Tuesday, January 03, 2006

You Woke Me Up For That?

I have my radio beside my bed set to a radio station out of Houston that promotes itself as an all news radio station. I have my radio alarm set to that station because the morning radio shows with all their stupid jokes, cackling disk jockeys, endless idiotic conversations and be-caller-number-99 contests do not put me in a good mood to start my day. The guy who reads the news and the weather/traffic reporter and the sports guy on the Houston news station all have pleasant voices which gradually wake me enough to drag my lazy ass out of bed.

This morning, the first thing I heard when the radio came on was, “Weather alert! Hail, damaging winds and heavy rains are expected…please insert twenty-five cents to hear the rest of the report.” Then an announcer came on and said, “Radio should be free.” It was a flipping commercial. A fake severe weather alert is no way to wake up an area of the country still suffering from post Hurricane Rita traumatic stress syndrome.

Terrestrial radio is still free, as are NBC, CBS and ABC. However, if you want choices and interesting programming, you pay for cable television and you pay for satellite radio. Yesterday, I heard Alan Parsons Project and Jo Jo Gunne on Deep Tracks (XM – Channel 40). When was the last time you thought about, let alone heard, Jo Jo Gunne?

Free radio is necessary for purposes of local news, weather and traffic. If they want to compete head to head with satellite radio musically, they need to add more variety. The vast majority of radio stations still program one music format per radio station. Surely the owners of those stations (and the advertisers) realize that most people do not listen to only one type of music. When a person tires of listening to country music, they turn to the 80’s music station or to the hard rock station. People are flippers.

There are stations popping up around the country that play a wide variety of music. (You can listen to them on your computer if you can’t catch them locally.) When a person listens to those stations, my guess is that they tend to stay longer partially out of curiosity as to what will be played next. The I-Pod generation is much more musically sophisticated than we could have ever dreamed of being when we were teenagers and they want to hear everything. We didn’t even have FM radio until I was in high school and then I had to use some sort of cassette player adapter in my 1962 Chevy (4-on-the-floor, mag wheels, dual exhausts…yeah, I was cool) to catch it.

I assume the ultimate goal of a radio station is to encourage listeners to not be flippers. If that’s the case, the solution is simple. We understand that advertising is necessary in order for terrestrial radio to remain free to listeners, so you can keep the commercials. However, please tell the disk jockeys we want the name of the song and who sang it, nothing more. Also, mix up the music and stop boring the shit out of everybody. Then, free radio might become a viable alternative to satellite radio


Jen T. (that's me) said...

who is Jo Jo Gunne?

hipster006 said...

i'll try and make a long story short. in 1973,at college,my roomate and i interviewed jo jo gunne following a concert. we then proceeded to play the band and their crew in a 4 on 4 basketball game. very difficult after using various intoxicants with the band.nice guys though.

hipster006 said...

hey jen t-a band from the early 70s that rocked. made up of some former members of a 60s band called spirit.actually there music is now available on cd form.had a great song callled run run run!!

Al said...

Hey Laurie -
You hit a hot button with me -
I've spent the last 20 years working in broadcasting.
Radio used to be all about the listener experience. Now here's the scary part. It's really not anymore. It's how many commercials you can get into a stopset before listeners get pissed, It's how much you can charge national clients and how much you can get for sponsorships.
I work in the corporate level now - no local stations directly reporting to me - so I listen to Sirius.
The ipod shuffle format goes by many names, for a long time it was known as "Jack" after the first station to do it (Canadian Station) about a year and a half, two years ago.
The problem with radio goes beyond the narrowcasting, subniche formats, voicecasting. Companys pressure GM's to make more money -GM's pressure Program Directors to develop programming quicker. So what happens most of the time are cheap, lowest hanging fruit content and talent is harder to develop.
The problem goes back to deregulation - when the changed the rules to allow little companies to own more stations - the major players bought up the little guys, inflated the prices.
Now they are paying on properties that are way over priced.
I'm lucky the company that employs me let's me tell my pd's to do good radio instead of cheap solutions.
Research shows that people do constantly flip stations - for the most part they flip inside of formats though. They may go from classic rock to a modern rock to a soft rock stations.
Ratings are derived by two things -
time spent listening (TSL) and number of people listening (Cume)
For the most part, Jack stations don't have extremely larger audiences or longer time spent listening. They are on par with most other stations.
Adult contemporary stations (or Country Stations) usually have the highest cume audiences while talk formats have the highest time spent listening.
The only thing you can do is make a formal complaint to the FCC.
The spots come from the National Association of Broadcasters and are running as public service announcements (I believe). They are not PSA's more like SOS's.

Way back when I was doing production, I would never put sirens in commercials or weather alert stuff (it's illegal to use the ebs/eas sounders). These sounds just cause havoc.

Sorry to write a novel, but I wish that radio would return to be being listener oriented instead of advertiser oriented.

Laurie said...

Jen - A group from the '70's. You would love them.

Hipster - That's a great story!!!

Al - Never apologize for writing a long comment. Very informative. You explained the stuff I was just guessing about and cleared some things up. Thanks!

Tim said...

Al is right, the deregulation of broadcasting necessisarily means the death of creative radio. Think of it as the Wal-Mart syndrome--people keep coming back because it's cheap, and it's cheap because they get it everything from China and pay their people minimum wage. And now corporations like Disney are buying up radio stations, which means not only do they remote control dozens of stations across America, they also can hype their own artists. Wait, isn't that like payola? One day we'll get the airwaves back, and the revolution will not be televised.

Laurie said...

Tim - We shall overcome!

Abby Taylor said...

You mean it's not the best idea to wake up a Vietnam combat vet with a recording of gunfire?

No wonder my marriage didn't work out.

I was looking at satellite radio options the other day. I never would have considered it before reading your experiences. Sounds interesting.


Laurie said...

Abby - You would love the satellite radio. I still can't believe those radio people played that fake weather bulletin announcement. Scandalous.

Anonymous said...

I turn on rock stations and am suprised to hear the same overplayed songs that were popular 10 years ago.

btw, Did you lay any rubber in that old chevy? I picture you terrorizing the highschool parking lot lol


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Laurie said...

Anonymous - I laid a lot of rubber but it was mostly by accident. That engine was too big for this little girls' clutch foot. It also had a huge steering wheel and no power steering. It's a wonder I didn't kill somebody driving that bad boy.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

What, pray tell, is "radio"?

se7en said...

Happy new year Laurie! Big hugs!!! Hoping 2006 is a great one for ya and I hope N.O. gets cleaned up well enough for you to visit again! :)

Laurie said...

Old Horsetail - It's a new fangled contraption for listening to music right out of thin air.

Se7en - We have a trip planned for March. I'll let you know exactly when. I sure hope the Cat's Meow is re-open by then.

Richard Tallent said...

Three little letters for you, Laurie: NPR. 91.3 is the only thing I can stand to listen to in the morning. And you don't have to listen to Houston traffic, GALLERYFURNITUREWILL SAVE!YOU!MONEY! ads, self-congradulations of hurricane coverage, etc.


Laurie said...

Richard - I tried the NPR station a long time ago but their voices were SO soothing, they put me back to sleep. And, what is that Gallery Furniture guy screaming about now? Something about *better worth* furniture? I can't understand half of what he's saying?

Tanda said...

I hate that commercial.

Laurie said...

Tanda - I swear that guy is getting crazier and crazier.