Raised on Radio!

I was an avid radio listener when I was a kid- as early as 8 or 9 years old, if I could remember it right.

For me, it was a great way to connect with the chicks! Of course we all had childhood crushes back then (man, I couldn’t even remember their names…), and well, if you wanted to have some common ground for interaction, there was always music on the radio.

High school was no different. The ladies also loved getting their tunes on the radio. And dudes get points if they can play guitar to whatever song was hot back then. Yeah, so I also got into playing guitar for the chicks, big deal :).

By mid-high school, I remember having the radio on while I studied in the early hours of the morning (yes, I actually studied when I felt like it). 24-hour radio stations were new back then- which was how I discovered 99.5RT– and it was the coolest thing for me since sliced bread.

For the most part, I was a Top40 dude. I think it started earlier on back when it was on 93.9 WKC. After casey Kasem left and Shadoe Stevens took over, it was still alright, but WKC was already starting to play less of the pop that I wanted, and more of the designer music that wasn’t at all cool.

Hahaha- Viktor Laszlo? Silver Pozzoli? Modern Talking? Yikes.

Soirees and dance parties were the hugest thing then. So if you wanted the cool chicks, you have to be into New Order, or The Cure, or even Depeche Mode. For the more pop-oriented? There was Rick Astley, Expose and Paula Abdul.

Heck, I even tried to join a radio station back in my third year of high school- coz I thought it was probably the coolest thing to do so. Haha it didn’t work out then. (Sidenote: It did work out many years later, when I finally got in 99.5RT in 1994.)

I had the radio tuned in day in, day out back then. RT was my station at night, and the radio was on even while I was sleeping, so you get the morning show on while you were getting ready for school. Not knowing what 24K was back then (RT’s trademark oldies show on Fridays, playing nothing but RT classics)- I tuned out, and switched to another station. Usually it would be Magic 89.9, NU107, or WLS-FM.

LS was the coolest on weekends with its Great Music Jam- that was 1988 til 1990 I think- and they were playing songs from the early part of the decade. Lots of Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Wham!, Madonna and Spandau Ballet back there.

My appreciation for new wave, punk and rock in general, I got from NU107 (aw man, remember Ethnic Faces’ Golden Boy? Man, I gotta find that song) and Power 105 (the frequency is owned by 105.1 Crossover now). The Smiths? Flesh for Lulu? The Clash? R.E.M.? Man, those were the days.

College was a little different. You meet all kinds of people- and I remembered this one dude who had this massive collection of casettes and CDs of (what I could remember) Crossover music- he had Spyro Gyra, Kalapana, Stephen Bishop, Mike Francis, Yutaka, Angela Bofill- looking back, it was one of the coolest collections I have ever seen.

No, I didn’t quite appreciate it for what it was back then. I was still a pop-boy parading as a new-wave chong. Easy listening and smooth jazz wouldn’t be my thing until much much later.

Monster Radio was the new Magic 89.9. Grunge was the new new wave & punk. Everyone had a Mellow Touch 94.7 or a 96.3 WRock love song collection on mixed tapes, and the hopeless romantics tuned in to Lovenotes (sappy sometimes, but it made for great listening!).

I remembered discovering 105.1 Crossover in ’93 or ’94. If everyone was into love songs, the cooler kids were into a more sophisticated kind of love songs. The ladies then were a little classier, a little more emotional, and sometimes, a little angstier (high school was rough, I imagine…). There were those who were into Julia Fordham, Swing Out Sister, or Lisa Stansfield, or Everything But The Girl.

I joined 99.5 RT as a DJ in 1994, and I distinctly remember my roommate was very much into Crossover. He’d have it on while he was studying. I forgot his name though, but I’m sure he’s a doctor by now.

Thirteen years later, I’m still in the radio industry. I’ve gone from DJ, to dude in charge of audio production, to events guy, to dude in charge of sales and marketing, and finally Program Director.

So as a radio executive, what can we learn from all that?

A lot. Radio appeals very much to the young- even as young as pre-teen. While your friends and peers have a strong influence on what you listen to, ultimately your personal taste dictates your choice of music.

Radio can be a declaration of independence, but at the same time, it’s also an instrument for socialization. Also, pop culture influences radio, in the same way radio influences pop culture.

Radio has a very personal connection, and therefore a strong association with parts of your life. Your musical preferences generally persist throughout, which is why most people you know are “stuck” in a certain decade or era- nothing’s wrong with that- it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

Make an effort to learn more from your market- listen to their stories, observe them in their natural environment, take notice of how they use other media, and how it affects their interaction with their peers.

Used with other research available to you, what you glean from your observations are key to the kinds of strategies you form for your marketing plans.

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