Does anybody listen to music on the radio anymore?
Yesterday, I wrote a post about how 27-year-old “urban singer” Jay Sean is bent because there is too much guitar music on British radio. I asked for an assist from the Brit contingent as I wondered; “is there too much guitar on the radio over there?” Kenski replied in short order…
Too much guitar on the radio in the UK? No clue! I don’t listen to the radio unless it’s on the internet at work, in which case it’s me controlling the airwaves, not the other way around.
At which point I queried…
Does anybody listen to music on the radio anymore?
I checked back a little later to see if anybody had any thoughts and noticed that Sans, had weighed in. Now, Sans I figure him to be a radio guy. He’s even mentioned cutting his teeth on KSHE a couple of times. Sans saaaaaaaaaays…
I try not to. There’s one station near work that I sometimes pull up when I’m commuting, but really, there’s nothing on the radio I haven’t heard a thousand times before
I’d like to get some more input on this. I’d like to try and figure out how we got to this point.
See, when I was a kid, radio was my lifeline. Now, I’m not just talking about when I was a teenager and playing guitar. I remember that my first major purchase was a good transistor radio. I’m talking, maybe seven or eight years old. I would do the hiding under the covers bit, listening to AM skip signals from all over the West and Midwest. I could get WLS in Chicago, KOA in Denver, KAAY in Little Rock, and WOW in Omaha. I listened to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 on the weekends and if I could stay awake late enough, under the blanket, Wolfman Jack. I would even write down the chart positions of my favorite songs so I could see how they did the next week.
A few years later, the family moved to Hermann, Missouri where, with a good antenna, one could pick up the same KSHE, mentioned above, on the FM dial. I would set my alarm so I could listen to Mark Klose for a couple of hours before school. Klose would play some obscure stuff from time to time and I craved that. If he played Little Feat or Rory Gallagher, I felt like I was getting inside information. I followed artists’ careers, Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, from regional act to super stardom. When that happened, I felt a sense of pride because, I had been through the journey with them.
I listened every day and so did everyone I knew. How did we get from that to this?
Try to think pre-iPod here. Because, however it developed, it started before that. The common wisdom has been that the big conglomerates like Clear Channel screwed the whole thing up. Took the personality out of it, eliminated diversity and inundated us with formats that, as Sans says, we’ve heard “a thousand times before”.
At least, that was what was in my mind yesterday when I though about it; Damn Clear Channel.
But then, I thought about something I saw last week at the RAIN (radio and internet newsletter) site; the top ten stations on each of the satellite radio networks…
1. Howard Stern’s “Howard 100”: 1,200,000
2. “Hits 1” (CHR): 584,800
3. “Howard 101” : 501,100
4. “New Country”: 468,300
5. “Big 80s”: 417,900
6. “Octane” (hard rock): 383,700
7. “Classic Vinyl” (early classic rock): 347,100
8. “Classic Rewind” (later classic rock): 335,500
9. “The Pulse” (90s and contemporary hits): 330,000
10. “Totally 70s”: 309,400
1. “Top 20 on 20” (CHR): 1,049,200
2. “Flight 26” (modern AC): 741,600
3. “80s on 8”: 698,300
4. “70s on 7”: 687,400
5. “60s on 6”: 581,300
6. “Highway 16” (new country): 579,500
7. “Top Tracks” (classic rock): 534,900
8. “The Blend” (Lite pop hits): 532,400
9. “The Heart” (love songs): 493,400
10. “Fox News” (news/talk): 464,800
To me, the biggest selling points of satellite radio are, sound quality and diversity. It’s going to sound as good as a CD and I’m going to hear different stuff. But, looking at the charts, people are listening to same music formats that are available on terrestrial radio. Stern is obviously dominant but also, very much product of terrestrial radio. Stern doesn’t exist without it. Now, you might make the case that they are playing different songs within the formats on satellite radio, that they may play “Mama Kin” instead of “Walk This Way” or something. I don’t know because, if I get the chance to listen to XM or Sirius I’m going to seek a format that isn’t close to anything I could hear on the local Clear Channel outlet.
Here’s what I think; radio is too predictable. Radio is more predictable than your iPod. That shouldn’t be. Even if you have 8,000 songs on your iPod that shouldn’t be.
There is a fix. There is a simple fix. Put the playlist back in the hands of the DJ. Get a music fan as the DJ for starters and give the DJ the run of, what should be, the vast music library. You, the listener, should be wondering; what is the DJ going to play next? That is simple drama. What will he or she play next.
Radio is the original portable music device and everybody’s got one. And, it’s free!
I’m sure some people want to tinker with their iPod while balancing a steaming travel cup, talking on the phone and negotiating through traffic on the way to work. And, they may never return to radio. But, there are a lot of others out there that would give a listen to something that wasn’t predictable, something with a little drama. And, who knows, the word could get around.