Thursday, March 22, 2012

Radio To Go

I thought about all the reasons I don't like my morning radio station anymore. The on-air personalities have been replaced with new voice-droids. The music selection seems to have skewed away from that which I became familiar, and the format seems to be directed at a whole new listener. Now that "oldies" refer to songs by DEVO and Journey, I suspect that my AOR days may have passed me by. Then I remembered the orange benches at Arby's.
Before I ever had a job slinging America's Roast Beef (Yes Sir!), I was introduced to the idea that in a fast food restaurant you never want anyone getting too comfortable. Hence the "fast" in the title. You want people to sit down and savor their Beef 'n' Cheddar and potato cakes, but you don't want them to linger over their cherry turnover. You want somebody else to plop down for those four to eight minutes to experience what feels like hospitality when it's really a scientifically calculated fraction of an hour designed to feel like hospitality. It's not really hospitality. And if the seating didn't get you, the muzak would.
It sounds pleasant enough in the background, but the instant that it gets into your head, that feeling is replaced with the "what-am-I-listening-to-not-so-fresh-feeling." When I worked behind the counter, I became excruciatingly familiar with the muzak versions of a number of pop standards, most notably "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." It was during those quiet moments when the lobby was empty and the sound from the speakers had no customers to absorb the easy listening pablum. The first few times I caught myself playing name that tune, I shuddered and shook it off. As the year passed, I chose another tack: I sang along. Loudly.
Which brings me all the way back to the morning radio show. I'm not supposed to listen to it like music. It's muzak. I can feel the invisible hand moving me toward the door. Because that's what it's supposed to do.


Anonymous said...

The music is meant to keep the commercial cycles from bumping into one another, and to keep you from changing the station. That it's causing you to tune out is a byproduct of their explicit decision to skew to a younger audience.

Anonymous said...

Younger audience, yes, but it's also because music is largely selected by focus groups and focus groups tend to select what they're already familiar with. Before radio station ownership was deregulated, small-market stations could pursue their individual interests. Those days are over.