Why can’t we have radio like them?

I’ve got the luxury of internet radio here at Casa B3, and as a result I’m not bound by terrestrial constraints and can listen to stations like XFM London and Phantom 105.2 out of Dublin. And the way these stations approach the concept of ‘rock radio’ serves to highlight the dismal state of radio in this country, and more specifically the state of radio here in New York, the supposed ‘media capital of the world.’

This city and its surrounding area have probably more media outlets than any other city in the country, yet suffers from some of the blandest programming in the world. We’ve got Top 40 stations, the less said about them the better. We’ve got Classic Rock stations who haven’t budged off their playlists since the last Led Zeppelin tour (which is fine if you like that, but totally unsatisfying if you want to hear newer stuff). And those rock stations that include new artists are by and large automated stations with just about zero personality.

Of course, there are a few good college stations in the area that provide diverse programming – but don’t have much reach because they don’t have a commercial bankroll, and often fall into an elitist mindset (I won’t mention any names, but I heard a DJ on a local college station who recently played a song by request, then spent five minutes complaining about it because he thought the song was over-produced).

When you compare all of this to XFM or Phantom, it becomes pretty depressing. Both stations’ playlists are diverse – you’re likely to hear a Guns N Roses tune right up next to a scrappy new act trying to break out. They support local acts and generate excitement for local shows, helping to elevate good locals to record deals. Their schedule offers shows that feature EDM or Metal or Acoustic stuff or New Age-y stuff. In short, these stations do everything that commercial constraints guarantee that corporate owned stations here will never do, because there would be no benefit to their bottom line if they did it.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a ‘get off my lawn’ post, it really isn’t. I could wax nostalgic about the days of ‘free form’ radio in this country and lament that it’s all been boiled down to basically cash transactions and cookie-cutter attitude at this point. But what’s done is done and radio culture here will probably get worse before it gets better. And given a choice, I’ll go with the stations that give me diversity, personality, enthusiasm and love for the medium. And those stations are few and far between in this country nowadays. God bless internet radio.

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