New Rock Radio is Dead

According to the New York Times in Fade-Out: New Rock Is Passé on Radio (registration required), "new rock" is dead. As far as I am concerned, the problem with commercial rock radio has always been this need to creat playlists that are too narrow in focus or that latch on too closely to the latest trend. Why the hell does a rock radio station have to focus on only "alternative" bands (playing the same songs by the same major lable bands) or classic rock (playing the same songs by the same major label bands) while ignoring the hundreds of great bands from the hundreds of indie labels that don’t neccessarily fit into these narrow niches? Rock and roll encompases everything from punk to power pop to psychedelic garage to guitar-based hard rock and more and yet commercial rock radio refuses to deviate from their failing and narrow musical focus. Put some knowledgable DJs on the air who listen to more than the crap that the major labels pump out and let them entertain and enlighten us. These DJs are all around us on the countless non-commercial radio stations that broadcast world-wide and would love to get a shot at turning on the masses to great rock and roll, an art form that remains vibrant, exciting and still possessing of the capacity to surprise. It won’t happen but it’s worth a shot in my books.


  1. Commercial rock radio is dead because it committed suicide. Radio hasn’t been about music for many years and that’s what has driven away listeners in droves. People will ditch an inferior product – it’s only a matter of time, even if there’s no alternative to flock to. They’ll turn it off. It used to be that there was local and regional radio and these stations would actually play records on small labels. Imagine that! A song could be a hit in the Midwest or the South, even if people on the coasts had never heard it, and vice versa. If it made enough noise, it could go national, even without big label muscle behind it. And if the DJ or Station Manager liked the b-side, they’d play that instead. The early history of rock is littered with examples of songs that took off because one station or one DJ got behind it. It was the power of the song that counted – it didn’t matter who sang it or what label they were on. With big corporate radio, that’s impossible. You hear the same 20 songs in Kansas City as you do in Miami and it’s all programmed at corporate HQ. And all of those songs are bought and paid for through exhorbitant “fees” paid by the major labels to the promo guys who bribe the stations, which effectively keeps the indies out of the game. And to add even another layer to this, the song has to “test”. It has to meet the approval of a focus group before it hits the air. Sanitized for your safety. And the biggest joke of all is that the huge radio conglomerates argue that there’s MORE variety of music on the radio. More than what?

  2. The reason that radio sucks so much is that the radio business isn’t about serving the listeners anymore. Most listeners think of themselves as the customer in the radio business, but in reality they are just the product which are sold to the real customers–the advertisers. And advertisers want to be able to target their messages at the narrowest posible demographic groups. So with the consolodation of radio station ownership in the last ten years radio congolmerates have turned their properties into demgraphic harvesting machines for their customers the advertisers. So a company like clear channel can sell an advertiser pretty much any little sliver of a demographic that the advertiser is interested in. So the “new rock” format would be what the radio company would use to harvest “18-24 white males who like eXtreme sports and video games” for instance.

    But the failure of this crass business model isn’t surprising. Eventually the product gets bored because the bate is stale, and posibly somewhere deep inside maybe they realize that they are being used.

  3. Radio is dead because radio is more concerned with serving their advertisers and corp. profits. I listen to music from websites and buy cds. I liked it when there were live DJ’s and playlists were not so tightly focused. This narrow minded philosophy is what is killing radio, and in my opinion it is already dead.
    The sky jockeys have done the most damage to radio.

Comments are closed.