Open letter to WAPL (The Rockin Apple):
Why are you stuck in an outdated corporate model that has lasted well past it’s expiration date? You play the same songs over and over again, you don’t stop DJs changing shifts from playing songs/artists that were just played an hour ago and you fail to notice just why Sirius and internet radio has stolen much of your audience.
Does it not strike you as odd that Sirius plays album cuts from classic bands not just the singles as you do? Has it slipped past you that when one DJ plays Dire Straits at 5:30 and the next DJ plays the same Dire Straits song at 6:15 the audience tends to get annoyed? Do you just not care that playing Metallica every hour as part of your “Mandatory Metallica” campaign has burnt out even Metallica fans to your nonsense? Have you spoken to actual people in this area and heard any of their grievances about why they no longer listen to WAPL and instead choose to PAY for something different? You have an opportunity to take back your audience but you are seemingly unwilling to embrace any model that alters from the norm in even the smallest fashion. I have personally pitched ideas for shows to your station which have been met with stark silence and nary a return call/e-mail so I took those ideas elsewhere or did them myself and they proved to be very successful yet still you have no desire to change, like an addict who is unwilling to even admit you have a problem. Why are new ideas and even the thought of changing things up a little so scary to you? At this point you have lost a large portion of the audience you even as recently as 5 years ago had, so what do you have to lose before you listen to people like myself? Are you so stuck in this self-perpetuating pattern of alienation of your former audience that you just won’t change even if you are destroyed in the process? Admit you have a problem and there is help for you out there, there is no shame in admitting that you just can’t give up the Metallica or that Nickelback really isn’t a good band but you play them anyway. I can help you, all you have to do is admit you have a problem. Talk to the people in the listening area and see if they are sick of the same 300 songs on an endless loop or if they would be open to something new. Talk to Metallica fans that agree you have driven this band of sellouts even farther down the crapper than they did themselves. I don’t know a single person that listens to WAPL anymore out of want, they do so because it is on at the workplace or they are otherwise forced to. That is not how you keep an audience, you should be getting them to engender a need to keep listening after they go home but instead you just play the same games you played a few hours ago and it’s not just old, it is transparently uninspired and even worse it’s bad business.
As you get this I am sure that the smart ass morning guys will read it on the air and if so, please contact me, they are actually funny guys and I am sure they will have fun with this but I don’t listen in the morning (or the evening anymore if I can help it). I want to bring you back to the forefront but you have to let me help you WAPL. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help or to accept it.
I wrote this letter earlier this year (and yes, I actually sent it to them) about their completely out of date station. The reason I am printing it here is that I wanted to use this as an example of how many of the industries we use today are stuck in old and outdated models which will only result in their demise. This unwavering adherence to a business model that failed to evolve along with the times is something I can not understand. People are dropping free over the air FM radio and paying for satellite radio? Obvious solution is to ignore the problem and double down on the commercials that you already play along with the same 300 songs in an endless rotation… no way that drives more customers to the opposition, right? If they don’t like what we are doing now they will like it more if he do it more. Sure.
Radio (over the air radio) is dead within a few years if they do not institute a major change that shifts the entire model they are built on and yet they don’t seem to care. This is true of all media industries be it the news, home video, records, books, magazines or even video games. Much as I hate to admit it, streaming and the internet are the most viable options to get your product out there these days and as much as I value physical product and owning something tangible I happen to be in the minority. Most people would rather stream a movie than get a DVD. Most people would rather have a MP3 than a CD. Most people would rather read an article online than hold a magazine. I am not one of them and while I am still catered to, those doing that catering are dwindling by the day. Intangible media is the new format, like it or not. My point is that even with all of these changes it was not an easy road.
Radio thought that records being sold to the public would kill radio listenership so they fought against it. The movie industry thought that television would hurt ticket sales. When video tape made it’s mark in the late 70’s the mainstream movie industry shunned it as it was (again) a threat to ticket sales with the added bonus of being a threat to TV sales (ironic that, given what I said previously). When blogs and “internet magazines” began to rise in the late 90’s the print industry reacted with a collective “amateurs, everyone knows only print is wanted”. DVD, iTunes, disc based video games, e-books, streaming, talkies, blu ray, laserdisc and any change of format was fought against by the already established industry cowering in the corner fearing that big dark cloud called The Future.
Pop culture is one of the least fluid things we encounter in day to day life and yet it is also the most fluid, by that I mean, the technology advances, the world advances, the ideals advance but the pop culture is pinned into a specific period as are those who bring that pop culture to us. Most pop culture is made with a short term half life in that it is meant to be consumed NOW with no regard to any lasting legacy or longevity. You are meant to enjoy this movie NOW and it was made with the tropes of now, with the music of now, with the editing style of now and most of all with the desired impact being to be viewed NOW. You don’t make a movie you think will be relevant 20 years later, you make a movie for NOW. You want to make a movie that makes money NOW and that is the sole goalpost in front of you. No one ever made a movie HOPING it will fail at release only to find it’s audience in 25 years. That is a fools errand and one that has never existed. Even if you could predict the social norms of the future you would still be stuck in the present in terms of techniques, equipment and most of all in a thought process. This stagnant thought process is what makes the aforementioned pop culture delivery systems stick with what they know. You think like you think and you think like the times you are living in. Think about it like this though, do you imagine that George Pal, Fritz Lang or even Terry Gilliam made their visions of the future based on what they thought things would be like in real terms or did they envision worlds colored by the tropes of their respective presents? War Of The Worlds strays from the Wells novel in a great many ways but is a complete product of it’s time period of the early 1950’s. Metropolis is a nightmare vision of a future ruled by class warfare which was happening at the time of the films making. Brazil is a complete work of the mid 1980’s in that the story is an allegory to that time, the characters use the lingo of the time and most of all the vision of the near future world was one not that far from the 1985 it was made in. Looking forward is not the only segment of this to blame though, those pop culture ventures which look backwards are just as guilty. Watch just about any period piece, be it one set in 1400’s France or one set in the 1940’s American South, and you will see a manifestation of the time period not of which the story is set, but one the period the story was made. The ideals and techniques of the time of making and not re-enacting will shine through. How we see these movies has changed over time but only begrudgingly.
Music is no different in this aspect, as each era of music has it’s limitations in what can be done based on the equipment available in contrast with the ideals intended so it stands to reason that those in the industry which spawned it are unwilling to leave their known safe-zone. A 1950’s songwriter may have had the idea for Heavy Metal but was simply unable to produce the sounds they heard in their head due to the lack of ability to play the tones, not the lack of ability to interpret the tones. Sometimes it is simply a matter of willful laziness such as the synthesizer’s miraculous (and inexplicable) growth in popularity in the 1980’s. Do you think that Frankie Avalon would not have used synth if it had been an option to him? Those 80’s songs with the heavy synth tones are a product of that time and no other. Is this good or bad, that I can not say, but I can say that pop culture tends to age at a faster rate that other parts of culture and yet the mediums of that culture age much slower. While you are part of the time you fail to notice just how fast the very culture is changing right before your eyes and yet it seems to move at a constant rate when you are experiencing it, it is only looking back do we notice just how fast things changed. Do you think the hair metal fruits of the early 90’s EVER saw just how much “Nirvana” or “Soundgarden” was going to chance the music landscape or how fast that change would happen? Do you think moving from the silent era of movies to talkies was an overnight occurrence? It was gradual and at the time I am betting it seemed such but looking back it happened almost overnight. One day talkies were just the norm and you never even noticed it happen.
Without the past there is no now and without these pop culture items being part of their respective time periods, and all that they represent, you would not notice the change in pop culture. Some might say that nostalgia is nothing more than a kind of way of saying dated but without nostalgia you don’t get evolution of the artform and without the evolution of the artform you grow stagnant. Pop culture ages as it should, as it always has, it simply seems to age slower to those of us at the nexus of NOW and THEN. We must evolve not just the pop culture along with the times but also the methods of that pop culture. Not to mention that porn tends to be the impious that moves so many of these models to the next iteration time and again*.
*Yes porn. Porn made video tape a sell through. Porn made podcasting popular (yes, some of the first podcasts were porn related). Porn made streaming the method of choice. Porn made just about everything a sell through so even if you don’t like porn, you can not deny it’s place in media history.
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