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Radio could be changing

Country Standard Time Editorial, December 1997

Can it be that those same radio stations bent on feeding us the tried and true without stretching our musical minds finally may be in for a change>

According to a recent article in the trade publication Billboard, some radio stations, including a key one in Nashville, now are not just playing what the record companies tell them is the current single to play.

And that has resulted in some stations loosening up the reins a bit on what songs receive airplay.

One recurrent problem in listening to radio is that they play very few artists beyond the likes of George Strait, Reba, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks or songs you hear in your sleep.

That has left out of the marketplace the old codgers who still can play - have you heard Hank Thompson on the radio lately? Thought not - and newcomers deserving to be heard.

What has happened to radio stations is that they are deathly afraid of playing anything their listeners might find slightly out of the ordinary. After all, this is all business, and the fear of lower ratings means lower advertising, profits and you might as well get your resume together.

But maybe, just maybe, there is a ray of hope out there. It is gratifying to hear of such stations playing music not fed to them by the record companies (and whoever said they were sole authority about what should be played on radio?) or dreaded radio consultants.

Is it fair to listeners to only play "Longneck Bottle" from Brooks's new disc when the stations can choose any of 13 other cuts.

Why not educate listeners to see whether they really should invest their hard-earned dollars into buying a full-length CD based on having heard numerous songs instead of relying on one, maybe two tracks, to guide them.

Of course, the listeners need to encourage radio stations to do something a little different unless they only want to ear the tried-and-true ear candy themselves.

The hope is that the experimentation and diversity will expand further where it becomes the norm. Otherwise, country music may continue its downward trend in no small part due to your local country radio station.