by Locker Room contributor
I realize I’m a bit late to this discussion, but really it’s such a great topic for a free-market group. Why don’t local “classic rock” stations play more variety when there seems to be such a great demand for it in the marketplace?
I sickened of RDU a decade ago, and thanks to my iPod (U2 version!) I don’t have to put up with the Boston and Manchester station playlists, though Boston does have a pretty good alternative rock station that actually plays old Ramones, Clash and Elis Costello, along with The White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand (it still plays far too much Pearl Jam, though). Michael, have you ever heard “Lost in the Supermarket” on a Charlotte station? Well I’ve actually heard it on the radio here. Pretty sweet.
Not being an expert on the radio business, seems to me the bad stations probably are playing mostly what the listeners want to hear. They’re not playing what I want to hear, but I’m probably not a typical listener. I remember when RDU would have these all-request weekends or all-request lunch hours I’d be astounded at the number of people who actually called in and asked them to play “Back in Black” or “Sultans of Swing.” It reminds me of the person who asked Jerry Seinfeld, I think at a concert, when the dvd of the fourth season was going to come out. His response was something like (I’m entirely paraphrasing), “What, there isn’t enough ‘Seinfeld’ on TV for you?”
Charlotte once had an album-rock station that bucked the trend by playing classic rock album cuts instead of the same old singles all the time. It didn’t last very long. Most people want to hear the familiar stuff, evidently.
Is there enough demand in Charlotte or the Triangle for a broadcast station that plays mostly lesser-known tracks? I would think so, but maybe the cost of business is such that the profit margin would be too low for most investors. I don’t know.
What’s obvious is that there is so much great rock music that goes unplayed. The Rolling Stones catalogue is filled with cool songs — “Memo from Turner,” “The Spider and the Fly,” “Dance Little Sister,” “Miss Amanda Jones” — that lamentably go unplayed while stations spin “Honky Tonk Women” for the trillionth time.
Maybe it has to do with catching channel surfers. Someone might stop for “Sweet Home Alabama” but not for “Car Song” by Elastica.
When I discovered R.E.M. I remember being really angry at the Charlotte radio stations for never having exposed me to “Gardening at Night” or “Wolves, Lower.” DJs are supposed to be gatekeepers to the vast and mysterious world of popular music, isn’t it their duty to introduce me to great music? Apparently that’s what DJs used to do in the old days. DJs got to play their favorite stuff, not what a program director told them to play. College radio still works like that, but unfortunately most college DJs like crappy music.
As for specific bands with lots of excellent underplayed music, to the Rolling Stones I’d add The Kinks, The Cure, The Smiths, The Clash, Billy Bragg, Rush, The White Stripes, U2, The Jam, R.E.M., The Police, The English Beat, Cake, Aimee Mann, Queen, Bob Dylan, and Billy Joel.