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“We Play Anything…” Really?

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve had it with hype.  Marketing strategies, ads everywhere you look, long commercial breaks on TV and radio, and all kinds of web tracking that allows companies to litter your web travels with their useless messages. Everybody’s trying to put their hands in our pockets, and everyone’s got an angle.

Dayton radio has sucked hard for years.  Variety was sorely lacking; we have several country stations, an ‘album rock’ station that has been running the same format (with almost the same songs) since the seventies, an easy listening/contemporary station, several talk radio stations, and a few stations that play newer alt and hard rock. Oh, and the urban (read: rap) stations. It seemed that most of the stations were owned by Clear Channel, and they had severely limited playlists.   It’s for this reason that I can’t stand to listen to Cheap Trick, the Eagles, or Pat Benetar anymore.  It’s absolutely incredible that these bands and artists lasted as long as they did but only had one hit song apiece (at least according to Clear Channel.)

In November 2007 a local radio station changed it’s format and mantra to “We play anything.” Fly 92.9 started off great and played a lot of the radio mainstays, but many times a day would pull a song out of rock and roll heaven that hadn’t seen a turntable in years. You could count on being pleasantly surprised more often than not, and they breathed life into Dayton radio. At least on one end of the broadcast band.

Over the past couple of years, however, they’ve started slacking off. They don’t pull the moldy oldies out of the vaults like they used to. And more often that not they’ll play a song you’ve heard way too many times and say something like, “Betcha didn’t think we’d play this one today.”  Uh-huh. I really didn’t–after all, you already played it several times this past week, most recently yesterday afternoon…

So I’ve been getting more tweaked off when I hear their “We play anything” slogan. Will they really play anything?  What two pieces of music would be so unlikely for them to play and so stylistically different that airing them would validate their insipid marketing scheme? An idea occurred to me, so I visited their web page and submitted the following feedback (the wording’s not exact as I foolishly didn’t keep a copy for myself):  “I like your station but I am tired of your false advertising. You can’t truly say “We play anything” until you’ve played “Shaving Cream” by Benny Bell followed by Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” during your peak daily listening hours. Oh, and if you did ever do that, I’d appreciate an email “heads up” to be sure I’ll be listening.”

Several hours later I received an email reply from program director Brad Waldo.  It read, and I’m quoting here, “I appreciate where you are coming from. We do not equate the ability to, and behavior of, “playing anything”, to the necessity of playing everything.  Thanks for listening. And if I do decide to do that segue, I will definitely send you an email to clue you in!”

Weasel-word marketing strikes again. Yes, we can play anything but we don’t see a need to play everything. But if you don’t play at least some oddball, totally incongruous pieces once in a while, can you truthfully state that you play anything? I haven’t heard “Shaving Cream” on local radio since the early eighties, and the only station that would’ve played the “1812 Overture” changed to country back in 1989. (For the sake of argument here I’m not counting the public radio stations. Their programming is so eclectic that it’s hard to tell what they’re playing when they’re playing it.)

In the meanwhile I’ve been listening to a new station. One of the longtime local country stations changed formats in March to become “Click 101-5,” a new ‘adult contemporary’ station. Their mix of songs is pleasing (for now)…we’ll see how long they remain fresh and relevant.

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