By Chip Adams
Okay corporate radio warmongers… what in the fuck are you doing? It is a well-known fact that the state of radio, especially alternative rock radio, has been swirling down the great big commode in the sky for quite some time now. What was once a thriving format with a loyal fan base has been pushed aside, made an afterthought, homogenized and beaten to a pulp. The music that made alternative an ALTERNATIVE has been erased from playlists, with the exception of that occasional Beck track that is still floating around in a recurrent rotation.
In fact, on far too many stations, the truly ALTERNATIVE music has been relegated to small specialty programs, typically airing on Sunday evenings. I was alerted to an alarming turn of events recently, where I discovered that yet another specialty show has been canceled. This one hit particularly close to home, as it happened on a radio station that was a part of my life for a long, long time.
Back when KDGE was the first “Edge” radio station in the country, they were a tiny alternative rock outlet that beamed in music that until that point was unfamiliar to me. It was a truly groundbreaking frequency, introducing me to the sounds of the Ocean Blue, the Mock Turtles, Nitzer Ebb, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, the Cocteau Twins, Belly, Radiohead, Jesus & Mary Chain, etc. The list literally goes on and on.
As alternative pushed more towards the mainstream, with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden alerting the mass public to this growing musical genre, Alex Luke launched a specialty show called The Adventure Club, highlighting those artists who were a bit less known. Over time the show changed hands, ending up under the control of a fellow named Josh Venable. At this point, KDGE had been sold a few times, the genre itself had shifted around quite a bit, and the station eventually changed frequencies. Through it all, Josh kept The Adventure Club alive, remaining one of the true sources on the airwaves to discover up and coming music.
On Friday afternoon, a buddy of mine alerted me to the fact that Josh Venable, a man who had been with KDGE since he interned there nearly two decades ago, was given the boot. Venable was the night DJ on the station as well as host of The Adventure Club. The bean counters at Clear Channel deemed that his position should be eliminated due to budget cuts, thus ending one hell of a run for one of the only guys on the airwaves in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to spotlight indie, import and local acts. Simply put, this is a fucking shame.
As more and more of these specialty programs on “alternative rock” stations continue to vanish, I ask you, bigwigs at corporate radio, what the fuck are you doing? Replacing another live DJ with voicetracking, ending a show that had a devoted, loyal fan base, all while pushing your playlists further into the crapper, I can’t help but wonder what you’re thinking. Sure, these artists don’t attract as many listeners as your run of the mill top 40 bullshit, but what you do get is an active music community that is just looking for new music. See, there is a reason that stations such as KEXP, KCRW and WOXY are growing in popularity, presenting concerts in YOUR towns. The answer is simple: you aren’t providing a product that is worth a damn, so listeners are going online.
So what is the future of alternative rock radio? If the idiots in the corner offices at these major broadcast corporations continue to push in this direction, squeezing more and more active rock into their playlists, our beloved musical genre with soon vanish completely from the airwaves. We’ve still got college, non-commercial, online and satellite radio to get our fix of Arcade Fire and Midlake, but these days our iPods are simply replacing our FM receivers in our cars.
I’m fortunate enough to live in a city that has an alternative rock station that hasn’t thrown in Ozzy and Van Halen into the mix, and continues to have one of the best-programmed specialty programs around. For far too many music fans, it looks like you’d better keep paying those high-speed internet bills, as the web is the only place you’ll get to hear quality music. Corporate radio, when you lose even more listeners than you already have, all I can do is quote the great Thom Yorke: “You do it to yourself.”
I tip my cap to the few remaining programmers who have kept some bit of quality left in their airwaves. Keep fighting the good fight. As for WOXY, who beat the odds after getting pulled off the airwaves, only to resurface as one of the best sources of music online, please keep it up. Congrats on the HD upgrade as well! For the rest of you, the idiots who have destroyed such a valuable radio format, all I can say is that I hope it was worth it. Hopefully technology to place high-speed internet in our cars isn’t all that far away, so we’ll be able to stream the likes of KEXP and XFM (UK radio) on the go, making generic FM crap radio irrelevant.
To my buddy Josh Venable, I wish you the best of luck. At least now you’re no longer schlepping various Creed sound-alikes to the public. I’ll be listening to Morrissey for the remainder of the day in your honor.