Escapism; Providing An Escape


(Mike McVay) The year 2020 is one that so many “wished away.” We all wanted to get past December 31st and look forward to starting a new year. The start of 2021 makes many of us think about rejecting the “free 7-day trial of 2021” and return it. The noise level was already loud leading through a year of COVID-19 and a contentious political season. 

This past week the noise became even louder.  All of this could very well lead to information overload for the audience, a burnout of sorts, and should benefit those stations that focus on nostalgia. Playing mostly, or all hits from yesterday, providing an escape from today. The audience was already responding positively to the opportunity to escape from the stress of life in 2020.  That stress has been magnified to even higher levels because of today’s current events.  Who doesn’t want to escape?

My belief is that the growth we’ve seen since mid-last year for stations that lean gold will continue through all of this year. The formats Classic Hits, Classic Rock, Classic Hip Hop, Oldies Based Urban AC, Oldies Based AC and 60s & 70s Oldies all have the ability to overshadow stations of all formats that are playing newer music. Music from the past generally creates a positive feeling. Older music is feel-good music or comfort-food for the ears. 

The greatest success that we’ve seen for stations that focus on nostalgia comes from those stations that sound very much like today, but just happen to play music from yesterday. The content delivered by the talent, the imaging of the station, the use of listeners on the air, and the type of prizes the station gives away should all be for today’s audience.  The air-talent should not share memories from yesterday, as that dates the station, and it distracts the listener from their own memories. The only way that would be acceptable is if the talent shares a memory that is universally shared. 

The biggest opportunity for audience growth comes from providing an escape and a safe haven to listen. That doesn’t mean that you won’t present news updates during the morning show, but it does mean that the benefit one receives when they turn on your station is that what flows out of the speakers feels positive and provides an escape … even if momentary.  

Your imaging should reflect that feeling and you should do it in a contemporary fashion. The way the station makes the listener feel should be a large part of your on-air branding or positioning. Focus on ‘Good Times” … “Fun” … “Feel Good” and focus on the positive feeling that is generated from listening to music from the past. 

Be prepared to take advantage of the backlash that is sure to come from the overload of negativity permeating media everywhere.  Provide an escape. 

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Folks,

    This is the same tired advice that every “Consultant” has been saying for the last decade. “Have Fun”, “News Updates”, “Good Times”….. Look where the industry is??

    When the ratings go down, it’s because the talent “Doesn’t get it”….. When the ratings go up it’s because the music is “on point”….

    Look at this quote: “The only way that would be acceptable is if the talent shares a memory that is universally shared.” – Hello? “Universally shared” means boring, means obvious…. most importantly means SAFE.

    This is why the “drowning out” of content has led to the Podcast boom. Spotify has every song you could ever imagine on a radio station, while Apple Podcasts have every type of spoken word content that you could ever imagine.
    What do ‘Radio DJ’s have to offer? Simple: “Go to our website to see where you can get a free Taco for National Taco day, and while you’re doing that here’s the new song from Taylor Swift”… Radio DJ’s are now air-traffic controllers, just trying to move audience… the entertainment has mostly ended, as we seek the “Universally Shared” perspectives….


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