Tag Archives: radio

“No Particular Place to Go”

When the 2021 Cadillac Escalade was introduced, the vehicle manufacturer didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that this is a BIG SUV—the passenger volume is 168.4 cubic feet, which doesn’t mean a whole lot until you know that your Honda CR-V has more than 60 fewer cubic feet for people, and we’re talking about the regular wheel base Escalade, not the extended model—as much as it touted “Escalade’s industry-first curved OLED display” that “offers more than 38 inches of total diagonal display area” including “a 7.2-inch-diagonal touch control panel driver information center to the driver’s left, a 14.2-inch-diagonal cluster display behind the steering wheel and a 16.9-inch-diagonal Infotainment screen to the driver’s right.” Cadillac, presumably wanted to emphasize that this isn’t just a vehicle that, depending on the engine selected, has fuel economy of 13 mpg, but an entertainment experience, as it had Spike Lee introduce the vehicle at an event in Los Angeles.

Another point it emphasized was that the SUV features an audio system from AKG that includes 36 speakers driven by three amps that deliver 28 channels. Notably there is what is called “Studio 3D Surround.” The speakers are placed such that it delivers “sound like being with the artist in the recording studio.” AKG, which was founded in Vienna in 1947, invented the dynamic cardioid microphone that became popular in recording studios; its capabilities in the recording studio space garnered it a Technical Grammy in 2010. Although there is something to the fact that Mozart spent a considerable amount of time in Vienna and died there which makes microphones and speakers from a company that was founded there, in 1994 AKG was acquired by Harmon International. AKG Vienna was shut down in 2017 and the HQ moved to Northridge, California, the same year that Harmon was acquired by Samsung.

Automakers across the board are banking on things like screens and entertainment to attract people to their models. While there had been radio head units in the dashboards since the mid-1930s when Motorola was established (there was a 1922 Chevy with a radio, but Motorola made radios an accessible option), by and large they have disappeared, giving way to screens of different sizes and configurations.

Continue reading “No Particular Place to Go”

Who Likes American Music & the State of Radio in America

The Republic of Ghana is located in western Africa, almost at the very bottom of where the continent juts into the Atlantic. It has a population of 32-million people (here’s a gratuitous fun fact: Tokyo has a population of 37-million people, which just goes to show that China isn’t number-one across the board demographically). The official language in Ghana is English.

So why is this relevant to anything you might otherwise find on GloNo?

It’s this:

Morning Consult did a survey of the popularity of U.S. cultural products around the world. The categories include Movies & TV, U.S.-made Goods; Food and Beverages; and, yes, Music.

And it turns out that in Ghana, U.S. Music is rated as “Excellent or Good” by 78% of the people surveyed.

Actually, when it comes to liking American music Ghana is second internationally to South Africa by a single percentage point. However, 13% of those in Ghana rate U.S. music as “Fair” and that number is 12% in South Africa, so it could be a wash.

What’s interesting is that in places where it might be thought that American music would be popular due to cultural similarities, that is not at all the case.

In terms of rating it “Excellent or Good”:

  • Canada: 67%
  • Australia: 61%
  • U.K.: 46%

Clearly, a common language does not make for common interest.

Continue reading Who Likes American Music & the State of Radio in America

Hearing, Seeing, Earning

No Static At All

According to Nielsen, some 47 million Americans listen to AM radio. Given that there are some 338 million Americans, that isn’t a small number.

While electric vehicle sales are still under 10% in the U.S., the number is growing.

And as it grows, the number of AM radios in vehicles declines. Electric vehicles produced by Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo, Volkswagen and Tesla are all AM-radio free.

Ford has announced that its immensely popular F-150 Lightning electric pickup, will not have AM starting in model year 2023.

This isn’t (necessarily) a case of what’s known in the industry as “decontenting,” or removing things to reduce costs and increase profits.

Rather, electric motors throw off electromagnetic interference that affects AM reception in a way that it doesn’t affect FM. (The same goes for other electrical phenomenon, such as non-automotive lightning.)

Because Tesla is by far the most popular brand of EVs in the U.S. (and everywhere else for that matter), it is interesting to note something about its entertainment strategy.

What’s involved in getting AM, FM and Sirius Radio (assuming there is an appropriate antenna affixed to the roof) in a Tesla?

The customer must purchase a Radio Upgrade. It costs $500. But to get the Radio Upgrade it is necessary to get the Infotainment Upgrade. According to Tesla, to obtain the Infotainment Upgrade, “Owners of compatible vehicles can schedule an appointment through the Tesla app for purchase and installation. This upgrade is available for $2,250 plus applicable tax, including installation, for vehicles equipped with Autopilot Computer 2.0 or 2.5 and for $1,750 plus applicable tax, including installation, for all other vehicles.”

But wait, there’s more: “Some features enabled by the Infotainment Upgrade require a Premium Connectivity subscription.” And for that: “Premium Connectivity currently is available as a monthly subscription of $9.99 plus applicable tax or as an annual subscription of $99 plus applicable tax.”

Remember when radios were standard equipment in cars?

The least-expensive Tesla is a Model 3 that starts at $46,990.

Well, at least static from the audio isn’t an issue.

Continue reading Hearing, Seeing, Earning

Payola Then and Now

In November 1959 the U.S. House Oversight Committee initiated hearings. Back in those days of yore it was not about some political malfeasance or attempts to undermine the political order.

Rather it was about radio. Primarily AM radio. Although the first Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license for an FM station went to WDNG on November 14, 1938—in Anniston, Alabama*, which is located about 74 miles east of Birmingham—throughout the 1950s most radios—tabletop or portable transistors—were AM only. It wasn’t until 1958 that Sony started shipping FM-capable transistors to the U.S., so clearly there wasn’t a sufficient number of them in 1959 to get Congress agitated.**

The issue the committee looked into was “payola,” the practice of record companies paying disc jockeys to play specific records a set number of times during a prescribed period. The record companies figured that repeated plays made the music all the more appealing, so if they had to slip a few bucks (yes, there were some DJs who apparently made four figures, which would be about five figures today, based on inflation) to the people who were literally working the turntables, so be it.

Notably, although payola had a long history prior to the advent of rock and roll, which arguably gave rise to the various AM stations that popped up, it didn’t actually become illegal until 1960, when Congress amended the Federal Communications Act to outlaw “under-the-table [turntable?] payments.”

As time has passed, there have been a number of cases brought regarding illegal payments and the promotion of particular music.

And while the notion of transistor radios and disc jockeys like Alan Freed (who was charged early in the period of heightened concern—such that even President Eisenhower spoke out about payola—and was convicted, which led to Freed’s subsequent career being ignominious and his life being cut short, dying at age 43***) seem ol’ timey, last week the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general announced lawsuits against Google and iHeartMedia the settlement of which will require, among other things, a payment of $9.4 million.

Continue reading Payola Then and Now

Kisses and Concerts

You Just Put Your Lips Together and. . .

Rock and roll, from the very start, has always been about love. Not necessarily deep, abiding love because, let’s face it, the audience for a classic 2:30 song is not someone who is necessarily going to spend time pouring over the Compleat Works of John Donne

“Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.”

–after listing to “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” #15 on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”; #1 is Aretha’s “Respect” and there is something about more than kissing going on here:

“Ooh, your kisses, sweeter than honey
And guess what? So is my money
All I want you to do for me, is give it to me when you get home”

Uh, yes.

And on the subject of kisses, there is the all-time lip-locking Hall & Oates’ “Kiss on My List”:

“But if you insist on knowing my bliss
I’ll tell you this
If you want to know what the reason is
I only smile when I lie, then I’ll tell you why

your kiss is on my list”

Which leads to this fun fact of the staple of songs, kissing.

So far as I know, there are no songs about cold sores. (Perhaps an opportunity there for someone.) [I apologize in advance, Mac, for introducing you to this one. -ed.]

According to a study recently published in Science Advances on DNA extracted from a 5,000-year-old tooth, HSV-1, the herpes strain that gives rise to said sores, “hint that changing cultural practices during the Bronze Age—including the emergence of romantic kissing—could have factored into HSV-1’s meteoric rise,” writes Nature.

As the uninestimable Toby Keith has it in “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,”:

“I got a funny feeling
The moment that your lips touched mine”

I’m thinking HSV-1.

Continue reading Kisses and Concerts

The Sorry (Economic) State of Performance

Of course it is like this. The Save Our Stages Act, S.4258, which allows the Small Business Administration “to make grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic on certain live venues”—and we’re talking real money, an initial grant up to $12-million that can be supplemented by one equal to 50% of the initial grant—has been passed. Months ago.

But according to recent reporting in Variety, there is one non-trivial snag: the venues haven’t gotten any money.

The problem? Oh, probably the website.

A representative of the Small Business Administration is quoted by Variety saying, “the SBA is committed to quickly and efficiently delivering this pandemic relief to help our theatres, music venues, and more get the help they need. While there continues to be some fine-tuning of technical components of the program, we expect SVOG Priority 1 (90% revenue loss) awards to tentatively begin next week, kicking off a 14-day priority period. We will then move on to begin processing Priority 2 awards.”

Possibly by the time you read this some of the $16 billion (yes, with a “b”) will be making its way to a venue near you.

But think about that for a minute: a given operation has experienced a 90% revenue loss? This isn’t a short, one-time event, like having a lemonade stand: one day it is hot and the sales are brisk; the next day there are torrential storms and the stand gets no customers; the following day it is back to sweltering and the thirsty return. That middle day there is a 100% loss. But the pandemic has lasted for more than a day. Obviously.

Certainly things are opening with a feeling of freshness, like throwing open the windows after a long winter of dealing with steam heat.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that for far too many small businesses—such as bars and clubs—the winter has been too long, and what seemed as though it would be at least a way to recover somewhat so far isn’t helping. One wonders whether it will be able to help at all for some of these venues or the life preserver will be thrown in the water after the third time the operation has gone down.

Continue reading The Sorry (Economic) State of Performance

WHO MADE WHO: Rock radio, targeted males, and the tyranny of nostalgia

In January 2018, rock radio in Chicago met its eschatological fate when K-Love ran the flaming sword of the archangel Uriel through the prostrate body of WLUP. The Loop had first declared itself the city’s loudest radio mouth in the late 1970s, when Steve Dahl burned disco records in a big fuck you to anyone who challenged the white male’s perceived right to be an obnoxious, ignorant clown. The station’s AOR format downshifted into hard rock, and a steady thrum of AC/DC, Def Leppard, Skynyrd, Foghat, and “Get the Led Out” rock blocks blasted from suburban garages, unfinished basements, and cinder block high school weight rooms, eventually traveling through the cocaine and Aqua Net hair metal era and onward to grunge and “active rock,” i.e. lots of Foos and Nirvana. But by the mid-aughts, radio listenership had splintered, coalesced, and splintered again to form into specific micro-demos, and The Loop’s blunt instrument approach was wavering. Its battering ram dulled, the Christians came calling, and with their “positive and encouraging” CCM niche, they squashed the dude rock bug dead. All stop signs, all speed limits; highway to hell, indeed.

Enter Labor Day Weekend, 2020. With the suddenness typical of terrestrial radio moves like this, iHeartMedia flipped its “Big 95.5” modern country format to “Rock 95 Five” and cued up a core playlist of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Green Day, Def, Foo, and Motley Crue. Radio bigwigs described the move as returning ”a key soundtrack to a large lifestyle group,” and white guys aged 25 to 54 driving around Chicagoland in their grey 2003 Ford Mustangs with a vinyl bumper sticker featuring Calvin pissing on a Chevy logo suddenly felt seen again.

The visual branding for “Rock 95 Five” is all blacks, reds, and bold dips, sort of the typographic version of a football lineman who does up his eye black in tragicomic kabuki. A recent playlist scan featured Foreigner’s loutish “Hot Blooded,” “Beautiful People” from Marilyn Manson (a song which reveals its extreme debt to Alice Cooper schlock as it ages), the Foos doing “All My Life,” and Steven Tyler’s lewd scatting on Aerosmith’s “Rag Doll.” A nod toward relative tenderness (or at least an acoustic guitar) came in the form of the Black Crowes’ heroin paen “She Talks to Angels,” and 95 Five finished out the set with the turgid knuckle dragging of Creed’s “My Own Prison,” a song and band where emo is bruised, battered and recast as the singular right of the white male animal to have what are otherwise known as all of the feels. There are no women here. (Maybe Alanis. Maybe.) There are no people of color, aside from a few Hendrix nuggets. And the imaging positioners that drop in between songs exclusively feature a smarmy white male voice shouting stock phrases like “Do you even lift, bro?” and leering that “we’ll melt your face, and melt it good.” A certain kind of male is in control again. As he sees it.

Continue reading WHO MADE WHO: Rock radio, targeted males, and the tyranny of nostalgia

The Music of Money

Somehow along the way I missed that “iHeartMedia, Inc., the parent company of iHeartCommunications, Inc., . . . one of the leading global media, entertainment and data companies,” “filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division” last March 14. The Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings portion of the business—essentially the billboard part of things, and I don’t mean Billboard as in publication but “billboard” as those eyesores—wasn’t part of the filing.

When the filing was announced, Bob Pittman, iHeart chairman and CEO stated in a news release, “We have transformed a traditional broadcast radio company into a true 21st century multi-platform, data-driven, digitally-focused media and entertainment powerhouse with unparalleled reach, products and services now available on more than 200 platforms, and the iHeartRadio master brand that ties together our almost 850 radio stations, our digital platform, our live events, and our 129 million social followers.”

While that sounds all-good, the statement went on to say, “The agreement we announced today is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure.”

Yes, 21st century. Multi-platform. Data-driven. Digitally focused. Social followers.

And $20-billion in debt.

Continue reading The Music of Money

Yes, People Still Listen to the Radio

While I anxiously await Nielsen’s year-end music sales report, I thought I’d share a few highlights of their recent recap of the state of the radio industry at the end of 2016:

• “radio’s reach is larger than any other format [TV, PC, devices] and only continues to grow year-over-year”

• “radio reaches 93% of U.S. each week” (That’s 225,207,000 adults!)

• Old people (55+) love the “News Talk Information” format. Overall, it was #1 with a 9.6% share.

• Young people love Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR). It was #1 among both 18-34 year olds (with 12.2%) and 35-54 year olds (with 8.8%).

The way the radio industry describes its formats is weird and creepy though. You’d think I’d be used to it after 20 years of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, but I’m not. I still get skeeved out when I read about “Hot Adult Contemporary” and “Urban Adult Contemporary” which are different from plain old “Adult Contemporary” and, of course, “Urban Contemporary.” But what can you do?

2008 Year End Radio Charts

The following charts from R&R (Radio & Records, Inc.) are based on radio airplay…

Top Alternative Songs:

1 LET IT DIE Foo Fighters (Roswell/RCA/RMG) 41,414 plays

2 THE PRETENDER Foo Fighters (Roswell/RCA/RMG) 40,248

3 PORK AND BEANS Weezer (DGC/Geffen/Interscope) 39,873

4 PSYCHO Puddle Of Mudd (Flawless/Geffen/Interscope) 37,309

5 FAKE IT Seether (Wind-up) 36,969

6 RISE ABOVE THIS Seether (Wind-up) 34,307

7 LONG ROAD TO RUIN Foo Fighters (Roswell/RCA/RMG) 33,996

8 INSIDE THE FIRE Disturbed (Reprise) 33,984

9 SHADOW OF THE DAY Linkin Park (Warner Bros.) 33,113

10 GIVEN UP Linkin Park (Warner Bros.) 32,432

An alternative to good, maybe… Oy.

Continue reading 2008 Year End Radio Charts