Off Topic Messages

Lack of Impact of E1, B1 etc.

Sun Apr 23, 2006 11:43 am

In late 2002, Elvis Presley had the sweetest revenge on his critics from the 1950s who said he would be forgotten within a few months to years when a collection of his greatest hits hit #1 on Billboard's Top Album Charts 46 years after his initial impact and 48 years after his first recordings. Yet the victory was not complete. While Elvis Presley had the number one record in the country it was getting harder to hear his music. In 2002, Elvis's songs were never heard in the Top 40 format which is to be expected since those formats are predicated on playing a select group recent records intensely for a very short time. Even more though Elvis' records were conspicuously absent even from the easy listening and country formats that are most respectful to older pop songs. Even a contemporary sounding remix of "Little Less Conversation" could only muster #50 on the pop charts because of a lack of airplay. What was most disturbing though was Elvis' reduced role in oldies a radio a format dedicated to recreating the music of other eras as nearly half the songs on E1 were being eliminated from oldies stations across the country. Since 2002, the situation has only gotten worse as oldies try and cater to younger audiences. Elvis' output has basically been reduced to "In the Ghetto", "Suspicious Minds", "Kentucky Rain" and "Burning Love". "Heartbreak Hotel", "Jailhouse Rock" etc. are nowhere to be found save a few renegade stations mostly on AM.

Yet one wonders why. Clearly with sales of three to four million copies domestically and something like 10 million worldwide there is a market for this music. What's more E1 was no fluke. It was preceded two years before by Beatles 1 which sold even more copies. In the new decade artists like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson, the Beach Boys have all scored top 50 or better chart positions. For most of these artists they were they were the highest numbers chart wise and sales wise they had in decades. The lofty chart positions and sales of these records showed that a large number of people still enjoyed listening to this music and were willing to pay for it in the newest musical format. Yet not even a platinum album and a hit movie could get Ray Charles restored to most oldies or country formats.

So why are radio stations still moving away from this still commercially viable music? The people want this music but can't listen to it other than on their own players and have no access to like music. How many potential buyers might have bought the sets if the music were played on radio? The records were buoyed by promotional campaigns that triggered fans memories or caught the attention of new fans. Radio play serves the same function.

Granted this is a market that is at least older than the traditional music market. But that should make no difference as the sales of these records has established an older audience as an audience that buys. And if it's an empty nestor they arguably have more purchasing power than the teen or some younger demographics. The argument that favors the youth demographic is always that basically that they are buyers and haven't brand affiliations yet. While you can't say the former for the older fans, (not necessarily all old people) the latter certainly would seem to apply. And if they are prompted by recognition to buy these products couldn't they be prompted to buy other products? And if that is the case isn't the entire youth demographic worship something of a house of cards?

Yet we continue. And these songs are not the only issue. Notice the tv lately. It's rare to find a middle aged or older actor in a lead role these days.

Why? You would figure if there's money to be made someone would be rushing to greet this market. Has the audience for stuff like this switched to the more niche' friendly satellite radio? Is the worship of the youth demographic so ingrained that it's just become unthinking and automatic? I'm not disparaging the youth demo but they've become the whole show.

Now the songs of Elvis and the Beatles and the Beach Boys and Bobby Darin etc. will one day be no longer a part of the immediate pop landscape. But what's the rush?

Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:05 pm

All I can say is todays radio sucks big time. Everybody I talk too burns cd's and primarily use their I-pods. The radio is controlled and funded through payola, with certain artists consistently getting played, over and over. It's fricking nauseating to say the least. For EP and any other of these great artists to get ignored is ridiculous.

Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:26 am

Who said they are "moving away"???

Look at the samples..look at the remakes...look at the sheer RIPOFFS!

It is still there, it is just covered by some by numbers rap crap voice overs, thats all. :wink:

Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:46 am

But it is getting increasingly difficult to hear the music in its original context. I remember when Ray Charles died it was the first time I had heard most of his songs on my local oldies station in at least two years and then after the tribute they were no more. I remember watching the Bobby Darin movie and then trying to hear any Bobby Darin on even oldies radio and it just couldn't be done.

Tue May 02, 2006 12:52 am

Good post, LTB.

Major U.S. city after major city (most recently New York, then Washington, D.C.) have seen their "oldies" stations recently shown the door or radically transformed into some market consultant's idea of profitability. This in turn drives what Joe Car mentions (the CD-burning / I-Pod phenomenon)...

The only bright spot for fans of oldies music (and recall that quite a few of us are still in our 30s!)) is that satellite radio phenomenon, but how widespread is that? That's irritating when when its used as an excuse to abandon whole decades of great popular music.

Hell, I'm getting nostalgic for even 40s and '50s pop and that's hardly even my tastes. I recall living in some cities where it was an oddly comforting window into the past to find an oldies station playing Andy Williams crooning "Moonriver" early in the morning - or late at night.

The death of New York's swing station (1130 AM, WNEW) around 1990 or so was something felt by old and young.

Many years later, it's hard to find even the '60s on the dial. :evil:

As for the Ray Charles / Bobby Darin thing, I had hoped for the same thing (although I do think Charles' music really did take off in new catalog sales) much as has Johnny Cash after the recent "Walk the Line."

Still, that communal sense in television-watching and music-listening seems all but entirely gone. That sense that we're "all" (or many of us) humming the same tune, as they say, is gone in today's personally-designed, atomized, I-Pod environment.

And I learned a lot by going up and down the radio dial or going to a good record store (not even that long ago) but this is becoming a lost art.

It's as if our cultural memory is being erased right in front of us.

I know we often say Elvis is forever breeding new fans but in this environment, how long does that last?

Tue May 02, 2006 6:00 am

The oldies stations here in S.C. are still pretty decent. I heard Return To Sender a few days ago, Mack The Knife a week or so ago, and She Loves You just this morning. Can't Help Falling In Love and Devil In Disguise also get airplay. I've also heard Runaround Sue, Jailhouse Rock, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can't Buy Me Love fairly recently.

Tue May 02, 2006 10:25 am

Pete is that an FM station? Sounds pretty good. Up here it's a little tougher.

Greg- What's frustrating is that E1, B1, the Darin and Charles' movies etc show their is still a market for this. Yet the media thinks otherwise. Even though many younger folks or younger older folks like the music along with its original audience, it's as if the program directors are terrified that anything beyond a certain vintage offends the youthful demographic and sin of sins makes the older demographic feel old.

Tue May 02, 2006 6:30 pm

likethebike wrote:Pete is that an FM station? Sounds pretty good. Up here it's a little tougher.

Greg- What's frustrating is that E1, B1, the Darin and Charles' movies etc show their is still a market for this. Yet the media thinks otherwise. Even though many younger folks or younger older folks like the music along with its original audience, it's as if the program directors are terrified that anything beyond a certain vintage offends the youthful demographic and sin of sins makes the older demographic feel old.


LTB -
Yes, FM. What is B1?

Tue May 02, 2006 7:27 pm

I work for a group of stations with varying formats, and one of our oldies stations is satellite-fed by ABC Networks. Just yesterday, they played the laughing version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight." I have also heard, believe it or not, "G.I.Blues" from time to time, along with "Good Luck Charm" and a few others.

To say "radio sucks big time" is an overstatement. While much of commercial radio is dogged by extremely tight playlists, payola and other things, there are a few who still try to inject our own personality and character to our programming.

Tue May 02, 2006 8:15 pm

I agree that there are a few bright spots but the trends have been troubling. Pete, I assume LTB is referring to Bobby Darin's hits package.

Last year saw the sad killing of Gotham's last oldies station "WCBS-FM" (long a leader in the format) which then turned into one of those "Jack" stations of later hits in an I-Pod style.

The good news I read second hand was that the NY Daily News' David Hinchley reported that the new "Jack" station lost $10.2 million in ad revenue in the last year, proving that they were too hasty to give up on the popular oldies WCBS, which was full of old WABC disc jockeys who were rudely fired.

It is true that the WCBS playlist at the end was way too much '70s and a short list at that.

Also, that same famous WABC-AM which had pioneered all-talk radio back in 1982 (giving up decades of great music) has now brought back a saturday night oldies show to fill the demand. A recent show had Ben E. King as a guest.

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Another great oldies station from New Jersey (recommended by Mike C, occasionally of FECC. You can listen on-line:

http://www.wmtram.com/index2.htm



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Another neat site with classic oldies from old radio shows :

http://www.reelradio.com/index.html#menu

and also lots of great radio here on :

http://www.radiofreeworld.com/

http://www.radiofreeworld.com/page14.html

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Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Tue May 02, 2006 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Tue May 02, 2006 11:00 pm

Pete B1 is my shorthand for Beatles 1. It's very difficult to hear half the tracks on that album as well anymore.

Tue May 02, 2006 11:04 pm

So much for my "B1" (Bobby Darin) theory.... :lol:

Wed May 03, 2006 12:25 am

Not a bad guess though as Darin fits into the overall point of there being an audience for this stuff. A big irony here is that Darin, probably seen by the industry as the most old fashioned of these artists, probably has the most younger fans with the exception of Elvis and the Beatles. The people who have restored Darin's reputation in the past decade and a half have been late 20 somethings, 30 somethings and 40 somethings like Kevin Spacey and Johnny Depp who were all too young to experience or fully experience Darin's initial popularity.

Wed May 03, 2006 6:13 pm

Likewise, even anecdotally, I've noticed and known either friends or (female) cousins and sisters who seemed to warm up to Sinatra's music in their 30s enough that they have this or that album by him on CD. Some of this be from certain popular soundtracks that featured middle of the road acts like Dean Martin, or even Harry Connick, who I've considered a sort of "Sinatra-In-Training-Wheels" sort of appetizer for some casual fans who grew up on rock and pop music. Darin, too, is someone who I see people responding too in a way you might not have seen in the recent past.

There doesn't seem to be a radio format big enough to give space to '50s and '60s rock, let alone pop balladeers from that era, sadly. And some of the same people have unfortunately turned to modern country music -which too often sounds to me like waterered down or countryfied '80s pop rock.

A lot of people just aren't avid music radio listeners anymore.