swearing off radio

I’m not sure if I’m getting older and more cranky, or am just starting to wake up to the fact that so much of media that is presented is not really what I asked for or what, but this time it’s terrestrial radio that is on the chopping block.


One thing I am sure of, it’s a sign I’m getting older because I’m starting that phase where I’m unimpressed with music with arbitrary lyrics. I think to myself, “what the heck are they even talking about?” My tastes in music have always been a bit volatile though … every few years, I’ll completely shake up what I want to listen to, and I guess the turning point has finally hit again. I just didn’t think it’d hit me so hard.

I was on the way to work this morning, and had a CD in the player (more on hardware specs later), but I switched to the radio. First of all, listening to the radio in the morning is a huge gamble that you’ll find anything worth listening to. It is, of course, always that way since most of the airtime is devoted to commercials, but in the morning, there is also morning shows. I loathe morning shows on the radio. They are, in my opinion, the *lowest* form of mass media entertainment out there. A couple of DJs guffawing to themselves over the air, while running stupid contests and commenting on the stupid “news of the days” stories on the wire. Mostly, I just can’t stand the pretense, that they treat their audience like everyone is involved in this big insider’s joke and we are all just laughing along.

Anyway, that wasn’t the thing that ticked me off. What ticked me off is I switched to a different channel, and I heard the same song for the 800th time playing. I was so sick of hearing it even being played, again, that I just shut off the radio in disgust. For good, this time, I decided.

The whole business market around over the air radio is totally whacked, in my opinion. The only explanation I have for the reason they keep playing the *very same* songs over and over again is because they don’t want the idea of the top 40 songs to die off. Now, from a business standpoint, I can understand that approach IF it was easier on their supply and demand chain — that is, you want to produce a large number of records that will sell, and create them en masse so you can project good sales and get a good return on your investment. That would be well and good, but it’s totally out of sync with the way music works now. Thanks to the Internet, all music can be easily distributed and deployed to everyone on the planet at the same cost. So, the rationale should be — instead of selling as much as one album as possible, let’s sell as much *different music* as possible!

That is, in fact, one of the reasons I absolutely loved XM Radio when I first signed up for it years ago. They would constantly play new music I had never heard of, and I was always taking notes to write down what artist and song I had just heard so I can get myself a copy. But, XM was having serious cash flow issues, and it looks like the way they started to fix that problem was by bowing to the more traditional method of just playing the same songs over and over. I remember more than once finding the same song playing on three of my preset stations *at the same time*. That’s about when I knew it was time to jump ship. I don’t miss XM, I miss how it used to be.

Obviously, this whole situation could be solved if I had Internet access in my car, but I doubt that’ll be happening for the next 10 years or so, so it’s up to me to find a solution in the meantime. Right now, I’ve just got a CD player in my car, the stereo is the still the same one as the stock one that I bought it with. I’ve started looking around for stereos, but I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. The last time I looked at the idea, years ago, was when they were first starting to get support for iPods. I have an old Nano that I play with every now and then, but it only holds 4 GB of data, which is a drop in the bucket compared to today’s MP3 players. Plus, the hardware and the company is very much against sharing and openness, so syncing it with Linux is not worth the pain and hassle.

I’ve since found in my more recent research, that there are radios on the market now that you can directly plug in a USB stick. That would be awesome, since you can buy a 32 GB stick for not a lot of money. There are also some that have support for MicroSD, but they cap out in size limit pretty quickly right now too.

Either way, I gotta get something soon. I needs my music.

As a postscript, I wanna point a couple of things out. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not. I’m more upset with the state of mass media in general than I am with anything else. Listening to the radio, like watching over the air television, is free, and I don’t expect too much out of them in the first place. It’s just my opinion, however, that things have gotten so out of control. They have been the dominant pipe for media input for so long, that they long ago stopped caring about what consumers wanted since there was no alternative. Thank goodness that the Internet is slowly breaking up those archaic fiefdoms, and I’m glad to see them go. If nothing else, choice is finally starting to drive market forces again. It’s obviously been painful to watch the old school businesses try and adapt, but they either will, or die. I can’t imagine I’m the only one bothered by the whole scenario.

The second thing that makes me sad is that I have to spend so much money just to avoid being constantly bombarded with advertisements and less-than-mediocre playtime. I realize that what I’m really doing is buying into luxuries, but the fact is, unless I wanna listen to classical music on the radio, there’s no station to tune into where I won’t hear a car dealer’s advertisement every 7 minutes.

There’s a lot of parallels to me building up my own library at home of TV shows to watch. Sure, it costs a lot more building up my own collection, but the convenience and reward of never having to hear another forced advertisement or commercial again is absolutely priceless. Plus, you can set the standard of quality yourself and cater to it how you want. The entire process is driven by personal taste.

Now, get off my lawn.

8 comments on “swearing off radio

  1. Jason

    Simple. Get an iPhone, install pandora, get a radio with an external aux mini-port, plug in your iPhone, listen to as much ad-free radio as you want without spending thousands of dollars on music. (and you get an awesome phone, to boot!)

  2. Doran Barton

    I agree with Jason, except for the iPhone bit, for plainly obvious reasons. My Palm Pre also has a Pandora client, as I’m sure a lot of other phones do.

    You could opt for talk radio. No repeats of songs there, just repeats of the same old complaints about society and government. Could be a refreshing change of pace, though. 🙂

  3. velda

    Well if you’re going for variety, try 90.9 FM. You might hear the same song twice in one month, if that, and lots of different styles. Maybe even a new one you might like. 🙂

      1. velda

        Sometimes I’ll get in the car, start the engine, and suddenly remember I’d left the volume cranked up for a song I liked. Only what’s playing then is .. well, not something I’d normally play full blast. It is certainly entertaining 🙂

  4. Aaron Toponce

    I haven’t turned on the radio for months. The last time I turned it on, it was a morning show. A couple DJs were laughing at themselves over some commentary on news that hit the wire. Apparently, it was funny enough to keep at it for some time. I didn’t find it funny, and kept thinking to myself, “Is this REALLY what people listen to all day long?”

    I used to be a major hard rock fan (still am, but my taste is growing), so I’d tune into KBER 101.1. However, from 6am to 10am is the Bob and Tom show, which is utter crap. Then from 10am to 2pm used to be Hellen Powers. It was the first time music was played, but there was all the lunch shows and give-away goodies that stole critical music playing time. From 2pm to 6pm was finally a solid set of hard rock music from commercial to commercial, with the DJ getting on the waves every now-and-then. Then from 6pm to 10pm was Darby. He had some good sets, such as the Slobberknocker and Mandatory Metallica, but he wasted a good deal of time talking too. Then from 10pm to midnight was Love Line with Dr. Drew and Adam Corolla. More talk. When you added it all up, in a 24-hour day, there was so little hard rock actually played, it became a hard sell to myself to sit and listen.

    Then I discovered online radio, such as Pandora and Last.fm.

    I don’t listen to Pandora any longer, as their Music Genome Project is seriously broken. Only on Pandora can I tune into a “Metallica” station, and end up listening to Bach, the Beach Boys and Yanni in one sitting, because I decided to like or hate a song. No, Pandora isn’t for me.

    Last.fm however, is a solid radio station. Listening to online radio over the years on Last.fm has introduced me to tons, and tons of new and old mainstream and independent artists. I’ve ended up going to gray market and independent CD shops (I don’t support the RIAA), and getting all sorts of albums, because I listen to Last.fm. Further, I’ve found myself advocating new artists that aren’t part of the Billboard set (you know how that list is generated, right? Another discussion for another day).

    Last.fm offers cool social features too, to engage listening habits with your friends, find concerts and events and other fun features. Really, there is no need for me to turn on the terrestrial radio. It doesn’t offer the music I want to find or listen to, it doesn’t give me control over what I want to listen to, I can’t engage with other listeners on the station, and I really don’t like ads. Yes, Last.fm is ad-free.

    There are other fun online radio stations that I’ve grown accustomed to, and listen to from time-to-time, such as soma.fm and radioparadise.com.

    I could go on and on, and maybe I should on a separate post on my blog, but I’m with you 100% on Internet radio. Giving the people control of what they want to hear, and engaging them with other listeners is the future of broadcasting. The traditional methods of television and radio are dying, thanks to the Internet. Personally, I’m excited for the future.


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