I haven’t listened to mainstream radio for years. Literally, the last time I purposefully turned on a radio to hear music is out of memory- I’m guessing three to four years ago (if then even).
And why would I devoid myself of such listening pleasure? Allow me to give a few reasons.
Uninteresting, bland, contrived repetition of the same songs
It only takes a few minutes of listening to a radio station- even the little bit you’ll hear as you’re scanning the FM dial looking for NPR, or from the car stopped next to you at a stoplight- to know that radio stations are rigidly, and uninspiringly playing the same set of over-played songs from the same mainstream artists that they’ve been playing seemingly since my childhood.
The days of a disc-jockey actually choosing the music to play are long gone, and if you think that Jed The Fish, for example, on the popular KROQ in Los Angeles, actually wants to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” every other hour, everyday since- oh, I don’t know- 1993 then go ahead and believe it.
Clear Channel- the corporate entity that owns the majority of main stream radio stations in virtually all markets has deemed it ‘good business’ to only play “hit” songs, and to do so often enough to target their demographic listener who, on average, listens to FM radio for about 4.3 minutes on a given drive to or from work. The researchers have figured that if they can virtually guarantee that the listener in that 4.3 minutes will hear a ‘hit’ song, then that listener is likely to not change the station, and to even tune in again the next day. Thus, boosts the ratings.
You and I are the victim of this demographic research. You and I are the ones who might actually listen to the radio for an hour or two if they played the songs we wanted to hear. But instead of taking a chance on ‘less popular’ ‘less instantly accessible’ music (which would diversify the station’s playlist), they trust to ‘ole’ faithful’: the decade old, once mega-hit by a band that likely isn’t even touring anymore.
This is true for virtually all mainstream radio stations as even the ones not owned by Clear Channel have chosen to ‘compete’ with them by trying to beat them at their own game, rather than risking their own necks on originality.
Lowers one’s musical sophistication and appreciation.
A person who listens to a lot of radio is perhaps not unlike a person who watches a lot of television. Their perception of the world will be filtered through the mass-media’s, homogenously waterd down sound-bites and flashy, second-long images, and their exposure to true art and rich culture will be all but non-existent.
Mainstream radio so limits the listener’s experience of the vast musical universe so as to make him or her all but completely stunted in their cultural growth and artistic sense. Because most ‘hits’ are virtual carbon copies of one another- usually with similar structures, varying slightly on combinations and shuffles of verses and choruses- the listener to mainstream radio will become accustomed to hearing what amounts to cookie-cutter music and will thereby form other musical opinions based on those cookie-cutter standards. The result is that when the listener is perhaps exposed to something uniquely new and artful, the listener will likely scowl, and say ‘that music is weird.’
Like children who are exposed only to finger paints for years will, upon first encountering a Da Vinci or Repin, will wrinkle their noses and walk away unimpressed, so is the mainstream radio listener susceptible to a life of living only in finger paints.
The advent of the IPOD: no need for radio
The internet and MP3 players have made mainstream radio all but completely obsolete. I mean, why listen through the commercial breaks only to hear Radiohead’s ONLY song they ever recorded- ya, you konw that one- “Creep” (Radiohead broke up after recording that song and haven’t picked up musical instruments since) played for the gazillionith time?
I am fortunate enough to have 7,000+ songs on my 80gig IPOD. Everything from Mozart and Manson, to Iron & Wine. And, oh, look there, I’ve just found about fifty other brilliant Radiohead songs there. Funny, I guess they didn’t break up after all.
So where do you find new music (and old forgotten music) if not on the radio? (Keep checking back. I’ll post about that some other time.)
But here’s a start: The Microphones “The Glow Pt.2”