My usual Monday morning ritual goes something like this: Alarm goes off way too early. I hit snooze. Doze. Alarm goes off again. Snooze. Doze. Repeat a few more times, until I realize I'm going to be late to our Monday meeting. Swear. Hop out of bed, shower and throw on whatever clothes I can find. Go outside with wet hair, pray it doesn't freeze. Etc. Etc.
However, on this particular Monday morning, I paused from freaking out about how much crazy-old-lady white hair I have on my head (seriously — thanks, genetics) and from obsessively listening to the new Idlewild album, to check out the Point's new morning show.
In fact, I did not hit snooze for at least the first ten minutes I was awake, as my radio was broadcasting the sweet strains of U2's "Desire" and "Bullet the Blue Sky" sometime just after 8 a.m. Heartened, I continued to listen only to hear Donnie Fandango throw down a request-line gauntlet for either System of a Down or Nickelback. (Like a Triscuit battling a Wheat Thin, that one. I'm not sure who won; at that point, I hit snooze.) Whatever artists received the most votes listeners were to text either "S" or "N" to a specific phone number would be played next, reminiscent of that pre-TRL MTV call-in-request show I was addicted to in seventh grade. (And no, not Totally Pauly.)These text-message battles continued throughout the next hour and thankfully contained the worst music of the morning. (Other battles included Live vs. Fuel and 3 Doors Down vs. 311.) The nine o' clock hour (which is when I actually crawled out of bed) was a glorious throwback to artists who performed at Pointfest One in 1993: Matthew Sweet ("Girlfriend"), Midnight Oil ("Beds are Burning"), They Might Be Giants ("Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," "Particle Man") and brace yourselves Hothouse Flowers, to name a few.
Did you read me? Hothouse flippin' Flowers. Specifically, the Irish group's "I'm Sorry," which actually pre-dates the song "Thing of Beauty" (thanks, Wikipedia), which is the tune I remember vaguely from junior high. Even I, a nerd who's star-struck by the minutiae inherent in songs and bands that time forgot, hadn't thought of them in at least a decade.
What the Point is doing enacting MyShuffle lunches, playing listener "playlists," throwing musical curveballs, asking for feedback, encouraging requests and (at least on the surface) giving control of the airwaves back to its audience is actually quite genius, even if this playlist-busting is the newest trick employed by modern-rock stations around the country. (The Buzz in Kansas City and Q101 in Chicago, for starters.)
They're giving listeners the ability to choose the most salient characteristic of the online-music revolution, where music connoisseurs are the ones in control of what, how and where they listen to music. Listeners are no longer beholden to what corporations or labels want them to listen to; they can go elsewhere if they don't like what they hear.
Besides being sociologically savvy, however, the Point's shift toward variety and choice is also somewhat of a necessity: Stations on the terrestrial airwaves are losing out to Internet radio behemoths (KEXP, The Current in Minneapolis, KCRW, WOXY) which play a greater number of songs by more diverse artists. If they want to survive, mimicking these independent entities as much as the Point can within the parameters of commercial radio is a must.
And as the continued popularity of classic-rock stations shows, nostalgia is a sure-fire trick to lure listeners; folks can hop on iTunes and buy the latest, newest songs -- but might tune into the radio for the chance to hear a song they haven't heard in years, since there's an element of comfort, familiarity and "Oh yeah! Remember that?" there. I know I was stoked to write this blog entry as soon as I heard some of those 1990s songs because as any music nerd knows, shared experiences are what draw people together.