At age eight, I received my first cassette tape of classical music. It was music for twirling around the living room, and nothing more. At age 11, I got my first classical music CD. It had Handel’s “Hornpipe” on it, which I had just played at summer music camp, but the rest of the music was Impressionist stuff that, quite frankly, weirded me out a little bit.
Speed ahead a few years to age 14. I’m now living in a major metropolitan area with countless quality radio stations, most of them playing Top 40 hits or soccer mom mixes of music from the past three decades. And in spite of all this variety, what station am I hooked on? Classical.
My peers chose Britney; I chose Beethoven. They stayed up late to hear electronic mixes of Justin Timberlake; I got up at six in the morning just to catch Johan Sebastian Bach on the classical hit countdown. Not only that, but I also carried an FM-equipped CD player to school just so that on my study break I could still enjoy the graceful guitar music of Rodrigo.
If a 14-year-old could be this gung-ho about instrumental music, then the devotion must increase with adulthood, right? Classical radio must surely be thriving, right? It’s just the opposite. FM radio is entering its final, desperate stages of life, and classical music is almost always the first to be booted off the boat.
According to Mike Janssen of Current.org, “Listeners were tuning away to other commercial and noncommercial news outlets when classical music hit the air weekday mornings. Over two years, classical music listener-hours fell by 25 percent.”
This is the way of the iPod generation, otherwise known as the “now” generation. We want to be informed around the clock of what’s happening in the world, and if our iPhone doesn’t have a news app open, then we turn on the radio to get some voice snippets. There is a constant hunger to get what you want when you want it.
Consider the popularity of Pandora and Grooveshark. You can easily find the exact genre of music you want to hear, and if the song gets dull, you can forever delete it from the playlist with little time wasted. Additionally, you can stream these sites from your computer — no FM signal required — and carry them along on your portable music player.
But as these sites pick up fans, classical radio dies. All around the country, FM stations are being forced to consolidate, reformat, or overhaul their programming.