During a news cycle as ugly as it is right now, perhaps we’re all in need of a good laugh. Try this:
A Calgary FM station has abruptly abandoned a radio format featuring hit singles edited for length by 50%. AMP-FM’s idea was to pack twice as many songs into each hour by cutting out all of those extra little bits like melody, lyrics, instrumentation, etc.
What remained was compressed together into one longer montage. Think musical Pink Slime.
Lest you think this was the product of some rogue Canadian programmer’s twisted mind, consider that this idea has been hotly debated in America as well. Why? Because commercial radio is in deep doo-doo, with many younger listeners ditching it for various digital alternatives.
But the concept fails to address the real problem killing terrestrial radio: ridiculously long commercial breaks lasting up to eight minutes at a time. Who would stick around through that?
And who wants to be the poor advertiser paying good money to have his message heard at the tail end of one of those? For whatever reason, the commercial radio industry is hellbent on committing suicide.
According to the Canadian Press (via Calgary Herald), AMP surprisingly gave up not because of angry listeners but due to legal threats from recording artists:
But Steve Jones, vice-president of programming, says the station went back to its original format Tuesday.
“It was greeted with a lot of curiosity and it was also greeted with numerous legal threats from a variety of different directions,” Jones said from Halifax.
“As we evaluated it, we made the decision that this week we would just go back to the old strategy because to do this successfully would involve far too many lawyers getting far too rich.”
Jones wouldn’t identify which artists had raised the spectre of legal action except to say they were mostly Canadian.
“Nothing was ever launched, but there was sort of swashbuckling and discussions about that from various artists and other industry stakeholders,” he said.
“It just came to a point where we said it isn’t worth risking the relationships with all of our content providers, the various artists that we play, at our radio station.”
Calgary singer Jann Arden vented on Twitter after the new format was introduced that the station was basically messing with art and, amid expletives, she called the people running it “morons.”
“Can anyone recommend half a good book I should read?” she wrote.
“The NHL is only having one period this season. Makes sense. Those games are just too long.”
Arden got word of the switch back to the old format earlier in the day and was looking for confirmation on Twitter.
“We realized that in order to successfully do this we were going to face a lengthy and divisive and expensive legal process that we weren’t willing to do right now, especially when some of those would come from the very content providers we work with — they are partners in our success,” he said.
Jones says the logic of having three- to five-minute long radio songs is from 60 years ago when radio broadcasters played 45 rpm records.
The average song on AMP had been running under two-and-a-half minutes under the new format.
While it may be hard for older people to understand, it’s clear today’s younger demographic groups have incredibly short attention spans.
Given that, don’t be surprised if this rears its head on a station near you. Radio programmers are truly desperate.