In a comment on my Chuck Berry post (immediately below) "Diskojoe" observes, "too bad you can’t hear his songs anymore on the radio, even the oldies stations don’t play much prior to 1964."
For those who don’t pay a fee to the XM or Sirius satellite systems, that is true. On commercial radio, the oldies stations are vulnerable to extinction because no big, corporate firm seems to use this format and be willing to offer it to audiences as an alternative to the very few formats they currently use.
The corporations instead choose to fight rabidly over the audience segments that like the very few programming formats that have proven to have the largest following.
The city where I live had an "oldies" FM station that was highly popular and played Chuck Berry songs and other 1950s material along with all the other great pre-1970s rock. A few months ago, however, the station was sold to a corporate owner which immediately turned it into a very boring contemporary station. No one has stepped up yet to fill the gap with a new oldies station.
There is a strong audience market for such stations, as the previous success of this station demonstrated. It is obvious why this should be so: the music is really very straightforwardly good, memorable, fondly remembered, and desired.
Unfortunately, corporate owners seem entirely unaware of the value of narrowcasting in FM radio, in contrast to the trend nearly everywhere else, where it is the norm. Corporate FM radio concentrates on just a few, very large audience segments, and people who like oldies rock, classical music, jazz, classic country/bluegrass/blues, and the like are apparently not an immediately identifiable demographic segment that corporations can easily convey to advertisers and thereby justify to their boards as programming options.
That’s a pity, of course, but the history of AM radio might provide a clue that a better future may be on the way. When the popularity of AM dropped precipitously because of the higher sound quality on FM, programmers turned to talk radio, a format that had previously had little popularity but was (1) perfectly suited to AM’s sound quality and (2) delivered a highy identifiable demographic which was not previously evident.
The same could happen in FM. We’ll just have to wait for its ratings to fall far enough.
Get out your rosary beads….