meanwhile, Jeremy Clarkson has been drafted in to take his place and help 1D complete their current tour.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure: Dr. Cher Gobemouche was totally fictional.