Alan Cross: Staying lovable in a digital world

A self-described “professional music geek,” Alan Cross is one of Canada’s best-loved radio broadcasters, an author, journalist, professional speaker, consultant and more.

Having spent the better part of four decades working in music, he’s witnessed firsthand how technology can completely change pretty much every aspect of an industry. He’s also seen what businesses need to do to stay relevant in a fast-moving world and knows that even though more and more services are going digital, personal touch still matters. In fact, many will argue – and this includes us – that it’s more important than ever. 

Cross spoke with us for Mitch Magazine about building strong connections with your audience, continually evolving your brand and looking for the opportunity in progress.

Despite the rise in popularity of streaming services, radio continues to have remarkable staying power. What do you attribute its longevity too?

It’s free. It’s local. It’s familiar. And everyone has a radio somewhere, even if it’s just in the car. It is not dead. Radio remains very powerful, popular and profitable. Almost 90% of the population tunes in every week.

For radio – and so many other industries – why is it becoming increasingly vital to meet your customers where they are?

With the rise of the internet, people expect one-on-one service and immediate responses. Radio is an old-school, one-way medium – you either choose to listen to what’s coming out of the speakers or you don’t. Fortunately, we’ve been able to harness the power of things like social media to create more of a one-on-one experience with our listeners and clients.

More and more brands are leveraging TikTok. Are you surprised by how important this platform has becoming for marketing and connecting with new audiences of all ages?

Watching TikTok videos is as addictive as potato chips. I’m just surprised that so many people are satisfied with 20 and 30-second clips. Remember when we had attention spans?

Music was among the first industries to be digitally disrupted. For industries that haven’t experienced such widespread digital disruption yet, what are a few key learnings they can take from music?

Music was the canary in the coalmine when it came to digital disruption. TV was next with services like Netflix. Now it’s the movie industry’s turn. What are they going to do with all that real estate – all those movie theatres – now that people have become used to watching movies on-demand through on our high-tech home theatres?

The answer is: We’re never going back to the way things were. Accept that technology means progress. Progress is going to happen whether you believe in it or not. So you might as well get on board. It’ll be hard, but what choice do you have?

There are less barriers of entry to releasing music than ever before. But with so much content available in seconds with the push of a few buttons, how can new and unknown artists stand out?

If I knew that, I’d be the richest person in the industry. There’s no magic bullet when it comes to rising above the noise. The streaming music services have 95 million songs available, and 60,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify every day. The only advice I can give is to make music because there’s something inside you that says you must make it. And then be in it for the long haul.

You’ve accomplished so much in your career and continue to take on new challenges. What motivates you to keep doing more, more and more?

Two things. I’ve always been curious. I believe curiosity is an undervalued characteristic. Curiosity leads to two questions: Why are things the way they are? And why do things have to be the way they are?

Second, radio people – well, all media people, really – have a best-before date on their foreheads they can’t see. It’s their responsibility to keep evolving and advancing so you keep pushing that date further and further into the future.

You always encourage people to contact you, and regularly share your email address on the radio and through your other platforms. You’re also usually very quick to reply to all messages you receive.  What are some benefits of being so accessible, and why is it important for you to build this connection with people?

People love the personal touch. What’s more, they demand it. I’ve found that one of the best ways to stay employed is to convert people into fans one at a time. There are fewer things that beat a personal email response.

How has your experience been with insurance in your personal and professional life? Is there anything you’d like to see changed about it?

I’ve got a ton of insurance for both myself personally and for my business. That includes contents insurance for my office and music collection plus a ton of liability insurance just in case. Anyone who runs a sole proprietorship or an incorporated limited company (that’s me) and doesn’t have insurance is playing with fire.

Want to learn more about Alan Cross? You can find his website here.


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