What is your relationship with the radio?
A few weeks ago, I heard this interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation with Christine Pawlak, a former DJ from rock radio station Q101 Chicago. Pawlak, as well as listeners calling into the show, were reminiscing about local rock radio stations, most of which have been shut down or moved online as commercial stations have been consolidated and national programming has begun to dominate the airwaves. They lamented the loss of community building through local programming and having an avenue to support and launch local rock bands.
To be honest, I didn’t know that local rock radio was dead. Actually, I rarely listen to the radio. I listen to our local public radio station in the car and listen to internet radio or load up music on my iPod when I feel like hearing music. Apparently, I’m not alone in this, as many fewer people are listening to commercial radio than in the past. But does that really matter? Nowadays, more people can easily listen to exactly the music they want when they want. What’s more, people can sample from an almost infinite array of music on the internet, as services like Spotify and Pandora help listeners find new music to love. What’s wrong with that?
While this is certainly great for those who have access to the technology, Christine Pawlak would argue that something is lost by not having a local rock radio station available. No one is there to broadcast a live concert or to interview a local band when they debut their first CD. People lose the sound of a familiar voice – the DJ who sounds like home to them. Folks don’t have the shared experience of tuning into a radio show all at the same time, the way people would listen to the Grand Ol’ Opry in years past, for example. What’s more, many people don’t have iPods or internet-capable computers, or they have them and don’t know how to use them. People without the newest technology still need access to great music.
This interview got me thinking about the ways I’ve listened to music on the radio in the past. I listened to my parents’ radio stations as a child – mostly classical music and the golden oldies. Really, the only time in my life I remember deliberately tuning into the radio at particular times was in high school, to listen to the “9 at 9” countdown of top-requested songs each night on my local top 40 radio station. My generation was already moving online by the time I hit college – sharing digital music on Napster was all the rage back then. I’m sure my Baby Boomer parents grew up listening to local radio, though, and many of my older adult clients did listen to the Grand Ol’ Opry or the local stations that featured gospel and blues and rock ‘n roll. In fact, many of my older adult clients still listen to those favorite radio stations.
In any case, it seems that the role of the radio in our culture has been changing for a long time. I am really curious, though – what is your relationship with the radio?
P.S. I’ll finish with a classic joke I’ve heard from many a client:
Q: So, do you play any instruments?
A: Well, I play the radio. (Har, har!!)