Clear Channel and Cumulus -- the two dominant radio broadcasters, each with hundreds of stations -- are struggling to pay off mountains of debt and have laid off thousands of workers, including many DJs.
And the heart of terrestrial radio -- its emphasis on the local -- has drifted. Hometown DJs, once the central voice of it all, increasingly find themselves marginalized in favor of syndicated voices and formulaic presentations.
That's a concern, says Lipsky. "Anybody can play Bruno Mars and Pink, but nothing's going to replace the sound of having a local jock tune you in to when (those artists are) coming to town -- things that make you part of your community."
Industry analyst Jerry Del Colliano, publisher of "Inside Music Media," says he believes the future is dim.
Radio, he warns, is no longer appealing to young people. "They don't like it, don't use it that much, don't know the stations, and at the same time the radio companies are shooting themselves in the foot by cutting back and getting rid of personalities."
He looks at the landscape and wonders about the attraction.
"If any of this is true, why would you want to be in this business?"
Ed Levine, whose Galaxy Communications owns a handful of stations in central New York State, puts it more bluntly.
"If we're not proactive, we'll be newspapers."
'God, disc jockeys, then parents'
"I'm in love with the radio on It helps me from being alone late at night ..." -- Jonathan Richman, "Roadrunner"
Andyman always wanted to be in radio.
A native of rural Ohio, he got the bug early, going to broadcasting school and working as an overnight jock at a country station. But WWCD was where he wanted to be, and he called the station incessantly, volunteering to work any shift, do any job.
"He finally wore them down," says Molly Davis, his widow.
He worked his way up from overnights and random shifts to become music director -- the person who manages the station's song selection -- and then program director, a job that oversees the station's entire on-air output, including DJs, music and commercials.
He was always sincere and passionate, says Tom Butler, one of his many protégés.
At the end of a summer festival, Butler recalls, "Andy was still standing at the gates, shaking hands with every single person who walked through. He just genuinely wanted to meet and connect with every single listener, every single fan."
It's the sort of enthusiasm one might associate with a different generation, when DJs were the "pied pipers of rock 'n' roll," and their distinctive voices were ubiquitous -- and powerful. In 1966, a Hollywood teen fair asked visitors about the biggest influences in their lives. The order: "God, disc jockeys, then parents," the late Robert W. Morgan, the leading voice of Los Angeles' KHJ, once recalled.
Of course, that was a different time, when Top 40 ruled and "everybody listened to the same stuff," says Allan Sniffen, who runs a website dedicated to New York's old WABC-AM back when it was "Musicradio 77."
Nowadays, radio is more corporate and buttoned up, which has made DJing and programming a harder job. On the one hand, people complain that radio sucks -- it's generic and boring and the DJs all sound the same, the music all sounds the same, even the manic car commercials all sound the same.
On the other hand, new music and creativity can be tough sells. People like the familiar. The familiar is dependable, and dependable is easier to sell. The pressure at music stations is to stick with the tried and true, to run focus groups and test out the wazoo.
Margot Chobanian, former music director of Atlanta's now-defunct DaveFM, says the trend has been to cut back on DJs and their patter because ratings show that people don't like chatter.
She doesn't agree with that interpretation of the data though. What corporations don't understand, she says, is that the amount of DJ chatter has nothing do with tuning out -- it's the quality of what the DJs say.
"(People) were engaged by the DJs," Chobanian says.
Though Chobanian's bosses at CBS Radio gave the adult-alternative station a longer run than she expected, last fall, when the ratings declined, the station switched to sports talk and much of the staff got the ax.