I don’t remember how it first started to bother me, but the concept of music variety on the radio is a misnomer to most of us. Why is that? Some stations used to brand themselves as a “mix of this that and the other.” Some still do. But is that true for you when you turn on the radio? It’s not for me and hasn’t been for quite sometime. It’s generally the same 20-30 songs replayed, rehashed, and regurgitated over and again, and that’s on the “new music” channels. Is this why the Internet alternatives like Pandora, Spotify, and even independent radio have become such a mainstay for us?
Somewhere in time radio lost touch with itself, its purpose, and its audience. What would the internet be like today if pop and Top 20 hit stations hadn’t existed in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and present? What is pop radio had died off in the 70s and 80s and more of the underground sounds coming out of New York, Los Angeles, London and elsewhere had been given a more adequate airtime in the 70s and 80s, how much different would our listening experience be like now? Would Pandora or Spotify have even been invented? Would we need it?
I venture to say that radio took a turn for the worst in the heyday of pop music, when acts like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and the like were making Rock n’ Roll the most popular movement in music. Yes, that was over five decades ago, but we’re still reeling from its effects. Pop music revolutionized our culture and the way we experience music. Yes, other forms of radio and music consumption also emerged in the following years. Country, R&B, soul, metal, hip-hop, Christian, and even Classical and news programming all found carrier stations to showcase those artists and acts. But pop radio has continued doing what it’s always done this whole time: only giving listeners the same rehashed, generic 20-25 songs every day. No wonder people have been driven to alternatives for music consumption as of late.
I do remember when I decided to do something about this problem, which was when The Appetizer Radio Show was born (September 20, 2003). I knew that what I enjoyed listening to at home and in my CD collection was music other people enjoyed too, they just didn’t have access to it. But what if they were given access to it? What if the indie and unknown or even underground bands my friends and I were jamming to could be heard on the radio? How much of a better listening experience could we all enjoy?
I realize I’m not the only person in the world who has had this notion or idea, which is why Public Radio has seen an increase in its audience size over the past two decades. I expect that to continue. But tragically and mysteriously, Public Radio and independent media outlets continue to fly below the radar for the greater populace. This is sad because most people would love to have regular access to something other than fast-food on a daily basis, and that’s exactly what pop radio is: it’s the generic dollar menu version of fastfood. The recipe is simple, the cost is cheap and you can get limitless amounts of it if you’ll just subject yourself to the same old thing again and again. I know I would much rather dine on something more akin to a Chipotle burrito on Monday, a supreme pizza Tuesday, a thick Rueben sandwich Wednesday and so on than only have the selection of the dollar mini-cheeseburger or 2 tacos for 99 cents. Wouldn’t you?