Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What WILL they play next?

Oh dear. I'm so annoyed with the new WKTI that I have to blog about this. In short, it sucks. But it doesn't suck because of the musical selection. I was already used to the same old dreck they played on KTI. In fact, as you can probably guess, if I'm listening to the radio for music, I'm listening to WMSE or WYMS. And I listen to them for the very reason KTI (now "The Lake" -- whatEVER) claims to have made the change.

Saturday afternoon I'm cleaning out my sock drawer (really, I was! And accepting that it was winter and rearranging my duds drawers to reflect warmed sweats and long sleeved casual shirts instead of shorts and tank tops) and I put on the clock radio in our bedroom just for some white noise. I normally have KTI on the clock radio because, when I wake up, I don't care what the music is (but I need some), but I do want to hear a A)reliable weather report b) reliable traffic report and c) major news headlines. Nobody else in Milwaukee could guarantee that. So on Saturday afternoon I hear this announcement: "We talked to you and built a radio station for YOU," in a generic voice over talent voice. "We heard you wanted a wide variety of ALL kinds of music. And we've even changed our name. We think you'll agree, it's 'Cooler by the Lake.' " Hmmm, I though. A commerical WYMS? And then what did I hear? Nothing I wouldn't have expected on the old KTI!

The next day, I sawCuspirin's column and learned that this is a national format known as Jack Radio. As in, they don't play jack. Ugh. There will be no voices for awhile (no DJs or announcers) and when they do return, they'll have a less prominent role.

And I gave it a chance, but every time I tuned in and heard that same generic pre-recorded voice talent say, in this voice that was trying to sound "edgy" but forgot to take off the quotation marks, "What WILL we play next?" I would holler back, while listening to Toto, "The same old dreck!"

Last time radio pulled this shit, it nearly destroyed itself and made itself prime for national takeover. I remember in the late 70s when Lee Abrams shopped the "Classic Progressive" format to stations all over the country. Control was taken out of the hands of local programmers; a strict playlist was followed, and soon, FM radio lost a lot of what made local FM radio great. And worst of all, this Jack format takes the one thing worth sticking with local FM radio for, and strips it away. It takes people out of the equation, relying only on marketing surveys and shoving them into some kind of computed algorhythm to tell them they need to play the Beatles followed by the Dave Matthews Band. No weather, btw. No traffic. No news. No reason to have them on your clock radio during drive time.

I mean, I'm no big fan of WKLH, with their "classic hits" programming and their "We don't play any of that [insert any genre of music that didn't sell 10 million units in the past 30 years]!" promotions. But at least they have Dave and Carol -- people who have Milwaukee accents, who seem to take part in the city's life, and such. And as for the other commercial stations -- they all have their local DJs and announcers, and they have personality. They actually like -- and are somewhat knowledgeable --about the music they play. They co-sponsor live shows featuring their chosen genre's stars, and ensure them coming to Milwaukee. Yes, I know that a lot of them are dealing with nationally-dictated playlists, but at least there's a certain level of Milwaukee among them, and they deliver what they claim to be. WKLH is, well, it's the Baby Boomer's Hits Station. FM106 plays nu-country -- if you like that stuff. WRIT plays the "golden oldies." Rock 102.1 is about the best possible commercial alternative station you could hope for (they do manage to pull of combining "commercial" with "alternative" -- I have to hand it to them). Lazer is good old fashioned headbanging/hair rock. Jammin 98.3 is our jammin Urban station. And they all are staffed by on-air talent that lives in the listening area, and aren't embarassed to tell me what the weather is, who's playing at Sumerfest, how long the drive to the Zoo Interchange is, or how the Packers did last night.

But what the hell is "The Lake"? It's trying to be what WYMS is: a cornucopia of mixed up music for people who like all kinds of music and want true variety. WYMS does this extremely well because it has what "The Lake" just jettisoned: local music fans running the show, getting together to determine a playlist that includes old, new, famous and obscure. Sometimes, it drives me up the wall, but overall, it's satisfying and delivers on the variety promise.

And then there's WMSE --who delivers a similar thing, but sections it off by shows put together by DJs who are downright obsessed with their particular genres, so that if you like a certain genre, you'll be truly educated in it at least three hours a week.

So farewell to WKTI, to Mueller, to Lips, to Gino at the Movies, to all the reasons I put up with hearing that same Madonna or Billy Joel or whatever in the morning when I woke up. We'll miss you. Guess I'll have to tune into Dave and Carol in the morning. Could be worse, I guess. FM radio could go completely out of this format, which means I'd have to get my morning drive info from some right-wing blowhard on AM radio.

In the meantime, I really ought to get off my butt and call in my pledge to WMSE this week. This week's decimation only proves that we need WMSE and WYMS now more than ever.

No comments: