The Spirit of Radio

As I mentioned in my previous entry, one of the things I am having fun with is adding some of the many links I have saved over the past 11+ years since I first got access to the World Wide Web.  Of special importance to me is the tons of sites I have for radio stations all over the world that I personally enjoy as well as like to use to prove that the medium is not quite dead everywhere just yet.

Going through these links brings me back to my very first Web project.  When I first got access to the Internet, it was through an original WebTV box (now MSN TV).  Without going into the whole history of that mess and how it was yet another good, independent company ruined after it was taken over by Microsoft, there came a time when the technology in “the little black box” as WebTV’ers called it began to quickly fall behind what was being used to stream audio.  Having just started to learn very basic HTML thanks to Draac.com, I decided to do something about it.

I got a Tripod account and started building a website that listed radio stations I thought were good and, most importantly, that still had a stream compatible with WebTV.  For the style of websites at the time (with LOTS of animated gifs, of course!), it turned out pretty good.  I learned how to enter meta tags and submit my site to all of the various search engines available back in 1998 (well before Google even thought about being pretty much the sole king of search) and expected a few people to come in here and there.

Little did I know that, while I was away from home for a weekend concert, WebTV published a nice little half-page blurb about my site in their monthly magazine that was mailed out to its subscribers.  I returned to find that my e-mail inbox was completely full and the front-page hit counter on my site had gone from about 250 to over 250,000!

It was a great time and certainly satisfying to be a minor Internet celebrity for a few months, at least within the million or so subscribers that WebTV had at the time.  Over the long term, it taught me a lot about what people want out of such a site and I will be forever grateful to Draac.com for showing me that I could do more with HTML than just figure out how to put a scrolling marquee of a dirty word into my WebTV e-mail signature…oh, and didn’t the rest of you with real e-mail accounts just love those fat-ass e-mail signatures that WebTV’ers were famous for? :-D

Of course, time has marched on for better or worse.  With the perfection of search engines, the need for people making entire websites dedicated to links is mostly no longer necessary.  A decent computer and fast Internet connection are now just as cheap as MSN TV, so only those determined to keep surfing it “old school” still have to deal with any limitations.  And, of course, we have gone through wave after wave of new things and changes in how people can stream and acquire music from Broadcast.com to Napster to Shoutcast to iTunes to Pandora.

On the bad side…well, has anything been as bad as the unintended consequences of broadcasting deregulation in the United States?  Oh, that’s right, there is something as bad…the way the major music companies completely whiffed on the Information Superhighway and screwed themselves by refusing to man up to the new technology.

For me, this is all a sad thing.  Every radio station within a market had its own personality.  Then, if you traveled to a different city, they had stations with similar formats but they had their own different take on things.  With few exceptions, not only does every radio station of a certain format sound exactly the same from city to city, but they can even be caught playing the same songs at the same time (and that’s completely aside from the ones that are just piping in a syndicated service).  Gone are the local programmers who knew how to fit the playlist to their own city’s tastes, gone are the local music shows, and gone are almost all of the public service programs.  We have even sunk to such a point of greed that many stations will no longer break in to regular programming for news bulletins or severe weather alerts (a huge pet peeve of mine that some of you will remember from the old version of this site).

I am also saddened that people significantly younger than me now have absolutely no attachment to radio because it never gave them a reason to love it.  Thus, a whole generation has lost something else that gives them a sense of true community much less a source of good entertainment and information.  They just don’t know the joy of that great surprise of a perfectly-timed song or segue or of how a really good disk jockey could set the mood or even spur one to action whether that “action” was something political or to just stop sitting around with your hands in your pockets and go give your baby a hug…and, maybe something else, too. ;-)

Most frustrating of all is how playlists have become so narrow and repetitive.  Here we are in a world where there is more music available than we ever dreamed of yet your local “classic rock” station that now considers the Allman Brothers Band “too old” to play anymore is more than happy to play Aerosmith’s  Walk This Way for you four times a day, every day, every month, every year, all the while ignoring all of those other Aerosmith songs that were hits but, somehow, aren’t good enough anymore.

Today’s radio programmers and bean counters answer such complaints by saying, “People just want to hear the hits now.”  In return, I say, “Then why are your ratings continuing to drop?”

I know full well why their ratings are continuing to drop as I see it in my personal life every month.  The less computer-savvy people in my life keep sending me people my age or older that are so sick of radio that they will take the previously unthinkable step of using their computers to do something besides go to Facebook and look at porn.  They all want me to teach them how to rip CDs, buy songs from Amazon, and use an iPod.  This goes for all major genres of music, too.  These people coming to me are all different — some like “classic rock,” some like hard rock, some like country, and others like R&B.  They are tired of radio that programs to the lowest common denominator and almost every one of them that has had it are also now very frustrated with Sirius XM who, ever since the merger, started programming most of their channels just like an over-the-air station.

Ah, but there are still a few places where one can find an oasis of good radio even in a world where most National Public Radio and college radio stations have been corrupted by the influence of consolidation and the music companies that no longer believe in a truly free market.  Actually, when all listed out on a Web page, it starts looking like far more than just a few.

For now, I am placing the best of the best of my many radio station links over in the right-hand column along with everything else.  I actually have a lot more than what I have posted so far but I keep many of those strictly for reference and mainly to listen in if that area is being attacked by tornadoes.  However, even editing all of those out and as I still have every state and territory to go through from Idaho to Wyoming…well, it just might be time to bring the old radio page back.

What I am putting up is a wide variety of stations but that do focus mostly on local “community radio” — the kind of stations that could be playing old progressive rock songs when you tune in and then, two hours later, it’s a program featuring bluegrass followed by another one of independent alternative rock.  However, there are still some good commercial radio stations left and a handful that will always be special to me no matter what…well, as long as they don’t pick up Rush Limbaugh or any of his disgusting ilk.  When completed and regardless as to whether the just sit in my regular links section or get their own page, you will find all eras of rock plus jazz, classical, folk, world music, Cajun, Americana, Hawai’ian, classic country (none of this pseudo-pop shit Nashville has been churning out like bad sausages for far too many years now), and goodness knows what else.  Best of all, I will link to only those stations that put out a good quality stream.

For those of you even deeper into radio or more curious about it, I have also put up some of my favorite history, commentary, and news sites related to the subject.  There are even a few streaming-only stations as well.

I know that was a lot to read and I am becoming more aware by the hour it seems that I need to start putting up some more eye candy on this site so it does not put everybody to sleep.  Hey, it has been a long time coming between the slow death of the old site and this resurrection so it will all come in time.

Until then, I hope my readers will keep checking as the Radio links section changes and grows and that you will all find a good station or two that will either bring back some good memories or, even better, introduce you to some great new music.

Just remember…every time you listen to a good, independent radio station and not some cookie-cutter owned by Clear Channel, Cumulus, Citadel, CBS, Corus, or any of the other ones, you are sticking it to the man. >:-)

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