FM buried the radio star

17 01 2009

Entire books could be written about this topic and my guess is that there have been a few. Mine certainly aren’t novel observations. But I feel the need to say a few words on it anyway.

FM radio, which was once was cutting edge and did so much to advance popular music forms, has essentially killed pop and rock music. Video may have killed the radio star, but radio buried his corpse and pissed on his grave. FM radio is unlistenable. Commercial radio is shockingly awful! Corporate-owned radio stations – by “corporate” I mean huge multi-national media conglomerates like CBS – have ruined about every format imaginable. Classic rock stations play the same 5 or 10 greatest hits of by the biggest bands from ’64 to ’84. Don’t expect to hear a Who or Led Zeppelin song that wouldn’t make one of a “best of” package. The adult contemporary/lite rock stations are sickening in the run-up to Christmas, playing the same 45 Christmas songs over and over and over and over and over… 24 hours a day for 2 months. If I ever hear a George Jones or Merle Haggard or Hank Williams, Sr. on a country station, I swear I’ll run naked around my neighborhood for 6 hours straight. (Okay, I’ll think of something that won’t frighten the neighbors.  The point is that no matter what I bet, I’ll never have to worry about losing.)

The solution to this problem, I am told, is satellite radio. I simply refuse, though, to pay to listen to radio. When I was a kid, TV, radio, and water were free (more or less.) Remember when the promise of cable TV was that there were more channels and no commercials? That didn’t last too long. If you have cable you pay to watch TV and have to see the commercials. They’re not going to lure me in with promises like that. I’m willing to listen to ads on the radio, I just want – demand! – better programming.

So far, the only solution I’ve found to this problem is my local high school-run station, WSDP in Plymouth, Michigan. 88.1 (the Escape) is kind of like college radio and is commercial-free. There are some pretty bad top 40-type songs that get played frequently but, for the most part, the music is stuff you don’t hear on corporate radio.

By the way, I know there’s internet radio, too. I’m not the most tech-savvy guy. As far as I know, it’s not possible to listen to web-based radio in my car, which is where I do most of my listening.

For now, I go on railing, screaming at the windmill. Maybe someday, some corporate customer service department lackey will hear my gripes and pass them along to the powers-that-be. One can hope, can’t he?




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