When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

14 August 2005

I know Jack

The latest in a series of cultural parties that I'm arriving late for: the "Jack FM" radio format, also referred to by radio industry types as "random radio."

I gave up on commercial radio a long time ago. In New York City, when at home I listen, mostly, to one of three stations: Newark, NJ's excellent WBGO, arguably the best jazz station in the English-speaking world; the Columbia University college radio station, WKCR; and one of the local public radio outlets, usually WNYC. That, plus occasional streaming audio from the Internets, makes up our staple radio diet.

I've been spending a fair bit of time in Dallas lately, however, and driving around in rental cars. Scanning around the FM dial, hoping for an old-school country station (ha! it is to laugh) in amongst the slickly packaged Top 40, broadcast-safe hip-hop and radio preachers, I found WJKK, 100.3 FM, which seemed to be playing a very interesting and attractive mix of music.

In this increasingly market-segmented world, when something commercial really appeals to you, it usually means that someone has quite successfully taken dead demographic aim at you and squarely hit the target.

A little research turns up the awful truth: Jack, as a radio format, is a thinly disguised 80s nostalgia trip, with just enough "edgy" contemporary stuff to make the listener feel a little smug about his hipness factor, all packaged up to sound like an iPod in shuffle mode.

Bang. Right between the eyes. I gotcher 35-44 demographic right here.

That I am now old enough to be targeted by Oldies programmers is a little depressing. What's more depressing is that it works so well.

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