NAVA BRAHE: As an old college radio station alumna (Kingsborough Community College’s WKRB), I went through a period where I was deluded enough to think I could have a career in radio. That was during the mid-8os, just after MTV signed on, and “Video Killed the Radio Star”. I met a lot of great people, many of whom I’ve reconnected with thanks to social media, and I had a damn good time. Did I ever work a day in the business? No.
Radio was and still is one of the trickier ways to make a living. Years ago there were epic “voices” like the WMCA Good Guys, Ron Lundy and Dan Ingram at WABC, and a whole bevy of really cool rock jocks on the FM stations. Our favorite TV show was “WKRP in Cincinnati” and we all wanted to be cool like Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap.
Today’s radio differs greatly from the radio I knew growing up. It’s less about the music combined with the personalities who spin it; it’s all about the music now. In fact, you no longer really need disc jockeys to do the deed; most of what you hear now is completely automated. Besides, who wants keep getting interrupted by some obnoxious blowhard when you can listen to your iPod, satellite radio channels, or those music channels your cable television service provides?
I have to admit: I gave up on “terrestrial” radio about 10 years ago when I became an XM Radio subscriber. This was before I moved to Toronto and I was making long drives back-and-forth to visit my family. I hated having to fiddle with the radio dial, and I no longer had a tape deck in my car (only a CD player) so I couldn’t even listen to all the great mixed cassette tapes I had. Satellite radio was perfect; you picked your favorite channels and you were able to listen to whatever type of music you wanted, uninterrupted, for $12 a month, I was in heaven. It was better than cable.
Of course, even satellite radio has evolved to become more like terrestrial radio. Turn on the “Decades” channels on SiriusXM and you’ll hear all the former MTV VJs playing disc jockey, which I find very annoying. At some point, I decided I could no longer tolerate the voices; I only wanted to hear the music. That’s a bit of sacrilege on my part, since I was trained as a disc jockey and used to admire so many of them. Well, maybe not sacrilege, but bitterness because I was never able to fulfill my own dream of being a disc jockey. I’ve since gotten over it, but I don’t think too highly of radio anymore. It seems to have become extraneous with all this technology we now have. Today, my biggest wish is to obtain a 32GB iPhone so I can stuff my entire music library along with my telephone contacts, photos and favorite apps onto one device. If that won’t contribute to the downfall of radio, I don’t know what will.
I don’t think radio has a very rosy future. Traditional radio stations still exist, but I believe they won’t be long for this world. Even some old friends of mine who used to “hijack” radio frequencies on occasion now have a legit Internet operation. It’s still fun, but technology has had a huge hand in shifting the paradigm. For those guys, its the same thing, without having to worry about getting busted by the FCC.
I’ll always love music, and I’ll always carry with me the fond memories of those voices I mentioned. But, I am convinced there will come a day when the job of disc jockey will be obsolete. We’ll still be able to indulge for recreation, but it won’t be something anyone will be able to make a living at.
CHRIS PUMMER: Corporate radio killed with the same tool it used to homogenize its product from coast to coast. And it was a lot blunter, and more of a direct hit than any of the blows landed to a thousand smaller weapons like satellite and streaming internet radio, iPods or anything else.
Radio is dying because it sucks. Because the great local disc jockeys aren’t as local, which means they aren’t as great.
When your corporate radio overlords began cutting costs by trimming these already poorly-paid souls, replacing them with vapid content pumped into hundreds of other stations, they signaled their disinterest in serving communities. It was the equivalent of replacing the great BBQ joint, hot dog stand or some other favorite greasy-spoon-type restaurant with a McDonalds.
Instead of being grateful for the bland consistency, listeners simply cleansed their palates with other options, of which there are many today.