chapter  3
19 Pages

The New Materiality of Radio: Sound on Screens

ByMichele Hilmes

A decade ago, at a radio conference held in Madison, Wisconsin, the question on everyone’s lips was “what is the future of radio?” Clearly some kind of transition was in progress, but it was hard to see the way forward in the face of the enormous consolidation and conglomeration occurring in the radio business, the continued dominance of satellite-delivered music formats, and the decline of that traditional backbone of US radio broadcasting, the local station.2 In 2003, online streaming had become widespread, peer-to-peer fi le sharing was rocking the music business, and low-cost digital tools for audio production were in the hands of a growing segment of the tech-savvy, but the outlook for radio as we knew it remained unclear. Radio’s death was predicted as often as its survival, as the individualized listening experience of iPods, earphones, and playlists seemed poised to replace everything that had most endeared radio to its public as a live, shared medium over the previous eighty years.