Why Radio Won’t Die

I had two shots of espresso this morning, and as a result, I had about 100 ideas all at once. One of them was that if I compromised a little bit of my physical health, it might not be a such a bad idea to make more of a habit out of caffeine (I usually only do the stuff socially). Another was that maybe it’s okay for me to blog; maybe that’s what journalism is now: millions of amateurs expressing opinions on a range of topics on a variety of weblogs, out of which only the most empathic of us can discern any kind of truth (and maybe that’s a good thing). But what I want to talk about today is the hot button issue of our time: radio.

And I’ll keep it short, because I have a short list of long things to do today.

I’ve heard people say that radio is “dying” or even that it’s “dead.” I disagree. This morning, on a car trip, I was forced into a radio-listening situation (I didn’t bring my tapes with me / yes, Micah, I used your car). At first I was lamenting the existence of the advertisements and the dj’s, and then the coffee kicked in, and I started to not have a problem with the dj’s and I started to like the advertisements (once you get past the unwieldy lyrics to the Mattress Discounters jingle, it’s pretty catchy).

When I finally settled on a station that was playing some music, I heard a song that I’d never heard before that I really enjoyed, and it had no lyrics, and the song ended, and the dj didn’t say who it was, and I’ll probably never know what that song was (or if it was indeed a song at all) or who wrote it. The feeling I got from that experience was something I hadn’t felt for over a decade, and something I didn’t realize I missed. My main complaint with radio when I was a teenager was that I didn’t get enough information about the music. I always wanted total choice in my music, and methods by which I could search for exactly what I wanted without relying on serendipity. I wanted a clear and easy system with which to manage the matching of my tastes to the art that is out there. The internet gave me that. Modern technology has made my search for art so effortless that it’s often overwhelming. What used to be an endless and agonizing pursuit for aesthetic beauty has become an endless and agonizing process of weeding out what doesn’t move me. It used to be that I would travel a tortuous road full of dead ends to find the music that I liked, and when I found it, it was like finding the hidden gold of the secret mummy. But these days I hear absolutely everything, and I have to sort through it to find what I really want to listen to (i just said the exact same thing twice in a row…pick which way you like the best and forget the other one). It used to be that when I arrived at some new music, my ears were eager and starved, but these days, when I arrive at new music, my ears are just tired. I feel bad that I don’t give artists I discover now the same treatment I would have given them if it were fifteen years ago.

So, in the hopes of improving my own experience, I’m going to make it a point to go to the radio occasionally. I don’t want to return to the past, because I like having choices. I just think that sometimes I will exercise my right to choose to not have a choice. And as long as there are a small number of people that also want to have that choice, radio will not die, it will just shrink to match the demand.

I’m sure I’m saying something that’s been said a thousand times before on other blogs. But only on my blog will you see the phrase “gold of the secret mummy.” I have been Johnny Unicorn, please remember to tip your barista.

P.S. I won’t link you to the Mattress Discounters jingle for copyright reasons, but it would be regretful if you didn’t find that song somehow and listen to it.

P.P.S. I’m not advertising for Mattress Discounters. You can count on me to be the first to promote the idea of not wasting money on mattresses. Just get a foam pad with some cloth upholstered to it, or find someone who’s getting rid of a mattress. However, I’d be inclined to change my mind if some mattress store wanted to hire me to write a jingle.

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