Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm in love with Rock n' Roll, and the shit you play on the radio ain't it!

Music and movies seemed to go hand in hand in the 90's.

One of my faves, and one that is extremely underrated is Airheads. Brendan Fraser, Steve Buschemi and Adam Sandler are band mates who take a radio station hostage in order to get their song played on the air.

Right as they take the studio hostage with fake guns, the station boss comes in and demands they get the hell out of there (obviously) and Brendan Fraser launches into a great monologue about how much rock radio sucks.

Do you know what it's like to be on the bill and to play for 15 minutes and the only people there to see you are the other bands and their girlfriends? Don't talk to me about Rock 'n' Roll! I'm out there in the clubs and on the streets and I'm living it! I am rock and roll!

After this scene me and Graham kind of looked at each other and came to the agreement that sadly, this statement couldn't be anymore true today than it was back in the 90's.

I hate to break it you - but the music you hear on rock radio is not rock and roll. I know, you're shocked! How could bands like Theory of a Deadman and State of Shock not be rock and roll? How can Panic and the Disco and All American Rejects not be the patron saints of music?

Those bands don't have a single ounce of rock and roll in them. What they have is a sound that does well on the radio. The result? We're bombarded with shit music and told it doesn't stink.

Well, it does stink.

One of my pet peeves about the radio industry in Canada is the Canadian Content law (can-con), which stipulates that your station MUST play 35% Canadian Content or else your violating the rules set forth by the CRTC.

So - do you now understand why bands like Simple Plan, Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman, Shinedown etc, all bands that sound the same and suck get played on the radio all the time? Because we have RULES the force stations to play them, therefore, taking away chances for bands that make actual good rock and roll music to be played on the radio.

If you've ever gone to a club and seen a band play, have you ever noticed very few of them sound like the shitty rock bands all over the radio? They sound.... what's the word...? Great? Yeah that. 

There are so many bands who toil away in the clubs all night, who practice their asses off, who make their own demos, shirts, pins and posters. They scrape together all their own money to maintain their instruments, to tour, and make almost nothing in return.

Everyone knows a band, or a singer, or a rapper, who is so incredible at what they do. They saw them in a bar somewhere and think they're amazing. Yet they never get a break no matter how hard they try. The internet (especially myspace) has given a platform to these unsigned bands, and people are using that to discover new music, instead of the radio.

So why isn't radio keeping up with the times and doing more to put the kind of music on air their listeners are seeking out online?

Here's some shock and awe for you - music doesn't matter shit in radio. It's all about the advertising. Always has been. Companies pay to advertise, and the money keeps the station afloat. The better the station does, the more the station can charge for air time. One adage I learned in radio is that programming (the people who play the music) view sales (the people who sell the air time for ads) as a necessary evil, while sales views programming as unnecessary. 

If a formula works for a radio station, they won't change it. If they maintain ratings while playing nothing but 90's alternative (which can now pretty much be relegated to classic rock, I mean really...) and can-con garbage like the bands mentioned earlier, they won't change anything.

So really - the people who love the douche rock, but have never been to a real rock and roll show in their life get to hear all their favourite songs, while people who really love music turn away from the radio. They stay in the clubs, they use myspace and iTunes to find real music. And radio stays shitty.

But radio better watch out, because one day people are going to start looking to other sources when they get sick and tired of hearing the same shit all the time. It will happen. And it will happen in all formats (except Country, that's a whole separate entity). 

The best music out there - in hip hop, in rock, in rap... it's in the streets, it's in the bars and clubs. Go find it. Listen for it. 

If you're looking to the radio for new music - you ain't getting anything new.


Oats said...

A good start: Go to Amazon and look up an awesome band - then see what other people have purchased that have purchased that band's CD. I've found a lot of good stuff this way.

I've seen a lot of really crappy shows, but the few that stood out usually have a good record label, and upon checking out other bands on that label: more good music!

Will it ever make it on the radio? Only at college stations probably at 2-4am.


Anyway - the music industry has a way of taking good bands and forcing them to suck in order to be marketable.

Fukk. That.


Pol Plastino said...

good rant, L.L. i hope The Zone's avoidance of douche-rock and promotion of local acts finds itself outside your frustration...? It's lame there's not a similar station in Winnepeg (where you're at?). I mean sure, we're going to play the popular music, minus the nickleback and sound-alikes, plus the odd off-beat song, i think it makes it really listenable for ALOT of rock lovers. For the true fans who live and breathe rock & roll and new music, we can't be your EVERYthing, but we'd sure love to be your base.

Believe me, i share your exact frustrations, i just love how the Zone makes the effort the skirt a bunch of them. Cuz we're Rock Lovers as well.

- Pol Plastino, TheZone@91-3, Victoria, BC

Sharilyn said...

"programming (the people who play the music) view sales (the people who sell the air time for ads) as a necessary evil, while sales views programming as unnecessary"

Well put.

Radio is shit, and I've all but turned my back on "rock" radio. When I was back in Winnipeg, I caught myself preferring 103, which 10 years ago was my version of hell. I've given up.

And I totally remember seeing Airheads at the Towne one summer afternoon. Loved it.

Michelle said...

I think CanCon can be hit or miss. I'm forced to hear Avril Lavigne every 35 minutes, and I'm forced to watch stupid Canadian commercials during the Superbowl.

It's great that CanCon wants to get Canadian content out there but they're going about it the wrong way. It's starting to become like a communist country and they're starting to force it down our throats.

If I don't want to listen to Avril or Simple Plan... I should be forced too.

And I agree with the other bands, like the good ones who can't get their music on the air because of the "popular" shit. I would love to her Graham's band on the radio when I'm driving home from work.

Anonymous said...

An interesting diatribe that has some truth but misses much of the complex nature of the topic.

Certainly some of your observations are true -- "radio does suck" -- but the reason is not the CRTC rules nor the bands that get music on rock stations, for example.

Most of your other observations ring false to my ear. You appear to place the blame on everyone except the listener. You nearly got it when you said "stations don't change when things work" and will therefore make more money from ad sales.

Listeners can turn the station off and the Book Numbers will drop. If that happens, the station WILL look for a new format and new music.

BTW - listen to older State of Shock recordings if you don't think the current one is rock'n roll. Oh, you never heard of it?? Hmm... never mind.


L.L. said...

Anon - There are two types of music people. People who listen to music (the people who fuel radio book numbers) and music lovers. I think music lovers obviously have an appreciation for radio - no matter what people want to say, radio will never die. It may mutate but it won't die. But a lot of people listen to the radio are the people who listen to music - while they are driving, while they are at work, while they are doing something else and not appreciating what is being presented to them. So they follow along to what their played, and their taste in music reflects what the radio tells them is cool. Music fans will always FIND music. No matter where they look, and most of it won't be played on the radio. A lot of music these days doesn't fit into just rock, or just hip hop, or just dance. A lot of the best music blends styles, and it doesn't always work with what a radio station wants to play.

And by the way, I've not only heard State of Shock, I've SEEN them. And they suck.

And Pol - I spend a lot of time listening to stations online and I dig the Zone! There are some radio stations across this country that are doing great things, and I think you guys definitely try your damndest to do it well!

And Sharilyn, Wheeler told me that quote, although I know he was quoting someone else. I've never been able to forget it.

Jeff said...

I think something that radio fails to see in the success of iTunes, Satellite and online music is, as you say, it's all about the advertising.

Much like newspapers and other companies trying to figure out a new model in the Internet age it's going to hit radio and they're going to scramble.

I guess more people will just have to openly jump away from radio and let them know exactly why before anything changes.

I do try and listen to hosts I enjoy (music aside) but I also find myself checking out new stuff on iTunes (the Genuis and such applications are like "Oats" talking about the suggestions on Amazon and also helpful).

I also needed to find something to keep me awake at night while doing overnights a few years back and had to really, really, really search for radio stations not playing the same syndicated programing or set lists.

One that has kept me as a listener is Y-Rock out of Philly. They went online and listener supported after their corporation flipped the station. They keep me one (or two) steps ahead of Canadian rock radio:

Muppet Soul said...


I can't even bother with regular radio anymore... I stick to my Sirius.

And every once in awhile when I accidentally come across something from current music - it's either some sad, sad child in a band under the impression that it's rock, or someone using a robot voice.

(why kids, why does everyone love the robot voice?)

[F]oxymoron said...

I want to get in on this!

Let me state outright... I'm a music lover, play music, make music...

"Rock n Roll" is a state of mind, a musical way to capture however a person feels... and by definition, emotions are highly personal.

Mainstream radio is abysmal at introducing new sounds - insanely important to music lovers - and new creative pathways into that emotional euphoria called...LABELED... "Rock n Roll"

Defining rock n roll is like defining love - it is rarely exactly like another person's definition. And good luck in telling somebody else their "love" just isn't as "good" as your "love".

(... mainstream radio is still shit though ... :) )

L.L. said...

Foxy - I think you are me are on the same page here... when you have rock radio telling you what rock is, I think you get a very white washed understanding of it. Judging by a lot of rock radio stations, rock ended in the 90's because I can't go an hour without hearing Nirvana and Pearl Jam (both great bands, but c'mon).

If you let the radio tell you what rock is - you;ll never make that raw, emotional connection to the music because like you say, mainstream radio is shit.

I should also point out something - A friend of mine who I love dearly is a radio jock, and he felt like I was attacking the DJs in my blanket attack on radio. I think the DJs are the reason to keep listening to the radio because there are some amazingly talented people doing great work out there - but they don't get a say in what gets played. I don't blame the Dj. Far from it.

insomniaclolita said...

Totally feel you, since I work hard on my music and been told if I dont change and stop being so stubborn I might sell more records.

Sean Reeder said...

just stumbled on your blog, loved the comment on rock and roll. Recently really been enjoying the Sheepdogs, who also hail from O' Canada...anyway, was curious if they are getting any airplay up your way.