Radio Stations And American Popular Music
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Over the last year, I was doing a lot of driving and thus a lot of listening to the radio. My impression of the three songs most often played on English language Los Angeles radio in 2023-24 are The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” all of which came out when I was a freshman in college in 1976-77.

These days radio stations seem to play each band’s most popular song vastly more often than even its second most popular song. I must have heard “Hotel California” ten times as often as “Take It Easy.” (Granted, “Take It Easy” is probably played more often in Winslow, Arizona than on Sunset Boulevard.) In the old days, disk jockeys would get bored and play other songs, but I’m sure now MBAs have moneyballed playlists.

Also, there seems to be a sharp dividing line determining which oldies are too old, at least during drive time, set at about 52 years ago. I’m guessing that radio stations figure people first imprint on new music at age 13 and retire from daily commuting at age 65. The first month I was driving, the oldest song I could remember hearing on a commercial radio station was Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” I heard very little Beatles or Stones. “Take It Easy” came out in 1972 so it’s right about the point the point at which commuters are retiring to take it easy, so it’s not played that much anymore.

Fortunately, Los Angeles has a lot of fine college stations, such as Cal State Northridge’s playing upscale rock, new and old; USC has classical; and Long Beach St. jazz. Loyola Marymount still has a traditional anti-moneyball college radio station with the weird kids on campus playing weird music.

The Washington Post has a fun article about which genres of music are most popular with Americans: the winner, by far, is Classic Rock (which centers around 1970s electric guitar music):

The genre with the most haters is rap and the only genre that is more disliked than liked is punk rock. (As Donald Trump told Ali G, the most popular thing in the world is music, so the only form of popular music that is net unpopular is punk anti-music.)

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