Content and Craft

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In yesterday's post I spoke about radio stations and how most terrestrial based AM/FM stations have gone down the tubes in their listenability. They are not alone: even the very music these stations play are suspect as well. Yet, there ARE good stations, just like there IS good music. One must seek it out. I was in radio for years, as both an on air talent and a program director, so I have some level of insight into the field. I was fortunate enough to be involved during the heyday of music based radio, both top 40 as well as what we used to call AOR (Album Oriented Rock). Top 40 radio was at its peak in the mid to late 1960's thanks to a brilliant programmer named Bill Drake who syndicated his sound through the Drake Chenault outlets. In the 1970's FM radio went from background music to a medium that crushed AM in a very short period of time; and for the same reasons. Throughout all these cycles of wild success to crashing failures, their were two common threads: the first was content the second was craft. Content. Top 40 radio was not invented by Bill Drake, but he revolutionized it none the less. He took control of content from the sales department and put it in the hands of programming, maintaining tight standards in every respect. Instead of pandering to the advertisers, he ignored them completely and played to the listeners. This strategy went through a classic cycle: first upsetting the advertisers who bailed on the station, then building an audience who loved the content. The advertisers returned, hat in hand. Craft. The very best FM radio stations of the day gave the content decisions to the air talent, each crafting their own mix of music. If the audience didn't respond well to the mix, the air talent was replaced with someone who could do a better job. This is the exact opposite of what Bill Drake did. Drake controlled content with brilliant (but controlled) programming aimed at building an audience. AOR depended on the skill and craft of the individual to build audience. Today. Most radio stations, music services and many musicians are back in the hands of the sales and numbers people. Content and Craft suffer. When we do discover Content or Craft, let's all make a point of sharing and supporting those that "get it".
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Paul McGowan

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