By Claire Booth
Once upon a time, there was a great radio station. It played good music—almost college radio station good. Lots of variety, bands you’d never heard before, nothing from the Top 40, the occasional out-there choice that made you suspect the person who chose it was probably stoned. There were commercials just a few times an hour, and there was never a DJ. Nobody talked, ever. There was no morning show, no silly contests, no call-in chats.
People loved this station (me included). Until somewhat recently, I didn’t have a car that was equipped with Bluetooth. It wasn’t even equipped with a reliable CD player. So if I wanted music, radio was my only option.
This station was heaven. And it did something interesting that I hadn’t encountered before. Listeners could text in “like” or “dislike” for every song. Too many dislikes and a song got pulled from the rotation, sometimes even getting yanked right in the middle of the song. This was awesome and vastly more entertaining to me than the average morning show.
They say now that this “text your like/dislike” has spread throughout the industry. I have no idea if that’s true. I will say that when it started, and no one had heard of it being done before, it did feel like your opinion counted. It might have been merely an illusion—like when an amusement park makes the chained zig-zag lines so long that it feels like the line’s moving even when it’s not. We’re going to lead you to believe we’re listening, even though we’re definitely not, you gullible sap who still doesn’t have satellite radio and so can’t turn us off without being forced to sit there in silence with nothing but her own thoughts. That’s okay. I’ll take that kind of feel-in-control-of-some-part-of-your-life delusion when I’m trapped in my car at the sixth red stoplight within a quarter-mile stretch.
But then (and I think you know where this is going), my little radio station got found out—by evil corporate scouts or Maleficent or Grendel or something. I don’t know. Now it has talking, way too many commercials, and absolutely no original or undiscovered music. The worst thing is that even with the talking, it’s all the same generic stuff from the same voice as one on a different station in my market. Literally. It’s the same guy, saying the same things about entering the same multi-market contest with the same code word. So now I have to sit through a DJ, and it’s not even resulting in legit employment for people of the DJ persuasion. It’s just some corporation adding to one employee’s workload, probably without a matching bump in compensation.
As a result, I’ve sadly hit a final “dislike” and turned my little station off for good. I’ll probably pop in once in a while to see if it’s still terrible, but then it will be back to my Bluetooth and this wonderful world I’ve discovered—podcasts!