Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top 40 Radio...

...there isn't any, anymore. And those days are gone...4EVER!

Effective right now, practically all new RCA Victor releases announced in Billboard are on both 45 rpm and 78 rpm records! And that's going to be true of RCA Victor releases from now on! The 45 rpm system is going places fast!

A Chicago Tribune newspaper article by Steve Johnson appears in Saturday's Schenectady Gazette, entitled "Top 40 Radio: It's what people want even if they don't" is a totally misleading tale by someone who has no concept of what new media in the digital age REALLY IS.

I read a much more accurate aricle in a newspaper earlier the same the week, which now I'm sorry I didn't keep: in that case, the author "got it."

"Niche radio" offset the Top 40, very slowly worming its way through the core of Top 40 Radio through the 80s and not leaving much left by the end of the 90s, save for those "countdown" shows. When the internet and pop music intersected, that opened up a whole new direction for music. Today, in 2009, the newspaper industry is at a similar crossroads, but that's a blog post for another day.

The article I read earlier talked about walking through any college campus, and as you pass by open dorm windows, hearing a cacaphony of popular music of many different styles and generations. Where do the students get this music? Off the internet!
What's happening is, Joe discovers "The Beatles" while Tom finds "The Doors" while Julie falls in love with Sinatra and Amy cracks open a treasure chest of late 90s funk-rock-rap, then Bill hunts down any MLTR song, Jackie is astonished that No Angels has so many wonderful hits, Paul is into Television, early Blondie and The Ramones, Dory gets into Billy Strayhorn while Todd chases down psychedelia and Donna grabs all the early 60s folk music she can find...
Because different people of all generations are introducing themselves to varieties of music, stuff that YOU regard as "MTV 80's" or "doo-wop" or "old 90s" is BRAND NEW to somebody else, and vice-versa. The old "top 40" concept can't work anymore because you could play all 40 songs and probably 5 out of 10 people wouldn't have heard any of them. This attitude was highlighted for a brief moment in an episode of the popular TV series "Numb3rs." While I don't recall the exact scene, it underlined the concept I'm trying to enlighten you about here. And that 5 out of 10 might be 8 out of 10 because thanks to the internet, particularly youtube and MySpace, there is a GLUT of QUALITY (and crappy) music out there by people you otherwise would never have heard of and who otherwise could never have produced and recorded a single stitch of music were it not for modern computer technology and the internet.

Sorry , Steve Johnson. You are out in left field. Even Johnson's allegation that there are no "novelty" songs today is incorrect. I can think of three right off the bat... one the UAlbany radio station has actually played the naughty "Smell Yo D**k" uncensored...

Eclipsing the trend away from a "top 40 tune or number 1 hit record" there is at least one ("All That I Want") Christmas song that gained cross-generational appeal, appearing on MySpace, youtube, Gossip Girl and in department store TV commercials.

Lastly, what do you reckon is behind all the music downloading that goes on 24/7? Simple! People DON'T TRUST the internet. They hear a song, like that song, want that song. That's why you have websites like and beemp3... I like that song, I want that song... in the old days I heard it on the radio, looked for it and bought it at the store and brought it home. Now, I listen to a great song on MySpace or youtube only to find it has been taken down a day or week later. So I (and many of you) find ways to DOWNLOAD and save to your computer, mp3 player, cellphone or iPod. (Music industry executives continue scratching heads, wondering why people aren't buying music like they once did! They've tried almost everything to spark sales.)

That "get it before its gone" attitude is what drove Michael Jackson music sales through the roof when the popper passed away: that online mentality of "get it now" crossed over into the physical CD market as people scooped up Jacko's music. A national network newscats showed a woman in a WalMart somewhere in the US, telling the reporter "I gotta get my Michael music 'fore it's gone!" And just where is it going to go, I would have asked!

There will never be (unless we are plunged into a "Dark Angel" world/society) another "Top 40" or "Top 40 Radio" - it's just not possible anymore. It's gone the way of trolley cars, passenger trains, neighborhood banks and evening newspapers. Gone.

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