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Think Radio Has Gotten Boring? You’re Not Alone!

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Rock radio programmer Keith Hastings (WAAF F.M. Boston) recently wrote an article for radio industry trade mag Radio and Records titled “Music Still Matters.” Anyone who has listened to the average corporate radio station in the past few years certainly has to wonder if the music does still matter, and it was a subject that prompted fellow programmer Greg Gillispie to pen a response to Hastings on his weblog:

WAAF/Boston PD Keith Hastings wrote an article entitled “Music Still Matters” in the August 20 R&R. You should read it. Here’s my letter to Keith…

Keith…or should I say R&R Rock Editor Pinch Hitter…

Your article in the August 20 edition pretty much hits the nail on the head. But with that said, one has to wonder if anyone really cares about taking the time to listen to the “music.” If they did, you might not have written about the need to do so.

>When I started in this business – I think you were just out of your diapers – it was all about the music! Of course the big guns of the 60s – The Beatles and The Stones – along with several others, were the cornerstones of the “progressive, underground format.” And then there were bands that had been around for a few to several years that were either big stars – such as Zeppelin – or just coming into their own and on the verge of becoming the next layer of the format’s foundation – Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, etc. And as time progressed into the mid 70s, other bands – Boston, Heart, etc. – emerged, developed, and became another layer in the format.

But these days, and for the last several “days,” it doesn’t seem like any bands get the time, space, and support to turn into valuable commodities for the future of the format. Get a “hit” today or you’re done. Outside of a very few, I’d be surprised if many are still played in the next 5 years. I hate to sound so negative, but it appears to be the reality of the times.

As an example, several “kids” – ages 14 to 17 – in my soon to be former Atlanta neighborhood, are so into the artists of my youth – Hendrix, Stones, Zepp, etc., – as evidenced by the T-shirts they wear – they passed on a big pile of new CDs I offered to give them. Outside of Linkin Park, they feel as though the rest are not worth a shit. Then there’s my 12-year old daughter, who a month or so ago asked if I had The Beastie Boys “Ch Check It Out.” I must hear that song coming out of her room 5 times a day! And just last week, she asked if I had their song “Funky Monkey.” I have no idea where she heard about that (correctly titled “Brass Monkey”). But all the others you would think a girl of that age would be into are not even on her radar – they don’t make music, just videos to look good.

Your comments about not having the time to listen to music because of the need to be involved with the sales peeps, trying to maximize what few dollars are available or create the increasingly-popular NTR dollars, and taking care of the multiple stations on your business card are so observant. But again, that’s the reality of the times.

Having worked with a young and very talented band (Travisty Theory) over the summer, I can attest firsthand how few programmers took the time to listen to the CD single and/or mp3 I sent them as an advance of the band’s market performance in front of Sevendust. Let’s not even talk about the lack of return phone calls! And our mission was not to be a chart monster – just build a grassroots foundation. Yet our youngsters set the standard for some “vets” during the tour when it came time to build a relationship with the concertgoers. Something about adding 20-50 or more names to the database each night was perhaps more pleasing than knowing someone in radio listened to the song. One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, those in radio that didn’t listen to the music will listen to their listeners say they want to hear this and other grassroots bands.

In the end, you are correct about tapping into the music to keep the format vital! But the system – both the record company’s and radio’s – has dramatically changed. As a result, record companies check numbers in a credible publication such as R&R and radio checks numbers on a piece of paper or computer screen every week or two and a substantially greater number of numbers once or twice a year to make sure the music is “right.” And then it is up to the PD or MD to make sure those numbers line up in the most favorable pattern to keep people tuning in.

I’ve always – or have for quite some time – felt that what comes between the music is what makes the difference in the attraction to the work that is our lives. Yes, the music has to be vitally right, but I challenge anyone that I could play the same music in the same order that they do, but have better talent, imaging, and commercials (a worthy goal) and win every single time!

OK, enough typing. You make good points that will hopefully spur a few to sit up and take notice. For me, I have a dozen or so new CDs that I haven’t listened to, but will now. I’ll let you know if I hear anything that might benefit your station!

Greg makes some excellent points with his above post. Believe it or not, there are still great records being made. In many cases, you’re just simply not hearing them on your radio station. The recent album releases from Thornley, Saliva, and David Crosby and Graham Nash all deserve MUCHO record sales, and the only one out of that bunch that is likely to do so, is the Saliva album. It’s good to see influential programmers noticing that perhaps they should hit play on their CD player a bit more often, and with that action, hopefully music fans can look forward to hearing forward-thinking bands on their favorite radio station again someday soon!

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About Matt Wardlaw

  • SFC SKI

    Thanks for the tip to a good music site.

    I lived in Boston for 7 years, and I remember when WAAF and its worthy competitor, WBCN, were all a person need to hear overwhelming amounts of great and diverse music. It’s so damned sad that radio really is crap now. If I lived in the States, I would definitely be getting into XM in hopes of finding some worthy stuff to listen to all day long.

    Someone pointed out to me that radio is no longer programmed for day long entertainment, it is for drive time, basically an hour or so perday, you hear the hits and don’t notice the repetition.

  • jd

    I’ll say, if you don’t like bizkit, kid rock, britney spears, christina aguilera, p diddy, or eminem you’re out of luck because that’s all you hear!

    And whatever to happened to local contests? Caller 9 nationwide? What’s the point?