People don’t make song requests to radio stations like they used to. Maybe they’ve finally internalized the idea that whatever they want to hear is a couple of clicks away on the Internet, or the idea that radio stations just don’t play requests anymore.
The biggest rationale for not playing requests is that to acquire and maintain your carefully defined slice of the demographic pie requires a laser-focused format, not just in terms of the songs you play, but when you play them, how often, and even what you play next to them. Requests disrupt this focus. Even a tiny bit of dial-punching, caused by the most innocuous thing you can imagine, can cost you in the ratings.
A savvy, veteran jock can mitigate the disruptions to a certain degree. When I did the all-request show on the classic rock station, it was as an ex-program director who knew how the classic-rock canon broke down in terms of rotation categories. I knew which songs could stand more frequent airplay and which could not, as well as which off-the-wall suggestions were appropriate for me to play and which were not. At my stations today, I know some of the criteria that are used to rotate and schedule songs but not all of them. There’s a lot more that’s considered than just “This hasn’t been on since yesterday so it’s OK to play right now.”
But even before sophisticated data and tight demographics, there was the old-school excuse: “Why should we turn our station and its thousands of listeners over to the personal preferences of just one caller?” After all, there’s research that shows us which songs are liked by those thousands in the aggregate, and they’re a lot safer to play. That objection has a lot to recommend it, actually. Most veteran jocks have dealt with that one listener who calls up every damn day wanting to hear the same thing. And should you break down and play it, or should it accidentally come up in the rotation right after they call, they’ll keep calling for it until time shall be no more.
Here at this website, however, I do take requests. I have done a few posts over the years simply because people asked me to (and I’m always willing to do more, so ask.) What I’m about to solicit isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s close.
I currently have three podcast episodes in the can. They’ll all run eventually, but I’d like you to decide which one should go first.
—“J. T. and the Boomers” is about the persistence of baby-boomer music and why everyone’s taste in music—not just boomers’ taste—never seems to change.
—“Random Radio Tales” is about close encounters with fame and the famous, and a couple of other stories.
—“The Fair and the Farm” is one of those non-music, non-radio things, about an incident from my life as a farm kid, and about the place where part of it happened.
Vote below, and the one that gets the most votes will go live on Friday, November 15.