Monday, August 11, 2008

Protest Music on the Radio?

There was a great article about music with political content in The Star-Telegram yesterday called "Songs in the Key of Strife: Could Protest Songs be Making a Comeback?" Cary Darling looks at the history of protest songs on the radio and the current dearth of that kind of music on mainstream stations.

Cary points out:

"From listening to pop radio, few would know that the U.S. is involved in two wars and a hotly contested presidential election, or that economic worries abound."

Much of the apolitical content of commercial radio may be due to its increased conservatism in the wake of media consolidation. The article continues:

"Others suggest that shifts in radio-station ownership in the '90s have narrowed musical choice and shaped listener demand for material that’s not going to rock the boat. Longtime North Texas DJ Redbeard...believes one effect of broadcast deregulation — which lifted the cap on the number of stations one company could own — has been to put more emphasis on the bottom line.

'It causes radio to become more of a mirror rather than a leader,' he says. 'So when something comes down the pike musically that smacks of controversy — and that may blow either way politically and might incite people to feel or react — that’s considered a risk. And, with shareholders, risk is a bad word.'

'And so you’re back to the '50s,' says Dave Marsh, author of books on Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles, host of Kick Out the Jams on Sirius satellite radio and editor of 'Rock & Rap Confidential,' an online newsletter about music and politics.

'Why would any [musician] who's ambitious care about what radio stations think? They're not stupid. They know radio stations won't play [something controversial]. College, public and satellite radio might play it, though...'"

It's a good reminder that college radio is a place where one can still find protest music and controversial material. Does your station ever pass on certain releases due to their lyrical content? Do you play things that you know may be controversial and has this ever gotten you into trouble?

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