A few months ago, my city got a new FM station. We now have Rock, in addition to Country, Country Rock, Workplace Rock and Christian Rock. Yeah, we're an aural mosaic out here in the Gas City. Anyway, back to the new station, Rock 105. It might be too early to pass judgement yet, but there's no overlooking its latest station identification slogan:
"You know those bands you always see on T-shirts down at the mall? We play those bands! ROCK! 105!"
The funny thing is, I don't what that slogan condemns more harshly: Its own station, for allowing fashion to determine musical tastes, or every other station in the city, for not noticing that no one publicly admits to listening to their station. (Well, except for Kalan Porter.) Regardless, I think that slogan does a marvelous job of summing up exactly what's wrong with the music industry in general.
The situation with CBC Radio 2 demonstrates this as well -- last month, they changed their programming to cut down on the classical music, and introduce more contemporary artists, like Diana Krall, in an effort to capture the youth demographic (For the CBC, that's 39-50). Nothing against Mrs. Krall, but I wasn't surprised to hear the howls of outrage over this decision. People want their CBC to be stuffy, even if they don't listen to it. I think the core of the argument is whether CBC should be a mirror, showing society as it is, or a statue, showing a society they'd prefer to see. The arguments about truth and journalistic integrity (and ratings) tend to favour the mirror. But I think that perhaps radio is best served by the statue approach.
The mirror is for television. You stare into the screen, and it stares back (it's a very tender moment). But radio is a background medium. You do things while you're listening to the radio. Video tells you who you are, because at that moment, you're not doing anything else. That's why it's good for escapism. Audio, on the other hand, enhances what the listener is doing. It's all right to treat the CBC radio as a statue, because more than television, it can actually make its listeners more statuesque. (In the handsome way, I mean -- these accursed metaphors are starting to get the better of me.)
I'll wrap this up now, but I do have to admit one thing about radio: 1985 was awesome. It even had the right idea about fashion statements...