The title actually sums up whatever I blather on from this point forward. While there are far too many important issues to rant on, I do not want to omit the insignificant topics. Thus, I pondered this problem during my morning and evening commute yesterday.

It’s a fifty mile commute that takes sixty to seventy-five minutes, split 50/50 between country roads and numbered U.S. routes. Compared with others’ commutes in the Northern Virginia (NOVa), it’s not a bad thing. Very little congestion unless there’s an accident. Or hitting an animal. Definitely better than sitting on Interstate 66/95 gridlock.

But, what to occupy the mind with besides the task of driving safely? 

The addition of radios in automobiles was – and is – a brilliant innovation. The user has a choice of entertainment options; the provider has a temporarily captive audience that it can advertise to. Further innovations as CB radio, cassette, CDs, and external data drives all made the commuter’s travel enjoyable, or at least, tolerable.

Now all these options have their pluses and minuses. But I’m bypassing the tech gadgetry to consider content. While there’s a lot going for doing your own programming (smartphone), it involves time and knowledge to do it well. The other option is to have someone do it for you – a music programmer, formerly known as a disc jockey.

Discovery of new musical artists and their songs is a hit or miss situation in the best case. You may learn of new music by searching for similar artists; or by music category; or even by era. College stations have the capability to push different styles because they aren’t dependent on advertising. Thus, the dilemma.

I’ve nothing against for-profit broadcasting. Especially locally advertised stations. But the development of ‘programmed’ radio, as derived from Top-40 or album oriented rock, fails in delivering a new experience.  The wiki article suggests that this repetitious format is ‘classic rock’.  So what is my beef with the local stations?

They (five of five) play the same 200 or so songs. I’ve actually switched stations and heard the same song at, almost the exact time. If it’s a song you like, okay. But Phil Collins’ “Susudio”? On three different stations between 4:45 and 4:50? The other stations had commercials. Last option was to break pattern and go classical. Other options included country, religious, and news. No college stations, the jazz station stopped being commercially viable about ten years ago. I tolerate the country station only when my wife is driving.

Back to self-programming. The Internet is a magical creation. What would take a lifetime learning about music around the world can be accomplished with a couple of search algorithms. Downloading, storing, and making playlists enable us to have music we like. But we then separate ourselves from the broadcasting locale, and do not receive the benefit of other people’s input on music. 

Variety is the spice of life. Repetitious broadcasting is like being told, “you will have fries with that”.