03
May
09

Radio Killed the Radio Star?

I sometimes find myself worrying that in my increasing old age (pushing 30 *shudder*) that I’m going to end up like my parents and so many in their generation and just stop listening to new music. I have just shy of 10,000 tracks from just under 1000 artists in my collection. If you want to go old school, that’s 1553 albums, a bunch of singles and unsorted stuff, for a total of 26:14:13:34 listening time. Not including audiobooks and podcasts, that’s almost a month of music without repeating. Yikes!

Now, while I already have more music than I can reasonably listen to, I still like to discover new stuff. The tried and true way is to see what’s playing on the radio. I tend not to do this because Scion was very thoughtful and included an iPod dock connector that routes directly to the head unit. I tend to turn on the radio when I happen to have unplugged the iPod and forgot to plug it back in. When this happens, the head unit defaults back to the radio, since there’s no other input. (It does have a CD player, but I’ve only ever put one CD in once, when a friend gave me a burn of Human by the Killers to listen to. iPod > CD to the point that I haven’t listened to a CD in forever. CDs go straight to iTunes and then go on the shelf.)

When I hit the radio one of two things happens. There’s a commercial on or the idiot DJ is talking, I realize my mistake and immediately plug the iPod back in. Or an actual song is playing. When this happens, I usually find myself wondering if I’m back in college or even high school. My default station is Live 105 in San Francisco (105.3 FM), which is the alternative/new rock station. The problem is that their playlist is even older and far more limited than mine. I’ve bounced around some of the other local stations on occasion and its the same everywhere. The radio is no longer the place to find new music!

What the hell happened? Is there nothing new? Clearly something is going on, because I manage to discover new music all the time. The problem with new music and the radio is ultimately the source of all of today’s problems with music: the corporate recording industry. All that I’ve seen coming out of this cultural cesspool is a string of pop culture garbage that’s aimed at pre-teens and young teenagers, a notoriously profitable group. There’s nothing wrong with seeking profits, but they’re not doing anything to advance their art.

Of course the people running the recording industry are the same type running Wall Street and the auto industry. A bunch of “professional managers” with high power MBA’s. These are people who went to Harvard or Stanford business schools and come out with the arrogant notion that they can run any business and know better than anyone else, including people with specialized knowledge about those businesses. Just like how Wall Street executives seem to know nothing about how to run a sustainable bank, recording industry execs know nothing about music. They know how to make lots of money and how to promote artificial groups and artists to impress the kids, but they know shit about music.

Several people have noted that a large percentage of the recording industry’s income comes from their library. That’s either people re-buying things or people discovering older music and slurping it up. What this requires though, is artists with lasting power, not a string of one hit wonders or groups that you loved when you were 12, but horribly embarrassed that you ever listened to when you were 14 and up. The problem is, good, real artists are hard to come by, hard to recognize, and generally have a more limited audience that every 12 year old girl in the US. Its simply not as profitable to nurture talent as it is to manufacture it.

So what am I supposed to do about it? Do I just accept that fact that I’m old and all the good music has been recorded? Ummm, no. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the radio, and it just happens to be the thing that the industry claims is killing music. I don’t need to enumerate what I use to find new music, since I’m sure everyone reading this already uses them (Pandora, Last.FM, RCD LBL, etc). The point is you have really work to find good music, and then do some more work to actually buy it. Its almost as if the music corporations don’t want us to find any new music. That is to say, they don’t want us to find any new music that fits our tastes and is good. Its like they want us to just mindlessly buy the extremely profitable manufactured music that they shit out every year. But that can’t be it, can it?

In any case, I’m glad that the relative lack of new stuff on my iPod isn’t due to the fact that I’m becoming an old fart, but because, yet again, the recording industry sucks.

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