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Radio Is Dead

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Nothing new here. We’ve talked this one to death. But an item in the local newspaper (The Boston Globe) about a Dj celebrating his 30th year on the air was just plain depressing:

    “We live by research now,” Wright says. “If research dictates that this set of songs tests well, then those are the songs we play. Back then, we went on record sales, and on occasion the DJ could play his favorite. Right now, we really don’t have that freedom.”

I know that this is true, I just hate to read it. And it gets worse:

    He adds, though, that he would be hesitant to advise newcomers to choose a career in radio. “It’s changed too much. There’s really no one left who is willing to teach these young guys, and some of these young guys are not willing to learn. You can make as much money working at McDonald’s when you’re starting out. But if you’re willing to pay your dues and hone your craft and take direction, you can make a living out of this business.”

Hone your craft? Really?? There’s creativity involved in making a computer send out the next entry on the predigested playlist? Here’s the final straw:

    Wright credits his longevity to his willingness to follow his own advice. “Keep your mouth shut and behave yourself. Just go with the flow: Take direction and roll with the changes, ’cause the changes keep coming,” he says.

Yes, do keep your mouth shut…because the board of directors and the market researchers have taken over.

…and radio is dead.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • Has anyone noticed that indie bands are doing better than ever? Radio is slowly reducing it’s own relevance by sucking. There are a lot of us who won’t deal with the lack of creativity and the limited playlists.

  • I haven’t purposely listened to the radio in so many years I can’t even remember how long it’s been. Early 90s, I know that. I’m surprised anyone even bothers anymore.

  • Andy

    I listen to the classic rock station mostly. But all of a sudden they started playing Creed and other shit like that! They’re like, “It doesn’t have to be old to be a classic”…if Creed’s a classic than my ass ain’t huge!

  • Eric Olsen

    What is completely missing from radio is any sense of surprise – that’s what I miss both as a listener and as a broadcaster.

  • I can’t remember if I ever posted this here, but I remember driving back to Boston after a summer in Cleveland off of school and I was listening to WFNX. As I was driving in, I heard Terrible Lie by NIN, Territorial Pissings by Nirvana, Outshined by Soundgarden, and Meantime by Helmet. It was a great mix that included all songs that certainly weren’t on the modern rock radio list. This is the kind of thing that just can’t happen today. Boring repetitive playlists are ruining the surprise like Eric said.

  • …any sense of surprise


    i knew things were going downhill many years ago. i was visiting my inlaws (back in a previous lifetime/marriage) in central maine.

    i had on the station that i used to listen to in high school (WTOS)…it was the Nth anniversay of the death of Bob Marley…the dj says this and goes on to say that he can’t play any Bob Marley…so he substituted something…mighta been UB40.

    high suck factor.

  • Eric Olsen

    “And let us now celebrate the life of the most important figure in reggae history, a man of world-historical importance, BOB MARLEY, with Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff” …

  • This isn’t really news. Commercial rock radio stations have all been consultant-driven for at least 20 years.

  • Eric Olsen

    Dave, yes, but even just 8 years ago I had the freedom to do my own programming for a specialty show on the commercial modern rock station in Cleveland.

  • I have worked in radio for a long time and sadly have witnessed its steady decline over the past 25 years. The killing has been under way gradually, thanks to a slow-moving virus that infected the industry over a long period of time. There were still healthy sectors of the broadcasting world along the way, as Eric notes. But now, those healthy sectors are very few in number, and they are not likely long for this ClearChannelized world. The virus: the combination of Drake Chenault and greed…

    It’s a damn shame. I love radio when it’s adventurous and, yes, surprising, and even, dare I say, artistic.

  • Eric Olsen

    Natalie has it right – the central issue has been the extreme leveraging of stations by speculators and aggregators after the FCC ownership rules changed the first time, and the consequent NEED to maximize profits short-term, not build for the long-term, much as has happened with the record companies.

  • I worked in college radio for a while and it was the best job i have ever had (out of 4 or 5 total jobs). The station format forced us to experiment with genres unfamiliar to us and expose new artists we thought deserved it.

    So you can imagine how i feel about modern mainstream radio. I’m much better off listening to the music in my head.

    With that said, however, i’d like to drive home the fact that college radio is still a good place to find new stuff. I live in a city strangely in love with metal, and the big rock station here loves to play Creed, Nickelback, and whatever else depressing band of the day happens to be in heavy rotation. But there are also two college stations that i can depend on to at least play songs by (good) popular bands that never get airplay or bands that I have not heard of. I heard some cool NOFX last night and other west coast-y punk bands. I’ve heard them play “Very Ape” by Nirvana.

    The point here is that we can whine all we want about mainstream radio (which i love to do) but we need to support college radio. Those kids are on the right track.

  • PS: the city i live in now is not the city where i was a Deejay…

  • Eric Olsen

    very mysterious P-man, even college radio has “professionalized” and playlists have tightened as stations have come to realize they have actual clout via CMJ, etc

  • Particleman, before I read your comment, I was going to add that college radio was still great and they play a variety of stuff, from trip hop to hip hop. There’s nothing better to lead you to the new scene before it arrives than the indie crowd of college students.

    By the way, I have yet to find someone that actually likes Creed, how is it that they’re popular?

  • Eric, i guess i should have guessed (!) that not all college stations have the same freedoms. I urge you to check out the station i linked above, they do online radio 24/7 and, last time i was there, deejays have almost total freedom.

    VS- yeah, them indie kids can get annoying every now and then, but they’re good at hunting down the quality artists. I have no idea how/why metal is so big in this city, but ppl seem to love it. What really escapes explanation, however, is the fact that the rock station here will play the metal junk alongside old school Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pumpkins, etc. I think it’s the deejays getting nostalgiac.