On Digging Ones own Grave
In describing terrestrial radio’s modern methods for measuring their impact and what that’s meant for how modern stations are programmed, Kornelis examines how new music makes it onto radio, which is to say that it mostly doesn’t. A program director for the local 103.7 FM, the staunchly AAA format station which probably accounts for a sizable percent of the Steve Miller Band’s mechanical royalties, in a single revealing quote frames modern radio’s problem right now: “What’s new for [some people] is something that’s been out for a year.”
After a nice examination of the pager-like device that stations are using to automatically monitor how long folks are listening to radio and what they listen to and then how those stations are reacting to the results, Kornelis closes with the notion that static and contracting playlists in corporate radio may have as much to do with the quality of the music being made today as anything else, “[N]ot that there’s a bias against them, but because they’re simply not good enough.”
At one point in time radio had cultural cache. Just 31, I myself was young enough to grow up on radio and feel that. The oldies station first as a youngin’, then KUBE in its “Baby Got Back” and Doggystyle heyday, KNND when it was ground-zero for grunge, and then finally a bit of pop country radio where apparently all the action is now. (Don’t hate.) With the above comments I wonder that I’ll be among the last generation to have that kind of relationship with pop radio.
With this article’s general admission that little current material that’s relevant to the newest generation is making it to radio, why would they care listen at all? Because it’s just there? Playing only the biggest hits that we’ve already heard a thousand times?
I rarely agree with Kornelis’ fellow Weekly music scribe @EricGrandy, but his tangentially releated tweet today was trenchant:
old(er) people asking if anyone *really cares* about music made after 2000 is NAGL. entry-level boomer solipsism.
We can argue endlessly about how far in the throes of death pop radio’s cultural relevance really is, but willfully ignoring today’s notion of pop will only hasten that inevitable death. That it hasn’t updated it’s already inadequate definition of “new” to the real-time demands of the barely mentioned Internet and it’s latest digital generation ensures that while radio does live it will remain the domain of those old(er) people for whom time might not be moving so fast or would rather that it stand still altogether.
Because of the painfully predictable playlists this mentality has produced most radio was dead to me a decade ago. At a certain point a song stops being “safe” and starts to be punishment. Honestly, I never need to hear “The Joker,” Rob & Carlos’ collab “Smooth,” or midnight hour favorite “Santeria” ever again. Ever. Apparently I won’t be getting my wish anytime soon.