Why I Gave Up on Radio

May 27, 2009

I’ve been listening to the radio lately, quite a lot actually. I remember always complaining back home, because of our one station, and therefore “crappy” music we got. In good old Toronto, we have dozens of stations, and yet, I still don’t feel compelled to listen to the radio.

My experimental station of the week has been The Edge, 102.1 FM. Now, for the last three days, I’ve been listening to the station off and on every evening. I’ve come to realize that the radio stations I used to dream about when I was younger operate much like the ones I grew bored of back home. Each afternoon, I’ve been treated to the exact same songs, usually played around the same time as well. If you tune in this week, you’ll be sure to hear either Metric, MGMT, Alexisonfire’s “Young Cardinals”, the new Billy Talent song, and especially some new Green Day. Oh God are they whoring that abomination out (just tonight the one host claimed that every song on the album could be a hit single, and I wanted to ask the DJ to remove the dick from his mouth).

Now, I’m in radio, and I understand how rotation works, and that certain songs will get played everyday. It’s been like that forever. Here’s the problem. Just last night, for example, I got to hear the new Metric song twice in the span of about 3-4 hours. Ditto for MGMT, and the new Franz Ferdinand. Worse yet, for some bizarre reason they played Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane” at the EXACT same time as the night before, and also did the same with a Rage Against the Machine song. I’ve come to a theory as to why things are repeating so quickly. I think that now, radio stations don’t expect people to be listening for longer than and hour or two. And really, I don’t know many people that do listen to, or have the radio on for longer than two hours at a time. You can really tell this, when the DJ plugged his blog twice last night, basically saying the exact same thing (word for word) at different times. This is one reason why I haven’t head a healthy relationship with the radio lately, as it rarely catches my interest with something new. It’s sad when I get excited because they’re playing some alt rock song from the 90’s, instead of more electro pop crap (yes I don’t care at all for this whole synth “80’s” sounding pop crap)

My dislike of some of the music leads me to another reason why I don’t listen to the radio anymore. It seems that songs get played just for the sake of it. Obviously, that’s what radio is, but I mean more so that they’re played, regardless if they’re good or not. Case in point, what I’ve described above, where they play the same songs over and over, and I’m not really interested in much of it. This isn’t just a shot at the Edge, but radio in general. It’s like once a group has one or two successful albums, they’ve basically become locked into radio play, regardless of whether the new album blows or not. “So and so has a new album? Guess we have to play the single,”. I guess that’s all subjective, but I’ve become continually bored and apathetic of whatever I’ve been listening to on the radio lately, especially when I listen to an “alternative” station and get bombarded with the same 7 songs over and over. (They played the same Eagles of Death Metal song twice last night as well. Side note: why are they so popular? I never got that…)

I know what most of the people who’ve actually bothered to read this far are saying. “Well, if you don’t like it, then change the station, stop whining you <insert random insult>”. I agree with those people. In fact, becoming bored of the radio is basically one of the reasons why I discovered so many of the bands I love today. I was driven to search more, and look deeper to find things that really spoke to me, and I’m glad to continue that today. As a kid I used to try to listen to the Top 40  every week, to see who would be number one. Nowadays, I couldn’t tell you who’s in the Top 20, and I really couldn’t care.

I guess there’s really no point to this big rant, other than to make me sound like a whiny loser, who’s too hip for radio.  If you feel the same, leave a comment, to make me seem less of a douche.

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6 Responses to “Why I Gave Up on Radio”

  1. msotd Says:

    I totally agree. I believe it is an inherit flaw with radio, but one that will not go away easily. My hypothesis is this…

    1. Most listeners only listen for brief periods, usually around the same time of day every day. This is particularly true of commuter listeners, so they play the same set of songs over and over and your latest favorite song is likely to be in the set of songs you hear, so you’ll tune in again tomorrow.

    2. Also because familiarity with a song can make it more endearing, you’ll hear the other songs over and over and the average music listener will tune into that station over and over because other stations will sound more like music they don’t like as much.

    3. I have to believe that once a band has survived past “the one hit wonder” phase they develop a following, and thus their singles will be played because they immediately draw in listeners even if the new single is only half as good as the previous. (Also let’s not forget, it is about the advertising as much as it is about the music.)

    But for anyone who listens to A LOT of music this format fails because you get sick of the songs on the radio from hearing them too many times, and you question why the other 99% of worthy or perhaps even unworthy music, even in the same genres as the station, is not played.

    The best solution I have found is to do as you do. Search for music. I read a lot of blogs, read about bands’ influences, subscribe to eMusic which suggests bands and keeps me in touch with Indie bands that I would never ever hear on the radio, search through the “People Who Bought This Also Bought This” info on Amazon.com, switch up which radio station I listen to week to week, listen to online stations, and seek out artists and songs I know nothing about. I also like to ask people I know randomly what new music they’re listening to. A variety of sources will provide a variety of songs, and keeps me out of the trench of a single station or a single genre.

    One of my favorite radio stations plays random songs from just about all genres and repeats infrequently. Although it is not “crafted” the way a DJ would to ensure song after song might blend or contrast from one to the next, it is refreshing in a way because it breaks out of the format.

    If you’re a douche, then you’re an observant one. And so am I. “Les double douche” I suppose.

    PS: I just recently got into MGMT. I love them at the moment, but I can see where hearing the same two songs by them over and over on the radio might turn one’s opinion. “Kids” was my song of the day today:
    http://msotd.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/mgmt-kids-2007/

  2. darcymatt Says:

    Thanks for the awesome comment!

    I totally agree with the influences thing. I’ve gone through awesome discoveries just by linking bands together through influences, or members from one band being in another. (Kinsella brothers probably the best example, giving me about a half dozen bands I love).

    I think that podcasts and internet radio are probably going to gain in popularity, at least among the people who are truly looking for something to listen to.

    Also, “Kids” is one of the songs the Edge has been playing non-stop, but it’s probably one of the only ones I don’t mind being stuck in my head for a few hours. 🙂

  3. msotd Says:

    I am not familiar with the Kinsilla brothers, but after listening to “Owen” (http://www.myspace.com/mybandowen), they have my attention. Thanks for the tip!

    Really the dream radio station would be something like Pandora.com, but more configurable & controllable to control frequency of repeated songs (because even they repeat a lot I have found), more easily feed-able to wireless/remote devices like portable MP3 players (even in vehicles), controls over percentage of “new artists/songs” vs “favorite artists/songs”, and of course able to play more than just “the singles” of a particular artist, which frequently exclude some of the best songs out there. They already have the ability to “create” multiple personal stations. Ideally they’d have more Indie/Unknown/Up-And-Coming artists too.

    I guess that is a lot to ask for. But why not? The technology exists!

    Most people want to listen to music passively, so I think you’re right about podcasts and internet radio’s popularity as the internet generation continues to assume control of the music market. “Searching” for music will be only for those of us geeking out about music. Maybe not though… The internet generation is more interactive and willing to search for other information. Nah I take it back. Given the choice, we’re lazy.

    Also to add a #4 to my initial comment…

    4. I’m pretty sure most radio stations have to have a “license” for playing the music whether online or over the air, so to cut costs, fewer songs = cheaper operating costs. And fewer songs also means repeating if you don’t have enough material to fill 24 hours. In a way, the music industry is really limiting themselves because most of the music (and artists) out there is never heard on the radio.

    Radio as we know it is bad. There has got to be a better way. Hmmm…


  4. […] to Pretend”, and “Electric Feel” are all stuck in my head now, playing on repeat like a radio station with only three songs. MGMT is so addictive I had to hunt down their demo album “Climbing to New Lows” which […]

  5. Kalen Says:

    Reading your blog today cements the fact that my musical taste and your musical taste are on different ends of the scale.
    Today I really wanted to listen to the radio so I turned on 104.5 because I like it.
    I like radio and I like listening to CJKL when I am at home.

    Even though I like radio I still like you!

    PS. Sweet little bumble bee I know what you want from me


  6. […] are. "Kids", "Time to Pretend", and "Electric Feel" are all stuck in my head now, playing on repeat like a radio station with only three songs. MGMT is so addictive I had to hunt down their demo album "Climbing to New Lows" which is not for […]


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