Columns

2006.12.06 Hate what's on the radio?

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

It’s not all that often that anyone asks me for my opinion (usually I’m instead instructed to accompany it to a warmer climate near the center of the Earth), so when the Arbitron Ratings company asked me to participate in their radio ratings survey, they got my attention. Actually, the crisp one dollar bill in the envelope got my attention first, but the idea sounded like it might be fun.

A few days after the letter came, I received a phone call from one of Arbitron’s reps, confirming that I had received the letter and was willing to participate. He made sure that I didn’t work for a radio or television station or advertising agency (writing a moronic column for a newspaper is apparently acceptable) and kindly stopped the embarrassment of asking my age by leaving it at “over 34.”

I passed all of the other eligibility requirements and was told to look for a ratings diary and “token payment” to arrive soon. A few days later, the diary and two more crisp dollar bills arrived, along with an instructional booklet. The booklet explains that not only would I record all my radio listening for ratings purposes, I also had the chance to include comments in the diary to let stations know what I think. I’ve had a little experience with this part before.

A couple of years ago, I signed up to be part of the “Feedback Forum” for a classic rock station in Bryan. The website that sends out surveys always seemed a bit questionable as there was never any direct reference to the station on the site. I noticed that except for the morning disc jockey, no one ever made any direct references to the area on air.

It was fairly obvious that the station was getting canned programming from somewhere else, a suspicion I confirmed when I traveled west and heard the same afternoon disc jockey on a station in Illinois. No wonder my frequent requests to stop playing so much Pink Floyd went unheeded. They’re probably getting feedback from thousands of listeners, so one person asking for more Jason and the Scorchers just falls through the cracks.

Unfortunately, the timing of my week to record my listening habits couldn’t have been worse for one station. When I’m in the Adrian area, I often like to listen to the Adrian College radio station. Sadly, the hamster powering their transmitter only gets the signal out to about Fairfield, so I have to be near Adrian to pick it up.

My Arbitron week started on Thanksgiving Day, so the college station was on break when I visited Adrian. Or maybe the hamster was on strike, either way, I couldn’t pick it up so they received no ratings points from me.

Instead, the classic rock station in Bryan received the lion’s share of my listening for the week and will reap whatever ratings advantage that gives them, even though they (or their satellite “parent”) ignored my previous suggestion not to play any Christmas music at all. Not that I’m opposed to the season, just the horrible selection of holiday music. After you play Chuck Berry’s “Run, Run Rudolph,” the list of rock and roll Christmas songs falls off fast.

If I thought they would actually pay attention, I would have filled in the comment section on my survey. They need to be reminded that “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” is NOT classic rock. And yes, George Thorogood actually recorded many songs besides “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” Perhaps they might consider playing one. And instead of so much Elton John, how about some Neil Young once in awhile?

Instead, I left the comment section blank when I returned the survey. If the radio stations refuse to get the message about what I want to hear, there’s always my collection of obscure compact discs. In fact, I’m trying to purchase a Wall of Voodoo CD on eBay right now. Remember the line from “Mexican Radio?” “I wish I was in Tijuana, eatin’ barbecued iguana?” Now THAT’S classic rock.

    – Dec. 6, 2006 

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