An open letter to all major commercial rock radio stations,

An open letter to all major, commercial, rock radio stations.

Dear sirs/madams,

This summer I worked outdoors, listening to a radio/mp3 player eight hours a day, 24 days a month. When the batteries in the admittedly cheap music player would run low, I would still have enough juice to listen to local Lethbridge radio.

In doing so, I was disgusted, yet morbidly amused to hear the same phrases used across the dial time and time again – “commercial free rock-ride” and “45-minutes commercial free.” Phrases like these would be repeated at least once an hour, yet every fifteen minutes (or three songs) I would hear commercials.

Now, I somewhat understand the goings-on at a radio station, having been a faithful volunteer programmer for the last year or more at CKXU here at the U of L. I realize that it is important to self-promote, i.e. playing the station ID or call sign (CKXU, CJ92, ROCK 106 etc.) played as frequently as possible.

I also realize that ad managers at radio stations solicit money from advertisers, in exchange for the guarantee that their ads would be played a particular (or random) times slots throughout the week. I understand as well, that certain record labels and companies promote their artists heavily via singles released to radio, and believe that they pay big bucks to do so. So, having clarified what I know, or at least think I know, I have four suggestions for you, the owners/operators of these commercial rock radio stations, as to how to better your stations, and forgive my tone, as they might not be pretty.

Listeners are not stupid. They see through your “45-minute commercial-free” sets, as they hear your advertisements played every 20 minutes. You are, in my opinion, blatantly committing false advertising, yet we all accept it like sheep or cattle and don’t heckle you for it. Well sirs/madams, consider yourself heckled. Stop telling lies please.

I would appreciate it (and presume that others would too) if you would stop announcing the “new” song from the Foo Fighters or Billy Talent (just two examples), when you’ve already played that same “new” track four times a day for the last 90 days. After 75 spins on-air, enough time for every citizen in North America to memorize each and every lyric, the track should no longer be considered “new”.

Before this third suggestion, I feel compelled to ask you a question: Are the major record labels/companies (i.e. Sony, BMG, Maverick) also your owners, bosses, or dictators? It would seem that way. I have a hard time believing that all of your on-air personalities and/or DJ’s truly, madly, and deeply love playing generic songs by Theory of a Puddle of a LinkinBack. I bet that they go home and enjoy listening to collections of varied and excellent music.

So just once, and here is my suggestion, before that same song gets played in it’s same time-slot (often supposedly by request) I would suggest that one of these DJ’s speak his/her mind and say on-air, with enthusiasm, “Due to the limited selection of music that our paid-for-programming provides, here’s the not-so-new single from INSERT BAND NAME HERE who sound an awful lot like INSERT DIFFERENT BAND NAME HERE, and whose “new” album came out two years ago!”

I am not trying to rant too much, but I’m pretty sure you make me angry. I think I would feel ashamed to work for a company that inhibits free-thinking and assumes that all listeners are dying to hear the same AC/DC song over and over again year after year. The force-feeding of the same sometimes-lame though usually catchy tunes over and over again, makes your listeners (at least this one for sure) feel weaker and weaker, brainwashed and indoctrinated by cotton-candy “singles”, denied the ability to see that there is a multi-verse of awesome music out there – of which they are exposed, through stations like yours, to .00001 %.

I suggest that your station (you know who you are), just once in a while, buck the system and spice it up. Instead of playing Aerosmith or Bryan Adams again for the third time that day, try playing a tune by Atrophy Manuscript (homegrown talent with a killer CD), by B.B. King (there couldn’t be rock and roll without the blues), by Tool (intelligent lyrics) or by Bob Dylan or Neil Young (political activists who work through their music). Please, just play anyone with something real and powerful to say.

If you do, whoever is listening just might come away feeling enlightened, inspired, uplifted, or a bit wiser – rather than feeling numb, dumb, angry and brainwashed after being stuffed full of sweet-sounding garbage in between bites of advertisement for things they don’t really need. Music truly is powerful. It can soothe, heal, instruct, and make a difference – but we need to give it the chance to do so.

Sincerely, one huge music lover and fed-up radio listener,
Chris Hibbard

~ by Chris Hibbard on October 31, 2008.

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