Seems that public discontent with with the state of radio is finally being heard at some major outlets.
June 20, 2002 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Seems that public discontent with with the state of radio is finally being heard at some major outlets. The most telling part of the story is this: Those most likely to turn off the radio: teen-agers, long among the medium's mainstays. Along with MTV, the radio practices mentioned in this article are the reason a lot of good music never gets heard. A listener said it best: He longs for the free-form format of his teen years, when you could hear anything from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello, the Supremes to the Sex Pistols. . Are you listening Clear Channel? And more important are we? I'm still of the opinion that (pending legaliteis aside) the internet will be what saves radio, but it's not quite there yet.
posted by jonmc (38 comments total)
jonmc, Don't you listen to college radio? I live in a nowheresville city, but we've got at least five college radio stations that play a mind-boggling variety of music, from classical to ethnic, folk, rockabilly, punk, garage, pop, polka, psychedelia, and just-the-sort-of-thing-you'd-expect-from-a-college radio station. Plus all sorts of off-the-wall talk. I haven't listened to commercial radio in years.
posted by Faze at 8:24 AM on June 20, 2002

I love college radio, but live nowhere near any.

If, Jon, by "saves" you mean people are more used to diversity in music and not being told what to listen to, then yes, I agree.
If by saves you mean people are actually sitting at their computers listening to the radio of any great length of time in large numbers, then I'd say probably not.
posted by dong_resin at 8:32 AM on June 20, 2002

I hope the internet will kill commercial radio, especially with the emergence of 3G cell networks, that give one a high-speed always-on internet connection. Why would I listen to commercials, or pay for satelite radio, when I have a perfectly good music collection at home that I could just stream to myself wherever I go...
Of course I don't need a DJ to discover new music, I have a variety of good independant music stores within walking distance of my home ;)
posted by nomisxid at 8:34 AM on June 20, 2002

Faze, yes I do listen to college radio, and yes some of it is very good. Some of it also is needlessly obscurantist and off-putting to neophyte music fans. Plus, even most college stations are formatted- "here's the punk show, here's the reggae show etc." insuring that the uninitiated won't listen in. Plus the lack of clout weilded by most of these stations ensures that, with a few exceptions, the artists on these stations will remain marginal.
I first heard a lot of great stuff on college radio and I'm grateful it's there, but a lot of the non-music geek general public is starving for some decent music and they deserve better than what Clear Channel is offering them, which is what the rumblings in the article were about.
Stations like WNEW and others made diverse playlists a commercially viable proposition in the 60s and 70s. No reason it can't be again.
posted by jonmc at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2002

WPRB Princeton is pretty good, althought the reception here in Philly can be rough at times. Other than that, it's mp3s, records, cds, and (drumroll) tapes.

I like nomisxid's idea of streaming my mp3 collection to myself.
posted by password at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2002

The only college radio station near me (Northwestern U.'s station) plays boring free jazz and dissonant indy rock. It may appeal to the deejays, but most of it is too grating for me to tune in for long.

Oh, for the days of WXRT, when their motto was "everything in no particular order." You literally would hear Elvis Presley next to Elvis Costello, followed by New Order and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Once upon a time, they threw in random jazz and classical tunes.
posted by me3dia at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2002

I'm with jonmc on this one. It's only thanks to internet radio that the whole world can fall in love with The Archers.
posted by stuporJIX at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2002

(Yay - a civil thread!)

You know, jonmc, that's really sad - just destroyed all my 1950's, 'American Graffitti' type illusions.
But I believe its not a new phenomenon: here in the YooKay, the BBC (usually one of my favourite corporations) basically runs pop music through its dominance of the national youth market with Radio1-FM. It used to be an important cultural transmitter (pun intended), allowing each new pop generation to take something from its forebears.

I was only 10 when The Beatles split, but I was already a big fan and like all hip kids of the time, had a grounding in their back catalogue and the pop of a whole era. Why? Because the BBC (and their only real rivals, the pirate ship Radio Caroline) needed to service a whole audience - not just the 12-17 year olds who buy most singles. The advent of the playlist was the beginning of the end.

Nowadays, the radio is broader, with many more stations - surely a good thing - but it is shallower too. The lad who loved the Beatles also loved T-Rex, Gladys Knight and the Sex Pistols, in a natural evolution of taste which was nurtured by the depth and breadth of a radio which genuinely seemed important and stimulating. I really hope we can get back to that, cos over here, college radio doesn't seem to exist.

Radio GaGa, anyone? Or the Spirit of Radio?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2002

wnur evanston is pretty good! also robotwisdom linked to this salon article about satellite_radio (which saved the DJ :)
posted by kliuless at 8:55 AM on June 20, 2002

I haven't listened to the radio anywhere but in the car for 6-7 years now. And lately, I find myself choosing silence over any of the music stations while driving, they are so bad. I miss radio.

OTOH, I listen to streaming music on my computer all the time. It's great to hear all that stuff I wouldn't be able to hear anywhere else.

And I'm with jonmc re: college radio stations. I've always heard how great they are, but I think that is EXTREMELY dependent upon where you live. None of the ones I have ever had access to have done a thing for me.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2002

...Gladys Knight and the Sex Pistols...

I thought she performed with the Pips. Will have to take another look at her back catalog, then.
posted by poseur at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2002

KEXP -- college radio streaming live on the internet. They also have an incredible 1.4mbps stream for those of you wanting to burn up some bandwidth.

I never listen to commercial radio, kexp's on all day at the office.
posted by daver at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2002

poseur- I'm not sure which mental image is funnier, Gladys trying to sing "Holiday in The Sun" or Steve Jones and Johnny Rotten in tuxes dancing in synch behind her trying to harmonize on "Midnight Train to Georgia"....
posted by jonmc at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2002

Oh, for the days of WXRT

I moved from the Chicago area in '79, back then and through the 80's it really was "Chicago's Fine Rock Station". What the hell happened? Still, when I visit Chicago, I find that the overall variety, at least for mainstream rock music, is infinitely better than I've heard most anywhere else.

Miami is the absolute pit in terms of commercial stations. Unless you enjoy auto dealer commercials. There are a couple of bright spots, however. We have a good jazz/latin outlet in WDNA, our NPR affiliate is good (WLRN), U of Miami has a decent but weak station, and there's a really cool bootleg station that plays all Jamaican stuff.

I guess I'm lucky to have grown up with "classic" top 40 radio of the 60's. Repetitive, but the variety (Roger Miller, Beatles, Temptations, Sinatra on the same chart!) was staggering by today's standards.
posted by groundhog at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2002

Or was it Gladys Knight and the Spits...?
nice riff guys ;)
posted by dash_slot- at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2002

Gladys Knight and the Pimps.

'XRT is now owned by Infinity Broadcasting, one of the other mega radio conglomorates. After they bought the station its programming became increasingly playlist oriented, to the point where now you'll hear the same "new hits" every hour along with a select few hits from archive, which are also subjected to a playlist.

wnur evanston is pretty good!
Eh. They're the free jazz/obscure indy station I was referring to. Maybe I just always catch the same shows, but what I hear doesn't make me want to stick around.
posted by me3dia at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2002

NW's radio station has a good dance show that plays at about 10? or 11 at night. check it out, media. if you can get reception to it, also try columbia college's radio station (not sure of the frequency anymore); they played good stuff when i was in high school. but that's a long time ago. oh for the days when WLUW played good music all the time.
posted by moz at 10:14 AM on June 20, 2002

ObLink to
posted by waldo at 10:25 AM on June 20, 2002

No one's mentioned WFMU yet, so I'll have to plug the best radio show ever: Downtown Soulville with Mr. Fine Wine
posted by lilboo at 10:29 AM on June 20, 2002

you're a man after my my own heart his Majesty Mojo Nixon once sang "We Gotta Have More Soul."
posted by jonmc at 10:35 AM on June 20, 2002

Oooo, time to plug my favorite radio station of all time: WDST, in Poughkeepsie, NY. Yes, there are mainstream artists on this list, but to me, there's enough of a mix here to make it work. :)
posted by metrocake at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2002

...on looking at lilboo's profile...I correct myself, "woman after my own heart"...another female music geek, popping up all over the place lately...where do you all live so I can like be your male mascot?
posted by jonmc at 11:01 AM on June 20, 2002

Since we are speaking of Mr. Mojo: Jonesville Station: April 10, 2002: with guest Mojo Nixon

Actually, I moved in right across the street from Maxwell's in Hoboken - talk about your co-dependent behavior - I need help....
posted by lilboo at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2002



I saw a great triple bill of Cub, the Muffs and Southern Culture on The Skids there on New Years Eve 1994-95 and before the show having a few pops at what apparently was some kind of Mob bar nearby. Good Times Good Times. Maybe you were there.
posted by jonmc at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2002

Obligatory link to MeFi thread of cool streaming stations.
posted by thatothrgirl at 11:20 AM on June 20, 2002

I just really hope that Radio Free Hawaii, or something like it, eventually comes back.
posted by Hackworth at 11:23 AM on June 20, 2002

xrt was okay :) lin brehmer! when i lived in providence charles' show on hjy was pretty good, too. but yeah, i don't listen to the radio anymore now, except on occassion in the car. and even then i find it's sometimes better listening to static on the am :) really!
posted by kliuless at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2002

This thread is populated by old farts, isn't it?

I miss good, eclectic radio as well. In Canada we have one of the best jazz shows with After Hours, a nice eclectic mix, weeknights from 10 pm to midnight. From midnite to well past my bedtime there is Brave New Waves, an eclectic and freakishly weird mix of everything that is not top 40. Weekends after midnite is another show, but damn if I can't remember what it's called. I'm not sure but I believe you can stream it all from here.

FWIW, I don't listen to the radio too much. With the above exceptions, most radio formats feature too much overplay, not enough variety. College radio is good, but as already mentioned, you have to take the time to tune in and figure out when the good shows are on. Oh for a station that is 24 hours with the kind of variety that you can find online!
posted by ashbury at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2002

Too late! I didn't mention where to find those shows, tho you could figure it out right away by the links. The venerable all-things-to-everybody Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, better known as THE CBC.
posted by ashbury at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2002

Password, I *love* WPRB.

As far as 'Net radio, it does have a long way to go. eYada was the most popular website (i think) devoted solely to internet radio and it went bankrupt. A good friend of mine had a show on eYada, and he said the market was THERE, but it sunk due to bad management. Shame.
posted by Modem Ovary at 12:02 PM on June 20, 2002

It's linked to in the thread thatothergirl mentioned, but I gotta put in a plug for WMSE. It's a bit formatted, but the DJs sure know their stuff, so it's not dull. It's the only local station I listen to. Just can't take the commercial ones any more. I remember when we had some absolutely great stations here in Milwaukee (WLPX jumps to mind), but it's been a long time since they've been around.
posted by aine42 at 1:17 PM on June 20, 2002

WYEP, an independent public station in Pittsburgh, is pretty much the only radio I listen to. They do overplay their stuff in rotation a bit, but not nearly so incessantly as any one of the n Clear Channel stations in the region. To borrow a line from Futurama, their programming tends toward vaguely-folkish alterna-rock.
posted by Vetinari at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2002

correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't satellite radio have zero provisions for a college radio-type outlet because its distributors are commercial entities? i'm suspicious of xm - it sounds fine in theory and it's doing a really good job at getting 'we're authentic' pr, but when push comes to shove, it's going to have to make money -- have we learned nothing from the signing of paw and girls against boys? -- and payola's a pretty convenient way to do that, as is catering to the lowest common denominator.

i don't think that radio can ever be 'the way it was' again in terms of free-floating formats. rock just isn't a dominant force (the 'diverse' playlists cited above seem to be pretty rockcentric, no?) and audiences are way splintered (note all the stations that pride themselves on not playing rap, which seems to thrill certain demographics). bean-counters are too interested in having people stay on one station long enough to hear the commercials, since they're what pays the bills. 'freeform' just doesn't cut that anymore.

also, am i the only person who finds the wussy acoustic singer-songwriter style that is so popular on public radio absolutely noxious? it's dentist's office music with lower-fi production (sometimes).
posted by maura at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2002

maura, it depends on which wussy acoustic singer-songwriters you're talking about, unless it's all of them. Just as in any genre, some I like and some I don't.
posted by ashbury at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2002


Don't you listen to college radio? I live in a nowheresville city, but we've got at least five college radio stations that play a mind-boggling variety of music, from classical to ethnic, folk, rockabilly, punk, garage, pop, polka, psychedelia, and just-the-sort-of-thing-you'd-expect-from-a-college radio station.

Put simply Faze, you're a damn lucky bastard.

There's no college radio station within a 200 mile radius of where I live. We used to have a couple of good local rock stations that played a fun and eclectic variety of music, but they have turned into massive piles of raging stinky commercial shit (and Howard Stern - Yay!) since 1995 or so.

Listen to radio? No thanks. That's why cassette tapes were invented.
posted by mark13 at 8:52 PM on June 20, 2002

If you're in the western suburbs of Chicago, you can listen to WONC 89.1 FM, out of North Central College in Naperville. (You can also listen to the station on their webpage. It plays a good mix of music, the DJs actually take - and play - requests, and it's commercial-free!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:51 PM on June 20, 2002

I can't stand commercial radio. That's why I listen to shortwave. Most mornings, I can get sing-sing from Papua New Guinea, cumbia from Colombia, or huaynos from Peru. Later in the morning, there's a great two hour program of world music from Radio Australia. Mid-afternoon, I listen to taarab from Radio Tanzania Zanzibar. An hour or so before sunset, lots of other stations from Africa start rolling in, and I get 1950s highlife from Ghana, or Afropop from Burkina Faso and Mali. As the sun starts to set, I can listen to filmi music from India. The Latin American stations are in all evening; Cuba broadcasts some of the best music in the world, commercial free. After midnight, the Africans start signing on again. I can hear Madagascar with their unique music for a half hour or so before the sun rises there, and I can follow the sun across Africa until I go to sleep to the sounds of guitars from Guinea.

Of course, not everyone is going to spend the kind of money on radios that I spent on mine, nor put in the kind of effort at erecting an antenna that can hear all this stuff clearly enough to enjoy it. But a lot of these stations are decently receivable on a portable radio costing $200-300.
posted by geneablogy at 10:23 PM on June 20, 2002

maura, it depends on which wussy acoustic singer-songwriters you're talking about, unless it's all of them

it's more of an ethos thing -- i have no problem with, say, ed harcourt, who got a fair amount of play on the most boring station in philadelphia -- but the fact that the particular genre of acoustic singer-songwriters is the pasture of 'serious' radio stations is troubling to me because it, too, squeezes out other types of music that i might like.

although i guess it does bring in the dollars at pledge drive time ...
posted by maura at 5:14 AM on June 21, 2002

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