I gave up on listening to music format radio stations years ago. I do listen to WDVE in the morning on my way to work for the morning show. When they go to a song, I switch the station. Now, if that song is anything by Journey or Warren Zevon or Led Zeppelin or the Doors or… OK there are a lot of exceptions… but in any case, usually, the music means it’s time to go down the dial.
Where I end up is usually 93.7, The Fan. Us old fogies know it as The Station Formally Known As B94. I spend a few minutes there until commercial or they start talking about Pitt. I’m not a hater, I’m an alum. It’s just that somewhere in the last year, The Fan got a contract with the University to air their football and basketball games and even though this is a primarily Pittsburgh based sports talk station, about 50% or more of their discussions and coverage are about Pitt teams. It’s like they have to give lip service to the University every hour or they’ll lose their deal.
But that’s not what really bothers me about radio, these days. I’ve gone on about music and Top 40 and the crap that is out there, playing in heavy rotation every 20 minutes. This is more about what happens on the radio with the individual stations.
Now, let me back this rant up about 30 years. As a kid, I remember driving around town in my Dad’s old Chevy Custom Deluxe pickup truck. He had it tuned to pretty much one station, WCVI AM. It was the hometown radio station, just across the bridge from where we lived. It was mostly news with some middle of the road type music. The news was pretty much read from the newspaper, as you could actually hear the page turning as the broadcaster flipped the page to continue the story. But the real thrill for me was listening to Paul Harvey segments. You’re going to have to go look up Paul Harvey if you are unfamiliar. I could go on another three hours talking about him. I just don’t have that kind of time, right now.
The magic of Paul Harvey was part storytelling and part huckstering. He could seamlessly weave a mysterious tale about a famous person’s background and plug in a pitch for a Coleman Thermos in one breath. He excelled at blurring the line between broadcasting and commercial. Today’s equivalent would be like watching Chuck and noticing that the Nerd Herd “Herders” cars are Toyota’s, not because you know they are a Toyota Matrix, but because in the opening credits the logo is clearly shown. Also, they all love Subway, because there is a Subway wrapper shown in almost every episode. Paul Harvey was a little more subtle in his pitches but after awhile you could see them coming a mile away.
I shed a small tear when Harvey died in 2009. However, nothing burns me more than when I’m stuck in traffic from Wilkinsburg to the other side of the Squirrel Hill tunnels, or trying to frantically get back over to the middle lane at the Grant Street exit, only to hit a wall of traffic due to an accident just outside the Fort Pitt Tunnels, and I switch radio stations looking for actual content and get duped into listening to a commercial because the announcer is the same guy who I listen to during the regular broadcast.
That pisses me off to no end. I land on one station and think I’m listening to the show and find out that it’s a pitch for DirectTV or a car dealership. Now, my friends will be quick to point out that I should get Satellite Radio and hook up my iPod. First of all, I’m too cheap to spend the money on a radio that will have like three channels that I’ll listen to and my iPod has seen better days. Not to mention, the apparatus to hook up my iPod to my radio, so I can listen, is not conducive to me being a safe driver. That goose neck Belkin debacle of an iPod transmitter has nearly caused me more accidents than a teenager with a car and an unlimited text plan, who just got dumped. To sum it all up, I’m a cheap ass who would rather complain about what’s on the radio instead of doing something different.
But back to my tangent. Is it that apparent that no one likes commercials anymore that stations will do whatever it takes to try and work in their ads? Are they trying to be shifty by disguising a commercial by having the applicable on air host do the commercial? Am I just a conspiracy theory loving hater who thinks the world is out to get him? Yes, I know the last one is a rhetorical question.
Maybe this is evolution. Maybe all the tricks the Mad Men have employed over the years are leading to trying to find new ways to sell you something. I for one hate how Google has followed me around for months now on every website I visit. I’ve already paid for my vacation in the Outer Banks with a particular company. Stop showing me their ads when I go to a sports site. I know it’s a cookie thing. I guess they figure that a greater percentage of the population is able to be manipulated versus those of us who are turned away from that kind of advertising. For me, it’s like hypnosis. I don’t believe in it and usually it pushes me even further from whatever product they are selling. The Google thing just makes me want to stop using them altogether. But… it’s like Walmart, more often than not, you end up there because it’s easier.
So, as I develop stronger muscles in my right leg from commuting and a bigger sense of ambivalence towards radio and commercialism I will probably become even more curmudgeonly than I already was. Is that even a grammatically correct statement spell check? There is probably some puppy kicking in my future. And nothing kicks puppies better than my new Nike Cross Trainers… Puppy kicking… Just Do it.
And now you know the rest of the story…