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Plus: Radio Disney exec Phil Guerini chats with Billboard about "seeing our 'kids,' like Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato & Selena Gomez, soar into success."
Even though Radio Disney has been the home to Disney Channel child stars like Miley Cyrus, Hilary Duff and the Jonas Brothers and caters to the music tastes of young people across the country, it's not a kid itself anymore: The radio channel turns 20 on Friday (Nov. 18).
For a lot of artists -- including teen pop icon Aaron Carter -- Radio Disney was a launching pad. Carter made his mark on the radio station at the tender age of 13 at the turn of the millennium, around the time Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" dominated pop radio. The now-28-year-old stopped by the Radio Disney studio on Monday to look back on his music career and what role RD played in it.
"When I first started in the '90s, it was very different," Carter reflected. "Being young was a lot harder. It was a lot more difficult to get on the radio. Radio Disney was my best supporter when it came down to the music."
The "That's How I Beat Shaq" singer even mentioned how much technology has impacted the way audiences consume music now. "We didn't have YouTube or any of that stuff," Carter said. "Back then, we had mall signings that lasted five hours."
Even as Carter and his tween and teen fans have grown older and out of the pop scene, Carter has noticed that his audience still includes Radio Disney listeners. "I think the biggest surprise for me is that I still have a lot of young fans, and I think it has to do with a lot of the [fans'] older sisters," Carter explained.
For both original and more recent Aaron Carter fans, in light of Radio Disney's birthday celebration, Carter announced that he will be re-recording and reproducing his Radio Disney favorite "I Want Candy" and putting it on his forthcoming album LOVE, due on Valentine's Day 2017.
Billboard also had a chance to sit down with Phil Guerini -- vice president of music strategy for Disney Channels worldwide and general manager of Radio Disney Networks -- to chat about 20 years of Radio Disney.
"I am tremendously proud," Guerini says. "We think about these artists as part of our family. They’ve grown up not only as individuals, but as artists. We don’t aspire to make anyone kings and queens of Disney; that doesn’t result in anyone’s success. It validates our beliefs and ability to identify talent."
Guerini is also proud of the technological advances Radio Disney has made to bring more interaction between artists and fans. "What makes Radio Disney unique is the ability for audiences to engage with their favorite artists on a level that few if any other radio stations have ever done," Guerini says. "Our artists are the extension of the brand."
Over the past 20 years, Radio Disney has even been valued as a place where artists come home and escape the intrusive world that lies outside the studio doors. "The artists know they’re coming into an environment that’s optimistic and positive," Guerini explains. "They know they’re not going to be asked awkward questions -- this is a safe haven for so many of them."
The best part about Guerini's job? Seeing how child stars evolve into global sensations. "Seeing our 'kids,' like Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, soar into success and seeing them on awards shows -- those are certainly memorable."
Check out a couple of throwback photos of the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez & the Scene over the years at Radio Disney below.