Thursday, August 14

Suckers Never Play Me

I suppose part of it comes from the fact that part of my youth was spent in a pre-internet world, but I've always loved the radio.

From the nighttime DJ's that used to play requests (prompting me to spend hours on end either on hold or pushing redial praying that I could get through the lines at that exact right time so my request could go out over the air) to the myriad of wacky morning shows that came and went over the years in my hometown -- there was nothing I loved more than listening to the voices and the music you could find on the FM dial.

In that regard I was kinda lucky, because for whatever reason Jacksonville, Florida is the town where a number of radio's more infamous personalities cut their teeth before moving on to bigger and better things. The Greaseman got his start here. Howard Stern spent part of his formative years on our airwaves.
It's just one of those markets that tends to attract talent looking for
exposure, but isn't lucrative enough to keep them around for very long.
Still -- between the shows like these and the local staples that I grew up with, I caught the radio bug.

I had my FCC license by the time I was sixteen, started hanging out around one of my favorite local rock stations after I graduated high school -- pestering anyone who would listen to see if they'd let me work there, started lugging equipment to and from remotes for a little while afterwards, which eventually led to me putting in a number of years after college doing on-air shifts and production work at an adult contemporary station out of Tallahassee.

I might have stuck with it had I not gotten married so young, but my fortunes took me in different directions -- and I had to let it go.
But I still love it.
I got into radio because I loved music, and back in the day radio was really the best place to find it. But even as the times have shifted to the point where radio is essentially the last place you want to go for new tunes, there's still a lot of great stuff to be found out there.
In fact, some of the best shows on radio don't feature any music at all.
I'm not talking about talk radio, which is it's own little world -- separate and strange, filled with judgmental a-holes and ex-athletes that like to hear themselves talk. I'm talking about all these new "variety shows" that have taken the place of the old "Morning Zoo" and "Ride Time" slots that so many stations used to live and die by -- shows where one or two people used to try and cram a variety talk show around blocks of music, where they'd have silly little contests, take requests, and then tag the station call letters before launching into a rock-block, or a Tuesday two-fer, or the five o'clock free ride.

Shows like that still exist, but more and more what you find are stations that feature 3-4 hour long talk based shows where hosts cover the news of the day, do pre-planned comedy bits, and answer listener phone calls to give relationship advice or whatever without ever playing an actual song at all.

It's kind of odd, because there used to be a day when you wanted the DJ to shut up and just play the music -- because 30 minutes ago he said they were gonna play the Black Crowes, and now I'm not gonna make it through the day unless I hear "Remedy."
Almost like they planted a seed in your ear that drives you nuts waiting for the song to play.
But now with most radio playlists becoming homogenized to the point where someone says they're going to play Green Day (so you know it's gonna be "Time of Your Life"), Radiohead (which means they'll play "Creep"), and a classic from the Black Crowes (which means they'll probably play "Remedy" ..again, like they always do -- God, who ever decided that horrible song was any good!?) that to be honest, the only seemingly unpredictable thing left on radio anymore is the morning shows.

Even when they tell you what's coming up after the break, there's no telling exactly what's gonna happen -- which means you have to listen to all of it or you might miss something. Which in turn means you're more likely to sit through ads waiting for the show to come back, which means the station can charge more for those spots when they sell them to local businesses.

Or to put it another way -- you can't really guesstimate what kind of person listens to rap music anymore. How old they are, what gender they tend to be. You can't really forecast how many people actually pay attention to the radio station that the boss plays over the intercom system at work and how many of them put on their headphones and tune it out.
But there's really no question who listens to Tom Joyner.
It's clear who tunes into Opie and Anthony. It's easy to map out the ages, income levels, and spending habits of the people who like Adam Carolla, and what makes them different from those who tune in to Wendy Williams.

What's more -- if you can track the demographics of a show like that, and then hire a bunch of local screws to put together a new show that's sorta like the national one that fits your station format and desired demographic for half the price -- then you can have the best of both worlds, can't you? A show that caters to local interests (and advertisers) but also shares in the mass appeal of the big boys coming out of Westwood One, Premier, or Clear Channel.
When you look at it that way, it means that even though we're all tuning into different stations --
We're all sort of listening to the same show in the end.
But here's the thing -- No matter how funny it was. No matter how thought-provoking, inspiring, enlightening, or interesting a particular bit on your favorite radio show might be:

If you try to explain it to someone who doesn't listen to that show -- they won't get it.

I could spend an hour each day recapping the funniest bits from local favorites Lex and Terry, but because you don't listen to that particular show and have a feel for it's pacing and supporting cast with all their various back stories -- the explanations tend to fall flat.

Think about those times when a local station switches shows. When they decide to stop buying The Rise Guys and switch over to the Zoo Crew. That first week you get kinda pissed, like "Who are these clowns? What happened to the Rise Guys?" But then a few weeks later you're driving to work and the Zoo Crew doesn't seem that bad. And then a little while later they're actually pretty funny.
But when you think about it -- what does the Zoo Crew actually do on their show?
They make fun of people in the news and discuss listeners issues. They interview celebrities. They get girls to say kinda dirty things on the phone. They pull pranks on local businesses, and they play a lot of wacky sound effects.
..Well guess what Lex and Terry do every morning?
It's almost like the real truth of the matter is that the appeal of radio shows these days doesn't so much have to do with content as much as it does with comfort. About the way we approach people, about the things we look for in a friend, especially when it comes to conversation.
What kind of person do you prefer to share that kind of relationship with?
Ever notice that there's really not that many shows out there that are hosted by just one person anymore? Even if the show focuses on a main personality, it always seems like they're working with someone else; bringing the news guy into the fold, talking to the producer or the board op. For all the personality and insight that Howard Stern is supposed to have -- it's been literally 15 years since he's done a show where there weren't like 7 other people in the room with him.
Do you have any friends that are great in a group (as long as they're
leading the conversation) but are kind of a pain in the ass one-on-one?
For that matter, do you have friends that you like to talk sports with, but are useless when you have a relationship problem and just need someone to listen? If you're not a morning person -- does it help to have someone funny around to kind of lighten your mood and ease you into a mental space where you're ready to deal with coworkers or customers? Or are you the kind of person who wants to hear the news of the day first, and then doesn't mind joking about it later -- maybe around noon or so?

Especially in this age of podcasting and Internet radio -- our choices are a lot more open in this regard. But what I find really interesting is that even with all these choices out there, the process is still essentially the same. We still have to find a certain level of comfort with a show before we can grow into it.
It's a lot like the way people choose blogs to read.
The blogosphere is a vast landscape. People all over the world taking advantage of available technology to talk about endless streams vapid, self-aggrandizing bullshit the things that are happening in their lives, whether they be issues in the news, personal triumphs or tragedies, or how far you have to fast forward through a feature film DVD before you can see Marissa Tomei's boobs.

Each site it's own channel on the dial, broadcasting into the air -- looking for listeners. Someone to read and react. Someone to hear and understand.
Someone to connect with.
We discover them in all sorts of ways -- clicked off a blogroll, misspelled something in a Google search, saw their comment on another blog we read on a regular basis -- but there's a big difference (especially on the web) between finding something and staying with it.

I can't even begin to imagine the number of blog sites I've looked at for a minute or so and then never returned to. The colors were too bright. The commentary seemed too short, too long, too whiny, or too angry. The person wrote in a beautiful way, but they never really seemed to say anything. It could be anything that drives you away or douses your interest.
..But what makes you stay?

[Listening to:  Lifer"Ugly" ]

3 comments:

Jaeme said...

Good question. Can't answer it though because I have no idea. I've been reading your blournal since the 80s (or so) because I dig you.

Speaking of Opie and Anthony...I got WOWed on the highway last Wednesday. A bunch of guys pulled up in a truck next to me, beeped the horn, and when I looked over there it was--A WOW sign fashioned out of an old piece of cardboard. I was on the phone with Eli at the time and he's all, "so, did you do it?" and I'm like, "hello, I'm wearing my seatbelt, talking on the phone, and driving...I'm a little busy to be ripping my shirt off."

I'm too old for this shit.

Werdna said...

The writing.

The off chance some old fuck I know will show up in the monologue.

Entertainment.

Because the writing is better than 90% of the crap out there.

Because it might be the only place where I'll see fuck and trompe l'oeil in the same entry. Is that the writing again?

Because it is a little window into the life of some people I miss very much.

Hex said...

jaeme -- I consider it a high honor that you've stuck with me for so long, even if you passed on a WOW.

Werdna -- I'm just a mountain of your statistics, money man.

Related Posts with Thumbnails