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for January 15, 2002

[A reminder for those in or near New Jersey: The Dollar Bill Benefit, featuring John Easdale and a lot of out-of-work (and some working) disc jockeys, will be happening this Friday at Tradewinds in Sea Bright, NJ. Click here for details. -Ed.]

ALTROK Hunts And Points
by Sean Carolan

I like to rant about things that annoy me. I haven't been doing so much of it lately, because frankly, not only have I been busy, but life in general seemed to make annoyances pale in comparison to actual fear. Annoyances about what the radio's playing probably don't count for a hell of a lot when you're not sure if the planes in the sky are going to stay there.

That all having been said, I'm happy to report that our fair country has finally reaffirmed its patriotic need to gripe, so here we go.

Point 1: Radio Still Sucks.

As the dim radiation emanating along the once-proud (albeit still dim) frequency of 106.3 in central New Jersey finally starts calling itself "Hot Adult Contemporatry", we console ourselves with the impression that whatever "Alternative" means, it soon won't mean elevator music with a few more guitars.

What's becoming plainer, however, is that the rainbow of musical choices on radio, having faded to a variety of pastels, is poised to continue to a homogenous ecru. People still catch on, though, and it occasionally gets reported; witness the rather interesting piece in last Sunday's (Jan. 13) Philadelphia Inquirer, about Philadelphia's Max - er, Mix - 95.7 and their attempt to tap into a vein of homogeniety and pocket the riches within.

Two points here: The more radio targets the biggest demographic, the more that demographic splits between the people trying to target them. Say there's an audience for one type of music that's ten times larger than the audience for another type. Conventional wisdom says "target the larger audience", but if twenty stations do so, each station gets half the audience they would have gotten targeting the fringe. Three years and three format changes later, 95.7 still has less of an audience than the classical station that occupied its frequency for 50 years, with the added benefit that none of the people that do listen to it care about it in the least.

Secondly, commercial radio in general misses one big weakness: tuning your format to play music that couldn't possibly annoy anyone in the least only sets you up to lose your listeners when the first commercial appears. One strategy for that might be to make sure your commercial breaks match everyone else's, so that there's nothing to switch to, but that neatly misses the option of switching to CD. Another strategy that could actually work is to play to peoples' passions; for all the negative things that have been said here on Altrok about satellite radio, one thing XM and Sirius appear to understand is the power of a passionate listener. Hooking a passionate listener gets you pretty far along the path of making money off that listener, either by getting it from them directly or by making them want to hear the next song so badly that they can't possibly tune away during the commercials.

One certainty: when 95.7 changes to some other format, no tears will be shed by its listeners. They're getting used to this sort of thing; they're regarded as disposable, and they're happy to respond in kind.

Point 2: Music Media, Objective? Pshaw.

Not much need to set this one up; Rolling Stone magazine has called the latest album by Mick Jagger the third-best album of the year in its critics' poll, and has given it a five star rating. You don't need me to tell you something stinks here, and it ain't just the album.

No, you need Paul Shrug at Satanosphere to tell you. And tell you he will.

So, to paraphrase Shrug, do I need to know the musical opinion of a magazine that sells copies by putting Britney Spears on the cover multiple times? Back in the seventies, they put David Cassidy on the cover to make a point. Once.

©2002 Sean Carolan

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


Today's NY/NJ Shows That Matter

Friday, May 29, 2020
Polaris at The Foundry, Philly (POSTPONED)
Connor Bracken & The Mother Leeds Band, Jaron Clemons & The Late Nights, Morningside Lane and more at House Of Independents (POSTPONED TILL AUG 21)
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ALTROK Ordinals

ALTROK recommends music once a week; here's our most recent choices. Most links will take you to a place where you can buy the music; if there's no link, and you own a record company, consider releasing it yourself...

A Place To Bury Strangers - It Is Nothing
The Boxer Rebellion - Semi-Automatic
The Cribs - Cheat On Me
Datarock - True Stories
Everything Everything - Photoshop Handsome
HEALTH - Die Slow
Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls - Catching More Than We Miss
Julian Plenti - Games For Days
Los Campesinos - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future (Free download!)
Miike Snow - Black & Blue

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