Is Radio in Our DNA?

Remember AM transistor radios?  How about the proliferation of static-free FM?  Could you get through a day without listening to your favorite DJ, who would spin the latest 45 from the grooviest group?  Did you ever try to impress a girl by calling in a dedication?

Well, that old standby, broadcast radio (or “terrestrial radio,” as it’s called now), has certainly been under pressure in the past few years from satellite, internet-streaming, MP3s, and even CDs (also an endangered species).

Yet a recent Arbitron study revealed that broadcast radio has been experiencing a real resurgence.  They say that 93% of Americans over the age of 12 listen to terrestrial radio at least once a week.  That’s 242 million people.  And that number increased by over 600,000 last year.

Like all statistics, this impressive number can be “tuned” by any number of variables (How long did they listen?  Where did they listen?) and we think it’s safe to say that broadcast radio is not what it was when we were growing up.  Now, over the air stations have had to add in more and more commercial sponsors to drive the bottom line and there is no room for “experimental radio” in a numbers-driven industry that must rely on “hits” from proven artists to avoid alienating a core listener demographic.

For us Suddenly Solos, there are still a lot of memories associated with AM/FM.  Do you recall when fear of inciting all of us to sexual frenzy dictated the dreaded “radio edit” of songs?  Lou Christie’s “Rhapsody In The Rain” had to re-record the lyric “in this car, our love went much too far” for airplay to “in this car, love came like a falling star.”  Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” had the lyric “making love in the green grass” excised and replaced by “laughin’ and a-runnin’, hey hey” from a previous verse to make it more palatable for radio stations of the time.   Did you know that Brian Wilson, the genius of the Beach Boys, would listen to the final mix of their songs through a six-inch oval speaker in the recording studio so he could hear how it would sound coming from a car radio?

There is still something a bit magical about turning on the radio in your car and hearing the sounds of growing up come out of the speakers.  In fact, the car is where most radio listening is done.  You may have to put up with some derision from your kids, but go ahead and give the radio some practice dealing with (gasp!) Audio Modulation and Frequency Modulation.


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