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for February 16, 2004

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It's Easy To Criticize. Fun, too!
by Sean Carolan

A lot of criticism has been spewed from this website as to what's wrong with alternative rock radio. To balance things a bit (and justify the title of this piece, which we shamelessly nicked from "The Simpsons") we'll take a moment to talk about things that might make stations that call themselves "alternative" sound good again...
1. The people on the air should be capable of sounding as though they're in it for the music. If they sound like they'd be just as at home introducing Celine Dion as they do introducing The Cure, try again. The greatest alternative stations of the past were full of people who sounded like they cared about the music and knew what they were talking about when they were on the air.
2. Segue music. We *know* what station we're listening to; we don't need to be reminded of it at the intersection of every song.
3. And speaking of bumpers - there has got to be a way of sounding "cool" without trying to sound disjointed or "extreme". "Extreme" is cliched.
4. If alternative's what you say you are, that's what you should be; big lies eventually get found out. That means your playlist should share very little with anyone else's, except for the recurrents that you were on first that subsequently went big. (And when they do, unless they're really embarrassing, make sure people realize where they heard them first.) That also means you should be actively researching new music, not waiting until every other alt station in the country has added something before you do. That means less "research" and more, well, research. It also means taking risks. Here's a hint - if your current playlist shares more than 75% of its songs with the local soft-rock station, you ain't alternative.
5. If you're a programmer for whom this makes sense, and any of the above is a marked change from what your station is doing now, prepare for low ratings until you've gained the trust of your target audience. They don't want to get fooled again, you know - and it's up to you not to fool them. (Remember, the hard part is sincerity; once you can fake that, you're set. Aheh.)
A true alternative station should be able to do better in this now than they ever did in the 80's and 90's. That audience has grown up, has lots of liquid cash, and buys very large items...and for them, the rest of the commercial dial is virtually useless. That audience is there for the taking, for whoever's first to make the commitment.

©2004 Sean Carolan

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


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