Last night at 1:30 a.m. in bed I checked out Ye Olde Jim Ladd on KLOS, to see what he was playing. He's the nation's last fulltime freeform DJ at commercial radio, and he's always topical when shit's going on. He's a child of Ye Olde Sixties, don't you know.
Unlike himself, he was spinning the shit out of Joni Mitchell: "The Circle Game" followed by "Teach Your Children" and Neil Young's "I Am A Child." Afterwards he said, "I wanted to add some beauty to all the ugliness. A guy called in and said he's been estranged from his wife, and he just found out his son is stationed in Kuwait. He's really worried about his son. So I said, this next set is for you."
So tell me, O cynical music writers and downtrodden DJs: yes, tell me again, tell me over and over, and tell me, Radio Chain Mercenaries, that radio is meaningless to people in times of crisis. Tell me desperate parents of soldiers don't flip on the radio just for some sense of not-being-alone, of being connected to others, of sharing their story and hearing others'. Tell me people don't need to rock out, cry, or laugh at times like this. Tell me people don't want radio to help them feel actual feelings, all kinds of feelings, happy and uncomfortable. Tell me people don't need radio to give them the very thing it was originally intended to give them: Community.
Anyone who belittles the power of radio has nothing but contempt for music, musicians, and the way that art transforms hearts and realities. The power of radio is the power of music itself. Music is the most sacred art form we've got. There's thieves in our temple, you guys. In fact, we rented it out to them.
Recently Clear Channel COO Mark Mays wrote a memo to employees telling them to keep their chins up in the face of all the outrage they've provoked in America with their crappy radio and crappy concerts. It's great reading but here's a snippet to give you a chuckle:
"We give consumers the BEST product. If we didn't they would not listen to our stations or go to our shows or notice our advertising. Consumers VOTE every day with their money and their ratings. We win everyday because we listen to what they want, to what our communities want and we deliver that!
Stay the course.
Our customers are winning. Many of you are working on cross market and cross platform projects where we are helping our customer move product and get the BEST results for their advertising and sponsorship dollars. Our customers VOTE with their dollars every day.
Stay the course.
I am constantly overwhelmed at the GREAT work you folks are doing for your communities. You don't do it because it's required or because it's good PR, you do it because that's what good corporate citizens do!"
(Oh, wow. "Good corporate citizens"?)
PLEASE NOTE: Mays makes a distinction between "consumers" (you and me, the music lover) and "customers" (advertisers). CLEAR CHANNEL'S CUSTOMERS ARE ADVERTISERS, NOT MUSIC LOVERS. CLEAR CHANNEL IS IN THE ADVERTISING BUSINESS. THIS IS HOW THEY DEFINE THEIR ENTIRE M.O. AS A COMPANY. THEIR JOB IS TO "HELP" COMPANIES "MOVE PRODUCT."
(sorry for the all-caps, I'm starting to sound like a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Soap)
The reason people notice their advertising is because they have a lockdown on radio and concerts and also own a huge billboard chain. It has nothing to do with "best."
And obviously, people would listen to other stations if there were any that were any better; but because of deregulation, the big chains have created an oli-mediocrity. They're all huge and they all suck ass. And, again, obviously people would rather pay less money to see concerts in real music venues and not hockey fucking stadiums, but they have no choice.
(Thanks to Clearchannelsucks.org)
Now, my best girlfriend's husband is a very successful radio programmer at Clear Channel, so don't you think I'm just some player hater. This is not about hateration. He loves music and so do a lot of people in corporate radio. But there's only so much he can do to rock the house in the context of contemporary radio programming. And it's killing radio.
Music will go on.