Clear Channel killed the radio star...
August 8, 2002 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Clear Channel killed the radio star... Okay, so you and your competition buy up all these radio stations and kill the little guys with the big hearts, then one day your audience turns on you. What do you do? You coldly attempt to mimic the attitude of the once successful radio stations that you and your enemy helped kill years before, and a fickle audience buys into it, at least for awhile. You still look like a bunch of boners, but hey at least the Arbitrons look good for a couple quarters. The Zoo and Q102 are spinning in their vampire-like graves... Is this a success story, or an autopsy? Can good radio survive corporate mentality?
posted by ZachsMind (24 comments total)
Pick the top five industries in the United States that need to be broken up, not because they are monopolies, but because they are oligopolies--a few corporations that control the whole industry. The corporate names really pop into mind, especially in the major media.
If it seems reasonable to break them up, isn't it about time that somebody started to advocate it?
How many of us would shed a tear if Clear Channel, or AOL/Time Warner was broken up?
posted by kablam at 6:56 PM on August 8, 2002

Hey Zach, you must be from the Dallas area. I grew up on The Zoo and Q102 (Bo and Jim). Not much left on the radio but the local NPR station KERA 90.1 (Not much music, but it is interesting). Now that ClearChannel owns a boatload of stations, the contests are nation wide. "Be the 100'th person in the country to call and win alot of money!" Why bother and why listen. The programming is unimaginative and the on air talent stale. I say bring back the local ownership!
posted by hockeyman at 7:15 PM on August 8, 2002

What "little guys with big hearts" are you talking about? I hate Clear Channel with a passion, but they certainly didn't kill off a bunch of altruistic stations that were striving to bring innovative, creative programming to the masses. Real creativity and innovation have come from college stations and public radio and will continue to do so. Clear Channel is simply digging a deeper grave for an already moribund and monolithic transmission medium. Let it die, I say.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2002

Hey Zach, is the bone owned by clearchannel? the observer from this week has the bone as their front page story, which i haven't read yet (and i'm too lazy to do it now), but the principle pisses me off. Plus, I have a 2 minute commute to the train station, so basically all i hear are commercials. Don't know much about Dallas any Radio, glad I'm missing out.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:18 PM on August 8, 2002 Link.
posted by waldo at 8:29 PM on August 8, 2002

The Bone is owned by Susquehanna. That's the second link in my opening post. I don't blame the fault squarely on Clear Channel. It's just that Clear Channel is the biggest target. Susquehanna is supposedly a Texas owned and operated company, but even with statewide thinking, corporate mentality in general just sucks. They claim to be listening to their audience, but they focus more on the ratings shares every quarter than they do the people calling the DJs. Request line? What's that?

Crain's take in the piece is that Susquehanna is going in the right direction with The Bone, but then he does that. He praises stuff when a lot of people like it and dismisses anything under the radar. It's a good article though. And it hurts me to say that, but I give credit where it's due.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:53 PM on August 8, 2002

Susquehanna is supposedly a Texas owned and operated company, but even with statewide thinking, corporate mentality in general just sucks.

uhm....susquehanna is from pennsylvania. you know....with the susquehanna river? {snark/}
posted by amandaudoff at 8:59 PM on August 8, 2002

Reminder of ClearChannel's supposed banned song list post 9/11 (just for shits and giggles). Here's my post about it (obvious self link). Seems like so long ago, but it's not, really.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:21 PM on August 8, 2002

Forgot to add (sorry, I'm absent-minded while doing laundry) thanks for the good post, Zach, and thanks for participating, Amanda. Glad to see you all around here!
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:23 PM on August 8, 2002

And OyVey! Color me a stooge and a half. As I link to the same story Zach did in the FPP (first post here). Awwwww, dammit! Many apologies!

I'll shut the hell up now.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:26 PM on August 8, 2002

That's why i said "supposedly" Amanda. =) It claims to be a company for 'dfwradio' but Susquehanna is just a corporate minded as Clear Channel. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, they still have their ties too tight and there's no oxygen making it to their brains.

The Bone's plan to appear like the stations now gone where the DJs actually knew many fans by their first name and were really cool and blah blah.. It's just wolves in sheep's clothing. But hey. The audience bought it. So it must be okay. (rolls eyes)

As for the Banned Song List, I'm thankful that memo accidently leaked. I took that list and went to some mp3 search engines and made five CDs worth of music from the best of that list. It's a damn good list. Some of the best music of the last half century is on that list.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:30 PM on August 8, 2002

It's a damn good list. Some of the best music of the last half century is on that list.

Guaranteed, Zach. That's why I made the post that I did about it.

I will say, though. The Bone has been a bit less un-P.C. than the Eagle. With their whole "send us pictures of your naked breasts and you can enter our 'win some new tits' contest." (their words, not mine) I won't ever listen to that station again.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:48 PM on August 8, 2002

i'm curious how this boobie contest works, exactly. the worst pair (that in need of the most work) wins? who wants to see naked pictures of those?

you know....with all of the marketing that went into its launch, until i read the observer article, from seeing the posters and the van around town ,i thought the bone was another r&b/rap station. either i'm really oblivious or their advertising department isn't as slick as they'd hope.

but then, i'm a 20 year old girl....not exactly their target demographic.

and zach? a pox on you and your qualifiers. ;)
posted by amandaudoff at 10:50 PM on August 8, 2002

Why do I have the feeling that clear channel is owned by the CIA?
posted by MaddCutty at 11:08 PM on August 8, 2002

Susquehanna Radio Corp. is indeed a subsidiary of Susquehanna-Pfaltzgraff, a Pennsylvania conglomerate which has been in the radio business since 1942.
posted by dhartung at 11:27 PM on August 8, 2002

Of course, Dallas-Fort Worth is still a huge urban area where they at least still pay lip-service to the local listening tastes. An earlier post on Clear Channel's shabby treatment of its Boise listening audience—San Diego? Boise? Medfield? What's the difference?—suggests to me that commercial radio will always be in some sort of crisis. Up until the present century, popular music was always local. It gave the locals a distinct identity. I think there are still vestiges of this localism in the current listening public.

In contrast, big business depends on regional, national and even global similarities in order to make money. It needs to homogenize its market so that it can sell the same products everywhere. This might work for lawnmowers and other practical goods, but I suspect musical tastes will always resist efforts to completely homogenize the music marketplace. Sure, it's become more homogenous over the years, but there are some signs of localist resistance. As long as Clear Channel tries to cultivate a "national music market," it will find itself hung up in the web of a huge oxy-moron.

Or, at least, one can hope...
posted by smrtsch at 12:29 AM on August 9, 2002

The problem around here is that while many of the stations are Clear Channel- or otherwise corporately-owned, the premier (only?) college station has, from my impression and what I know from people I've talked to who work there, devolved into a station almost exclusively for the community of DJs; they tend to stroke themselves over their "independent" and obviously superior tastes, to the point of removing songs and artists from their playlists which receive too many requests, thereby alienating a significant chunk of their listenership. (All they play is independent music anyway... so if people like it, they stop?) They do have a lot of good music, but a hell of a lot of the time they play pure garbage, too (what I like to call "underexposed for a reason").

And you take the good with the bad, but it seems that it's turned into DJs showing off how much they know about independent music, rather than trying to expose good underground music to the community.
posted by nath at 1:37 AM on August 9, 2002

Meanwhile, Washington is starting to take an interest. "There's an opportunity for discussion about radio that would have been unthinkable six months or a year ago." Sell that Clear Channel stock today, folks!
posted by thijsk at 2:59 AM on August 9, 2002

I'm happy that here in Austin, local company LBJS (owned at least in part by Lady Bird Johnson and daughter Luci Baines) runs several local stations, including at least two that don't sound like stations in every other city in the nation: KLBJ-FM, which has been playing hard rock since before Austin became Silicon Hills, and KGSR, which plays a great variety of music, including lots of local artists.
posted by tippiedog at 7:42 AM on August 9, 2002

Supposedly KITS-FM ("Live 105", San Francisco) recently moved away from nu metal a bit and added some fresher stuff... but I haven't heard a difference.

I remember the early '90s where KITS was a bit of a miracle: seemingly a college station with professional DJs. In the mid-90s, I wished another station would adopt that format, for an "alternative to the alternative" when KITS played Erasure or Green Day one too many times.

Circa 1995, KOME went to modern rock. Cool. But the format was changing, playlists were shrinking, and KITS was starting to sound more like KOME instead of the reverse.

When I came back to the Bay Area after 3 weeks in NZ, the Ruin Radio Act of 1996 had taken its toll. I turned on Live 105 only to get Howard Stern, who was supposed to be on KOME. "What's wrong with my radio?" I wondered. Eventually I found out: the parent owner of KOME and KITS had killed off KOME. By this time Live 105 was no longer worth listening to, and got kicked off my presets.

So I had wished for another Live 105 and ended up with nothing. I feel like the guy from "The Monkey's Paw."
posted by kurumi at 10:10 AM on August 9, 2002

Me, I drive an hour each way to/from work daily. I am a longtime hater of commercial music radio, which is definitely the most mediocre of all big media these days. Now, I've got XM radio, which has stations that actually play what I listen to. It's the best $10/month I've ever spent.
posted by Phaedrus at 11:08 AM on August 9, 2002

Hey Phaedrus, since you hate commercial music radio so much ... did you know that your XM subscription is helping line Clear Channel's pockets? That's right, everyone's favorite broadcasting multiglomerate is an investor in XM.

I know, I know, it goes against all the XM rhetoric of being an "alternative" to what's out there. Such is the way that concept's being used these days -- as long as there's profit to be made, true alternatives will be pushed aside in the name of almighty marketing.
posted by maura at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2002

KGSR, which plays a great variety of music, including lots of local artists.

As a one-time Austin resident, I though KGSR was almost single-handedly responsible for creating the plague known as the adult alternative (or Triple A) format.

They do play local stuff, which is good, but it was always a little too bland for me.
posted by pitchblende at 1:03 PM on August 9, 2002

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