Thursday, January 31, 2013

Radio Daze

Every once in awhile I find myself thinking about radio. I know, know, but when you spent the vast majority of your life in the business, it does pop into your head from time to time. First of all I don't listen to it anymore, with the exception of NPR (Terri Gross, Keillor, Click and Clack reruns, etc) I just don't turn it on anymore. I use satellite radio, Pandora and have a good bit of music downloaded, so in most cases radio is redundant, boring and over commercialized.

I still get radio newsletters via e-mail because I'm too lazy to unsubscribe. I got one today on developing a Country-Rock hybrid format. I guess since so much of today's country music is a shitty version of pop-rock (country is now the anti-dance-urban-rap music) some programmers think that you could play that dreck and toss in a few classic rock nuggets and charm the audience with this "new breakthrough"....good luck with it. Especially when you play the Steve Miller Band back to back with Reba McIntire. Or John Mellencamp's "Authority Song" next to Dirks Bentley. If these brilliant programmers want to know what rock songs the country audience wants to hear go to a shit kicker country bar and listen to the rock songs the bands play or to the major country artist concerts and hear what they play from the rock and roll genre. I heard Alabama play BTO's "Taking Care of Business" at a concert and Travis Tritt always sprinkled RnR in his shows, I suspect they learned that it works from time to time because they both played the beach circuit in the Carolinas night after god damned night. Of course what a country fan likes when they are drunk and smoked up is one thing and what they want to hear when they are straight is another.

I got drunk one night in Florida with Jimmy Bowen, who at the time was the President of Capitol Records Nashville (he made Garth a star and got fired) Jimmy produced everyone from the Beach Boys to Sinatra, he knew music! He said Nashville is interested in one thing and it isn't artists. It's hit singles written by a fraternity of hack song writers. The artists are considered   disposable and interchangeable. Bowen was from the school of recording, one that focuses on building an artist with a long term catalog of music, music that sells over the long haul, 180 degrees from Nashville's mentality. After about the fifth or sixth cocktail, he told me that much to Nashville's surprise their efforts in the 70's to urbanize country music fizzled when they produced record after record of music with strings and horns, a kind of mash up of adult contemporary music. That 'rock" artists like the Eagles, Pure Prairie League, Lynrd Skynrd, Marshall Tucker Band the various spin offs from the original Byrds and others were making hit records that were actually country but not played on country radio. No horns, no strings and banjos were used from time to time. No wonder Willie and Waylon left for Lukenbach and didn't look back. At the same time Johnny Cash was ignored and lost his deal with Columbia records. I think it's a good thing when a kid like Taylor Swift intuitively knew this and walked away from Music Row and set her own terms for her career.

The whole mixing classic rock with country is bullshit. Country radio needs to look at it's own past for about Rosanne Cash? Lacy J. Dalton? Southern Pacific? Even my old pal Susie Boguss or gasp, Pam Tillis, Travis Tritt, The Mavericks, Hal Ketcham, Don Williams and so many more. Maybe even some Waylon, Willie and the Boys would show up with the Man in Black in tow.

There is also a series called "State of the DJ" another pile of horseshit. Broadcast Companies now look at air talent as an unnecessary expense. The business is a long way from when I was a kid and we put rock and roll on FM. The mantra in those days was "round up some kids put them on the radio and tell them to make their friends happy". It worked so well it killed itself!

1 comment:

  1. We listen to NPR and enjoy its breadth and depth of information. I have not listened to other broadcast radio for years frankly believe who needs it?
    Like you, I've got my XM/Sirius favorites programmed. I'd hate to be in that business now, trying to figure how to make it work. It's a bit like being a lamplighter when electricity comes to town.