5 Reasons why I seldom listen to radio

Radio Ga Ga… Radio can be very cool to listen to, but on the other hand I never liked it as much as listening to full albums or concerts. And there are a few reasons for that. So here’s my little rant about commercial radio.

Compression

This is probably one of the biggest problems I have with radio: In the studio compression is a great thing, but with the loudness wars between radio stations, and their practice of (over-) compressing every song, you quite often get weird sounding music coming out of the radio. I recently heard a Culture Club song on the radio in which the rattling percussion elements where almost louder than the rest of the music, clashing with the vocals and rhythmic elements. That’s distracting and also disrespectful to the original mix. And it just plain sounds awful. It’s a bit like radio producers are constantly saying “Needs more cowbell”…

Don’t talk

When I listen to music, I’d like to hear the full song until the last note fades out, but unfortunately on commercial radio stations, DJs are asked to remind the listener all the time which station they’re tuned into and how cool it is (remember Howard Stern’s “W-Eeeeeennnnn-B-C”?). And somehow they think the attention span of the listener is so short, they usually talk into the intro or final chorus of a song. It’s almost like when there’s a good song on the radio, the DJ HAS to babble over it so you won’t enjoy it fully.

Mutilation

Maybe the attention span of the average listener isn’t really too good, but do they have to cut songs that are already no longer than three minutes even shorter? Especially with current pop music there’s been the trend to edit extremely short radio versions – and that’s been going on for quite a while. Hearing a Backstreet Boys song on the radio a few years ago, even I noticed that the song shouldn’t just be one verse going into the chorus, short break, then the chorus again and then be over. That’s mutilation, even for the worst bubblegum pop songs you could imagine.

One step forward, two steps back

Yes, radio often plays great songs that I totally like… BUT… (of course this one has a but, too 😉 ) After one or two great songs, the next one quite often is a total fail, at least in my book.

Payola

Wikipedia says payola is “the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on commercial radio.” Well, it might be illegal, but the fact is that without quite some budget you’ll never make it onto commercial radio. Is that a form of payola? Maybe. But the problem is that radio (and label) executives nowadays just don’t want to take any risks – as small as they may be. Play a song from an unknown newcomer that doesn’t sound like 90% of the current charts? “No waaaay, we might lose some listeners,” says the aforementioned executive. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear the songs I know and love on the radio – but if I’m forced to listen to the current Top Ten songs every hour on every mainstream station, I’d rather not tune in.

Call me a grumbler, but I’d rather listen to my own selection, with no one talking during the intro or over the last chorus, mutilating songs to two minute versions or ruining a perfectly cool song with fading it into some trite number.

What’s your opinion on today’s mainstream radio?

Author: Chris Wirsig

Chris Wirsig enjoyed classical training on piano and saxophone, studied audio engineering at Munich’s SAE Technology College and has more than 15 years experience in music production. He has been writing songs since 1991 and contributed music for computer demos and commercial games throughout the 1990s. Apart from other music projects he started the acclaimed Electro Noire band no:carrier in 1995 and the Electronica/Chill-Out project Virtual Conformity in 2001. He worked as an editor for the musician’s magazine KEYS and founded the first German fair-trade record label, NovaTune. His latest works include music and sound fx for the acclaimed Top Ten iPad game “Alien Tribe 2”, the short mystery movie "20 Matches", the critically acclaimed no:carrier album “Wisdom & Failure”, and their EP of cover versions, "Ghosts Of The West Coast".

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