Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
When radio execs test a new single for an artist, they gather listeners into a room, throw on a few different songs by the same artist, and ask the participants how they would have reacted if they heard the song on the radio. Would you:
A. Turn the station if you heard this song?
B. Would you turn up the volume if you heard this song?
C. Would you do nothing if you heard this song?
The reaction they are looking for is "C."
Think about that for a second: These stations don't want you touching the dial. Not even to crank the volume (I guess they think you will mistakenly change the channel if you reach to turn up the volume . . . dumb consumer). This is modern methodology, and this information is used in the multitasking of the record label/radio station partnership. No one wants YOU to touch that dial.
Of course, we get it. We are grown-ups, and understand business. This IS just business, after all, but as a result, any new music that a radio station might play these days isn't necessarily the song that will make you react the most. It's the one that will have you just lazily stay on that station so that they can play their lucrative advertisements for stuff that we will hopefully consume. Kind of sucks, if you ask me.
There used to be so many songs written with the romantic notion of a radio being on somewhere. Radio used to have a cool factor. Radio stations across the U.S. would have their own playlists, and often a local band would get their big break by first being played on the radio in their local town.
Today's hyper-tested radio music has gotten too vanilla, tedious, and mundane.
Personally, I wish there was an old-school punk-rock station in every city. I'd listen to rock radio more often if that were the case. But I like "old-school" everything. Old-school R&B, '70s rock, etc. And seemingly, people my age DO have purchasing power, right? Wouldn't some smart corporate Clear Channel-er figure out that playing radio ads for cars and clothes to a guy like me may just be a ingenious thing to do?
But I'd like the chance to find out about new-school music via the radio, too. I love me some Beach House and Red Fang. What else is out there that I don't know about? Do I have to search online now -- hit up the Pandoras and YouTubes and Spotify -- or go to a Capitol Hill coffeehouse to get down with what is new these days?
Will there ever be a time in the future that somehow kids like mine will tune in to a radio station rather than listen to their iPods? Would I have listened to the radio if I had an iPod way back when? I might have . . . if not just to discover something new.