18 April 2004
Can this format be saved?
Rich Appel's Hz So Good newsletter for the coming month opens with a seven-point plan to salvage "oldies" radio, and he has correctly identified the major issue: the core audience is way past the age that advertisers are most desperate to reach. (I turn 51 this year, and am therefore presumably of no interest to anyone except AARP and the manufacturers of Fix-O-Dent.) The fix is radical: the emphasis must be shifted away from us Persons of Mature Flatulence and toward building a new audience in the 18-34 demographic. And this means killing the ersatz Bill Drake noises in the background and abandoning the "we're the station you grew up with" imaging. If this music has lasting value, and I think it does, then it can be sold to new generations without having to pay tribute to those of us who fancy ourselves as having been there at the creation; surprisingly many of today's twenty-year-olds may be Beatles fans, as a recent Entertainment Weekly feature suggested, but it's not necessary for them to be exposed to Murray the K for them to grasp the Zeitgeist.
And given the sheer diversity of Top 40 radio in its prime if a record charted high enough in the trade papers, it was a candidate for airplay regardless of its perceived genre there's inevitably going to be conflict in putting together a playlist for the very model of a modern oldies station: some will prefer a heavier marbling of R&B, while others will lean towards whiter, brighter waxings, and what do you do with the country crossovers? One thing, however, is for certain: you can't encapsulate a decade and a half of incredibly diverse music by a mere 200 or 300 songs, as today's stations persist in thinking.
Maybe I shouldn't care about these things. If I have the urge to hear songs from this era, I need only walk into the next room and select stuff from the shelf. But I have just enough semi-enlightened self-interest to believe that if there's an increasing interest in material from the period, the gatekeepers will be more likely to open up the vaults and turn loose some of the things I've forgotten or I've never heard at all. And as John Lennon once said, you know that can't be bad.
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Good morning and welcome to the Cul-de-Sac, in which your devoted hostess takes a spin around her corner of the blogosphere and reports back on her findings. The Cul-de-Sac used to be a regular feature here at suburban blight,......[read more]