Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Broken Radio

I love country music. I grew up listening to FM 100.3 KILT, 93Q Country, 95.7 (when it was still country) - all stations in the Houston area. I also spent Sunday nights from 8pm-midnight CST listening to Bob Kingsley's American Country Countdown. I would write down the top 40, give each song my own rating from 1-5 stars, and at the end of the countdown, I would write out the countdown in pretty marker colors, in my new order, and put it into a binder. Thus the countdown started at 8, but for me, it didn't really end until around 1 in the morning. I think we'd call that obsession. I have moved a few times in the past few years, and I hear that we've got a new countdown guy, and I haven't yet figured out how to get my radio to play any of the Baltimore/DC area country stations. I do have Sirius Satellite radio, though. I listen to the New Country station on there (channel 60), but I don't believe that they play the countdown. They have their own Friday afternoon countdown, but it's just as worthless as the CMT.com weekly video countdown. You can skip the countdown for weeks and the same dang songs are still in the same dang place. I don't really think that Carrie Underwood's "Undo It," was really that popular for that long. Come on, really. And Miranda Lambert's "House that Built Me" - granted - good song, not good enough for all day, all night play, though.

The point. Yes.

Radio. I love listening to the radio in the car, singing along, calling in once in a while to request a song. On the first day of the Bryan White Christmas contest on KILT, I heard that a Bryan White song would win me tickets to the concert. I asked my mom to come with me around 6:15pm and then won tickets at 11pm. I believed in radio then. I loved radio then. I trusted. Trusted.

It's really all about trust. When you call in and the guy on the radio says, "I'll try and get that on for you," you believe him. You think, oh, how sweet, he's going to try to get it on for little old me who just wants to hear this song I've been missing, aching, wishing to tell someone about, et cetera. But what you don't know is, he really means, "If it is on my list, my prewritten by somebody else list, I'll play it for you. If it's not, tough luck." Yes. These radio personalities are not playing a song for you. They are playing from some list that the producer or whoever has handed to them and said - you, play. No better than cave men. I said it. Cave men. Perhaps I am gullible for believing for so many years that these personalities cared about their listeners more than to buy the advertised products to keep them funded. Perhaps one ought to assume that everything everybody does is about ratings and money. It is. It IS! These radio guys don't love the music like we do. They pretend to. Hell, maybe they even did when they went into the business. They probably did then, before they found out about the system.

How did I find out? A woman came to the school I was teaching at on Career Day last spring. She explained the whole process about how radio works, how the hour is scheduled with a pick me up in the middle of the hour, certain commercials played at certain times of day, and the biggest bite of all, how there is no request show pure and simple. There is a set of songs, and they tell people to call in, and the coincidences are fabulous for them, since they can then play somebody's voice on the radio and pretend it was all just random and unplanned. How sick. How manipulative. How sad.

It's sad because the radio personalities who may have one day loved music are now stuck with just voice jobs and making money in voice over commercials. They are not loving music, being real DJs and picking what would be a great song as the mood hits them. Why the hell not? I would really like to hear of a radio station out there up for playing good music when they feel like it, not just when boss says so. I want to hear of a guy who randomly thinks of Ace in the Hole and sticks it with a needle to surprize all of the listeners. I want to hear real, random, country radio. Country radio that doesn't repeat every thirty minutes. Okay, every hour. Still.

Come on, tell me this is out there somewhere. Some days, I feel like someone's messing with my iPod, even. It seems to play the same ten songs when it's on shuffle sometimes...what kind of evil country radio producer is living inside my iPod?!

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