Who anonymized the radio stars?
June 24, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

When, and more to the point, why, did, do, radio stations stop identifying the songs they broadcast?

I've gone for long periods, years even, of non-music radio listening, but sometime between my childhood and now, the identifying of songs before or after the set has become the exception rather than the rule (at least in the NYC tri-state area).

Obvious answer is so they could squeeze in more advertising minutes, but on the other side, the record labels would surely have put up a fight. So what gives? Is there a behind the scenes story out there anyone knows about, or is it just standard screw-the-customer think? (Previous posts v. interesting on current radio SOPs, but nothing on this particular question.)

Many thanks, as usual.
posted by IndigoJones to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: They don't do it after because of the belief that it kills forward momentum. I think that's silly, but that's what I've been told by people in the business.

I don't listen to much radio anymore, but I thought they were still announcing it before some songs.
posted by willnot at 5:16 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is actually a phenomenon everywhere.
posted by proj at 5:16 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

i listen to the radio when driving my husband to and from work - they identify the songs in blocks - like play 4 songs and identify them all. but this is has been going on for as long as i remember, so certainly not new.
posted by nadawi at 5:21 PM on June 24, 2010

A lot of stations are posting the playlists online now, so you can just go to their website and look up the time you were listening. I'm not saying they "planned it that way," but that's emerging as an alternative practice.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:21 PM on June 24, 2010

The stations I listen to will ID the songs, both as a tease and as a recap of they just played.
posted by birdherder at 5:28 PM on June 24, 2010

Here in Australia, on the two stations I listen to (Triple J and Triple M, both major, national stations), they always announce the song. Either before, after, or in blocks of a few songs.
posted by antiquark at 5:29 PM on June 24, 2010

I figured it was that they figured most folks would already know what was playing, considering how often the same songs are played. Mention that you'll be hearing the new Major Artist single and drop the song title every few times, and they have it covered. This isn't counting the DJ-free stations like Jack and Pirate FM in the. US, which never announce any songs, and are more like an iPod on shuffle.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:34 PM on June 24, 2010

I listen to radio at work and they don't usually say the song name, but the artist. Usually in a fashion such as:

"Here's [Artist Name 1] and [Artist Name 2]" *play two songs* *commercial* "And now [Artist 3] and [Artist 4]."
posted by 47triple2 at 5:35 PM on June 24, 2010

Because they (KROQ, for example) play the same damn song 10 times a day, every day of the month and assume you already know the name by now :P
posted by iamgoat at 5:38 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

One factor may be that it's often automated now.
posted by cribcage at 5:40 PM on June 24, 2010

I always attributed this to the rise of MTV and music videos. If the majority of your audience has massive exposure to music videos then DJ's don't need to give the names of songs because the listeners already know the names from watching the videos.

I also find it extremely frustrating when this happens.
posted by alms at 6:19 PM on June 24, 2010

One of the things I like about satellite radio. I wish terrestrial radio would make better use of the RDS technology, but even so not all car radios have it, and probably most never will as long as it's not being used effectively.

I, too, find it frustrating, as sometimes, y'know, I might actually BUY some music if I knew who was playing it. I don't know why the music industry hasn't pitched more of a fit about it, but perhaps they don't have the leverage.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:53 PM on June 24, 2010

There are two things that I was taught in the 90s that may or may not still apply. First, that the station must be identified by the call letters at least once per hour, and second, that all songs played must be identified. We also had to keep a log of our playlists and our station IDs.

Perhaps those rules have relaxed, or the ability to put playlists on the internet is a lawful substitute, I'm not certain. Just know that the song identification was, initially, driven by broadcasting regulations that may or may not still be in effect.
posted by davejay at 7:29 PM on June 24, 2010

I find this very frustrating as well, but I've also found a pretty cool tool to solve the problem.
posted by neurodoc at 7:43 PM on June 24, 2010

I think a lot of stations out there are automated, as cribcage mentioned. Therefore, they have no live DJ to announce the song names and use the internet as a substitute. News and weather hits can be added in via a centralized casting model, where one location produces the info hits for several stations across the country.
posted by kaudio at 8:09 PM on June 24, 2010

Best answer: This has been a longstanding issue in radio for more than two decades--hence the late-80s 'When You Play It, Say It' campaign. Here's a 1989 article about the problem.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I almost never listen to commercial radio, but on the XM channels I listen to (mainly classic rock) they almost always announce the first song in a set ahead of time ad always as far as I can tell list all the songs they just played (or at least the artists) afterward. Whats kind of weird is that it is not as big a deal on XM since the songs are also ID'ed on the display, as randomkeystrike mentioned.
posted by TedW at 5:46 AM on June 25, 2010

I think we can probably put a lot of the blame on Clear Channel Communications, which has aggressively purchased radio stations in just about every market in the country. When Clear Channel acquires a station, it generally does away with a lot of local staffing, including live DJs, in favor of centrally-planned programming which is pushed out to its stations automatically. This eliminates a lot of the overhead involved in running a radio station, as it's a lot cheaper to pay two or three people to run a hundred stations than it is to have a DJ for each.

It should be noted that while Clear Channel isn't the only player here--they do actually have competition--they're by far the largest player, so there's a good chance if what you're listening to isn't NPR or a religious station, Clear Channel is involved somewhere. KISS FM, Lite/Magic/Star FM, etc. Many of these stations will have a locally-produced morning show, but afternoons and evenings are all syndication all the time.

Ever notice that when you go from town to town, even state to state, the same radio station will frequently be there? That's Clear Channel, or at least the syndicated model they've pioneered, at work.
posted by valkyryn at 6:51 AM on June 25, 2010

I've noticed this too and I'm wondering if it annoys some listeners in my area. Now there's a radio station that says they announce the title and artist of every song they play. They use it as a marketing tool. I guess as a way to seperate themselves from the rest of the generic radio stations in the region.
posted by hot_monster at 7:42 AM on June 25, 2010

When KTWV began broadcasting in LA in 1987 it was called The Wave, just as it is now, but instead of Smooth Jazz they played New Age Music. It was an experiment in radio about which polls indicated listeners hated both DJs talking and advertisements. Since they couldn't remove the ads, they ditched the DJs, and instead a frequent announcement gave the 800 number you could call if you needed a track ID. Too radical though, now the station's like any other. But I remember the old Top 40 days in the 1960s when there was always another major interruption, a lot of local news -- listeners complained about that too, and now you never hear any news on music stations. Most stations I get music from now have real-time playlist postings on the website, easily identified because the URL is <call letters>.org .
posted by Rash at 12:34 PM on June 25, 2010

Best answer: I have noticed this too and been frustrated by it. I always assumed that it had to do with the rise of easy access to music downloads. If you know what the song is, you'll go buy/pirate it and when you possess all of the music, what do you need the radio for anymore? The radio station has no vested interest in telling you exactly what you're listening to.
posted by bristolcat at 12:57 PM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: The radio station has no vested interest in telling you exactly what you're listening to.

Could be something to that! But didn't this go on before rise of downloading?

I suppose the record companies might figure they get more from ASCAP than they would otherwise. If so, I'd beinterested in seeing those figures.

I'd think that the automatic feeds would have the title/artist tacked on aurally for those (like me) without the crawl on the radio itself

Just bizarre, though, that it's so little commented on. Came up again this weekend when between the Keshas and Lady Gagas that make me gag but which my darling daughter enjoys, we heard a song on the radio that I've heard from tiem to time for well over ten years - you would recognize it - and I have no idea what the song is or who sings it.

No Istore purchase for you!

Again, many thanks to all.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:07 PM on June 27, 2010

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