As one of those Luddites who still has not gotten on the streaming bandwagon, I still care about what happens in the radio industry. And before you think otherwise, I am not even talking about that new-fangled satellite radio, but terrestrial FM radio. Part of this may be the result of sentimentality, due to my years in the industry working as a DJ and music director, but this is mainly because FM radio is still a consistent part of my daily life. Whenever I drive anywhere, my first instinct is to switch on the radio, fiddle through my presets, and then put the car in gear as the appropriate soundtrack for the journey plays. There is a CD loaded into the stereo for backup, but mainly my interest is in hearing a mix of songs that either are not in my collection already or would not immediately come to mind for me to select. I have enough trouble selecting an album for every jog and trip to the gym, so it is a welcome relief to not have another situation where I need to shuffle through my extensive musical library.
One of the few perks of living in Salem is that while we are in the middle of nowhere, we are within driving distance in all directions of somewhere. In this particular case, we are smack-dab in the middle of both the larger Portland and Eugene markets, which means that as I drive around town I can choose between two sets of radio stations. Even within just a smaller spectrum of alternative/rock radio, this meant at least four stations from which to choose. However, that number is slowly dwindling.
Recently, KFLY in Eugene abruptly switched formats, from a hard-rock playlist to a…I have no fucking clue, the robot programmer has decided to not give a shit about genre and just play whatever is available. The worst part about the situation is the way the corporate overlords handled the situation, as they simply fired the entire staff of KFLY without warning. For two weeks, listeners had no idea about the behind-the-scenes drama, as KFLY simply played reruns of old shows, a common tactic during the summer. This situation is reminiscent of another recent incident, when KUFO in Portland was converted from a hard-rock station into an right-wing all-talk station, with a lineup of only nationally-syndicated shows. At least we have the small consolation that KFLY is still playing music.
However, neither of these situations compare to the first time I encountered a format change. When I was a young kid growing up in Louisiana, my favorite radio station was an alternative rock station called “The Tiger”. Listening to The Tiger was an essential part of my morning routine, as well as the soundtrack to homework in the afternoon. I remember one morning when I turned the radio on after taking a shower, only to hear the familiar strains of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” coming through my speakers. Sure, this was strange, but The Tiger had done promotions before where they would play whatever song people would want for a fee to be donated to charity, so my first assumption was that they were in the middle of conducting another charity drive. I had to leave for school before the song finished, so I could not confirm my suspicion. However, when I returned from school that afternoon, The Tiger was playing another classic rock song. The same with the next day, the day after, and every week until I left town. I was heartbroken; it was almost as if a good friend had left without saying goodbye.
I still fucking hate Led Zeppelin to this day.