I have had the opportunity to travel some long stretches by car this summer. For the past several years, I have taken summer weekend trips around Kansas and Missouri(BE Radio is based near Kansas City), but this year my travels have extended through the Midwest to parts of the South and New England. While this may not seem like a fun way to spend a summer vacation (it wasn't all vacation for me), it afforded me the opportunity to see some landscapes and, more importantly, listen to the radio.
I looked forward to sampling some of the format choices that would be available to me during my drive. Like you, I have my favorites, but this time I put my choices aside and sought selections other than Canadian power trios and ripping solo guitarists.
I listened to talk, country, reggae, news, sports, rock, classical, urban and some other formats that defy naming. I was pleased to hear some newer artists, some of which were new to me but not new to the world, as well as more traditional and established performers. I took note of topics on the talk stations. I followed the sporting event in my mind as the announcer described the acts and motions.
Throughout my travels, I was pleased with the audio quality of most of the stations. Some choices had a noticeably, shall I say, unusual sound. There were also areas where reception was lacking. Fortunately, these areas of poor reception were brief.
After listening to the same set of terrestrial stations around Kansas City for so long, it was refreshing to discover some alternate voices.
Are you wondering what I was listening to? Are you trying to figure out if it was XM or Sirius? Actually, it was neither. I listened to terrestrial radio the entire time.
During my trip, I heard some of the same material across the wide regions, but this is the definition of popular music. There were times where the music playlist was limited, but I moved on after giving it a chance. It's easy to become unenthused by the radio choices within our own listening areas, but this time I kept an open mind. I didn't lock onto the next market's “Rock,” “Star,” “Mix,” or “Hot” moniker. I pressed seek and gave the next choice a chance to keep my interest.
This does not rescind my statement of a few months ago, where I stated that I am hopeful that satellite radio will entice terrestrial radio to relax the safe lists and try something new. This still needs to happen. During my drive it was fun to hear about expected crop yields for the area, the swap meet and flea market being held in the next town, the crazy sale prices at the car dealer during the afternoon remote or the 70s rock group that was headlining at the county fair. All of this was mixed in with the local weather and community calendar.
Even the sound quality was acceptable in most cases. Some stations could benefit from a signal-chain inspection, but overall the quality was acceptable if not stellar for most stations — even the AMs.
My experience is a testimonial to the-grass-is-always-greener adage, but greener grass is just what is being offered by the rising listening choices. LPFM, Internet radio, satellite radio and other choices are providing the new options that appeal to listeners' ears. While each has had its obstacles in establishing firm roots, the key to success in retaining listeners is not in touting the audio quality and technology that goes into radio, the key is content. If you play it, they will come.
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