Rogue Waves

A new report cuts through the static on the radio industry

The major-label record industry is dying, as is big radio, in no small part because of this homogenization. The two are locked in a deadly embrace, neither willing to change their old, rotten ways. Indeed, it seems that the major label/big radio borg is more willing to insult us further. Thought that Paris Hilton album was bad? There's plenty more where that came from.

"I've been hearing for two or three years from people in the industry now -- and they're saying this publicly now -- but you've got to be a cross-media star now for that major recording label business model to work," says DiCola. "If you're not gonna be Hilary Duff and have a movie, a fragrance and a TV show in reruns, then they aren't gonna be able to participate in enough revenue streams with you or get enough cross-promotion where you can be so ubiquitous that you can sell enough for them to bother. And the threshold for them to be able to make money is getting higher. It used to be 100,000. Now it's maybe 500,000."

So one version of the future is that we are bombarded with Lindsey Lohan and Nicole Richie albums and The TomKat Love Ballads collection. Another, more pleasant alternative is that the system collapses. As DiCola notes, neither music nor radio is apt to up and disappear anytime soon. "The optimistic heart of all this is that music is still incredibly popular. There's a lot of innovation, a lot of the new businesses going on the Web have been music-related, people wanna listen to music, people still like it. And with podcasting, webcasting and satellite radio, the idea of sequencing songs mixed with talk or public affairs content -- that idea is still popular. NPR has doubled its listenership on traditional radio in the last five years.

"So radio and music are both still popular, it's just the business model of giant radio consolidators are not."

As if we here in Houston needed telling. As the new year dawns, let's take a whiz through the FM dial and attempt to assess the state of rock and pop radio in Houston, shall we?

The Buzz has gotten a bit rougher around the edges -- it's now like a hybrid of contemporary hard rock and a hodgepodge of '90s grunge and lite metal classics sprinkled with today's indie mega-hits like the Killers -- but overall it remains a satanic black factory churning out the noxious emissions of laughingstock bands like Blink-182, Lit, P.O.D. and Seether. You can also hear a few of those bands on KLOL clone KIOL, or you could if you happen to live on the east side of town, which is the only place you can hear it.

The Mix (or the Mess, as it is known in local radio circles) still skews toward women, but it has recently moved a little more toward harder rock. Here, you will also hear grade-A horseshit Buzz bands like Staind, Creed and 3 Doors Down, but the Mix will occasionally augment that by venturing into Rascal Flatts territory. Whoop-di-damn-doo, it's a Mix of every color of crap!

Sunny 99 (or Sappy 99, as it is known at my house) will probably announce a 365-day-a-year Christmas format soon, and for its part, KRBE has been going downhill for the past couple of years.

Now for the "classic" stations. Here, there's a rare bright spot -- the new K-Hits, 107.5 on your dial, which plays a mťlange of rock, pop and soul smashes from the '60s and '70s with little regard to genre, though in that regard it doesn't come close to "Swingin' 650," KLDE-AM. (One not-so-small problem -- K-Hits is in the habit of "editing" longer songs, so don't expect to always hear the same versions of "Night Moves" and "Free Bird" you grew up on.)

Elsewhere, it's just the same ol' same ol'. The station's abysmal ratings prove it -- we've gotten "the Point" about the '80s: Cutting Crew and Men Without Hats sucked then and they suck even more now. The Arrow is a mediocre classic rock station whose music, glorious as it was when it came out, is now as unsurprising and shopworn as a Seinfeld episode you've seen five times.

Hmmm, come to think of it, that sounds like everything on the radio these days, too.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Houston Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • April
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat

Find Any Show in Town