When I first started listening to music it was my big sister’s favorite records and radio station. Since they were a decade older than me I might as well been listening to my parents’ music. Not that there was anything wrong with that. I liked it, sang along to it, got mushy over girls because of it, even danced around my bedroom and pretended to sing into a hairbrush microphone.
Then I discovered Top 40 radio. It changed my life and became my future and lifelong career. There was nothing I didn’t love about it. The music, the deejays, the station jingles, the contests. It was just my vibe. I was so connected that I felt insulted when I caught an older person listening to MY music on my radio station. (I had not figured out that they couldn’t make money from having only teenagers listening.)
When I was in 5th grade I was already hanging around the local station. Watching and listening and asking questions and learning about how radio programming and DJ-ing worked. And listening to every record that came in their mail. And taking home the non-hits they wouldn’t play. The greatest experience to me as a kid was discovering styles and genres of music I had never known about. I loved it all. From the rock to the pop to the soul. The male and female vocals and the groups and bands. The instrumentals too.
In the day, all of those sounds ended up in the Top 40, even the Top 10. It didn’t matter what “kind” of song it was, or which artist performed it or how fast or slow it was. It was “all about the song.” That resulted in all kinds of tunes making it on the survey. And selling copies and getting call-in requests.
Today, radio thinks that mixing genres is not focused enough. So they started narrowcasting in place of broadcasting. A song would have to appeal to, for example, an 18 to 49-year-old male, or a 25 to 54-year-old woman to get airplay. Do you know any 25-year-old who has exactly the same taste as a 54-year-old? Neither do I, but doesn’t matter. Radio believed it and that’s pretty much what they are still doing all these years later.
Why do stations choose those demographic target age groups? Follow the money. Advertisers keep your favorite stations in business. And THEY’VE been told that ONLY the 18 to 49’s or 25 to 54’s are worth advertising to. Obviously, that does not work in a country where the largest age group is the Baby Boomers. Most Boomers are around 50 to 70 years old now. They learned to spend when they were younger, then later in life they learned to save and invest. So they have money and they like to spend it on making themselves happy. They are interested in hearing about new businesses, finding new restaurants, buying or renting a home, traveling, finding new things to try.
Boomers also loved their music. And the passion for it still burns in them (or most anyway.) But radio does not play it. AT ALL. And adding insult, they stopped playing it because the listeners who crave it are–in their words–too old. Lately, a few broadcasters (mostly former broadcasters) have decided to “screw radio, let’s put the Boomer music out there for them to enjoy.” Sirius/XM has a 60’s channel and a 70’s channel. Pandora, Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon, and more all send out music and charge for it. Some even have advertising AND charge fees to subscribe. (Interesting business note: it’s 2018 and they are still not making a profit, so they’ll have to increase fees and accept advertising to stay in business.)
Bottom line: The music is there. Look and listen for it. Ask your friends where they hear songs that remind them of their glory years (often teen and early adult ages). Music is powerful. It’s likely it will make you feel. And when you find it, relive good and sad times that helped make you who you are today. Or wish you could be.
Recent studies have found that nostalgia is GOOD for you.