Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Jack" Off

The big story of late in the radio biz is the rise of the so-called "Jack" format.

Several major Oldies station across the fruited plain, most notably WCBS-FM in New York, have made the switch.

What is "Jack"? Well, as far as I can discern, it's supposed to be an "eclectic" mix of music from the 70's through today, formatted to approximate the experience of listening to an I-Pod.

Huh?

Now, hold the weddin' here (as Kinky Friedman might say). The whole point of having an I-Pod is that the individual can program the music to his or her own taste. Listening to a station programmed "I-Pod style" (whatever the hell that means) by some program director or a corporate suit is like...well, like listening to someone else's I-Pod.

And how interesting is that?

We don't have the "Jack" format (yet) in the town where I live but I've seen some playlist samples; it looks to me like what we in the biz used to call "chicken rock," i.e. a directionless mish-mash of styles, incompatible with one another, ultimately unlistenable.

What was once guaranteed to make your station the laughing stock of the market is now touted as the great hope for radio's future. You can't make this stuff up; no one would believe it.

Ah, but the station is structured to sound like it's an I-Pod.

OK...Imagine it's, say, 1975. Now picture some beleagured Top 40 station's program director saying to his bosses, "Hey...people are listening to Eight-Track players in their cars; let's format our station so that halfway through every other song or so, the music pauses while it switches tracks...just like an Eight-Track player."

Makes about as much sense.

The guys over at XM and Sirius are, I'm sure, positively incontinent with glee over this latest move by the corporate radio suits.

I see where Cousin Bruce Morrow, late of CBS-FM, has made the move to satellite radio.

Hit the road, Jack; I'm going with Brucie...

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