Mix 96.1, Party 97.7, and 98.5 The Beat play endless repeats of the nation’s top 40 mainstream songs; San Antonio’s top music stations monopolize the airwaves. At any one moment, you could switch to any of these stations and hear the latest Rihanna or Drake song; the same techno beat and shallow melody lines about dancing in the club or cheating exes. You could intermix artists or lyrics and still maintain the monotonous integrity of the songs.
“It’s typically the same fast paced music over and over again…lots of it is dirty. Not all of life is a dirty, fast paced dance,” junior Jackquelin Loera said.
This embarrassing allowance of notoriety over actual talent comes from ignorance more than anything else. Though 1 out of 2 Americans have smart phones or cars, with access to more indirect musical treasuries (like Pandora, Slacker, Sirius Radio, and musical blogs), groups like The Recording Industry Association of America are working to take down legal but unauthorized blogs and music sharing sites.
We hear so many sub-par songs because radio stations tell us that we want to hear them; they’re the “most popular songs” chosen by the “masses”. However, the constant repetition of playlists forces acceptance, which eventually turns into approval. The radio stations implant the idea that we like this music so often in our heads that we soon forget it wasn’t our own prerogative to do so.
The stations themselves play the same songs and artists over and over again due to orders dictated to them by their management, who often have unofficial “contracts” with various record labels. In these “Payola” processes, record labels pay independent promoters (or “indies”) who in turn pay radio stations for listener give-aways, bumper stickers, etc. The indies are also paid as consultants to “advise” stations on what they should play. Due to this circular system, major labels dominate airplay -as radio keeps playing songs based on bribes rather than quality- so more people will turn to other sources for music, decreasing the number of successful labels further.
Independent and small label companies can’t get the same attention as the big labels, and therefore have slim chances to get airplay, but it’s the little guys that often produce the most talent. Bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Vampire Weekend conduct their business outside major record labels, managing to earn success without corporate endorsement.
Though the majority of listeners are attracted to mainstream music solely for its accessibility, provided by a few big record labels, there are a select few who enjoy the standard tones.
“The Beat 98.5 has funny activities and games and gives out awesome prizes, and 96.1 plays almost every song that I like. They play different varieties and give chances to hear different music,” senior Veronica Hernandez said.
Excluding that group, radio needs to provide for the rest of the music community and the listeners who hungrily search for the amazing music that lies just beyond their grasp.