Man, of all the things that commercial radio has dropped over the last decade or so, I miss back announcing the most. Yes, that lost courtesy of actually telling you the name of the song you just heard, and maybe even the one before that too. Apparently in this time-is-money-to-the-nanosecond age of broadcast radio, back announcing just too much to ask. There’s an urban legend out there that Clear Channel offered to back announce songs for money in 2001. I hope that’s not true.
Some deejays still back announce, such as Zeb Norris and Laura Steele at KFOX in San Francisco. But they’re the exception that seems to prove the rule: If you know the song, congratulations; if not, tough.
I first noticed back announcing’s absence some years ago when the 92.7 FM signal in my fair city went to its first dance format. Actually, I think it was called “Dance 92.7” then (it subsequently became “Energy 92.7,” and now it’s KREV).
Anyway, Dance played a lot of fun cardio style tunes, while never back announcing them. But the station did constantly run a track announcing its telephone number and asking for feedback. So I called and asked why they didn’t say the names of the songs being played.
“Honey,” the lady on the other end the line told me, “just call me and I’ll always tell you what’s on the air.”
Now, as a guy in my mid-50s, I have to admit that I like being called “honey” by sultry sounding women. But I also value my life enough not to use my mobile while driving to call some radio station and ask for the name of the last tune. More often than not, that’s what ya gotta do these days to find out what’s playing.
To be fair, it’s gotten a little more sophisticated than that. Lots of stations put up their playlists on their websites; or let you text them for station information or song requests. But, again, I’m not going to text or surf the web on my BlackBerry while I’m on the road.
The place where deejays still back announce, of course, is college and community radio (see my profile of my two favorite community back announcers: Bonnie Simmons and Derk Richardson). At those kind of stations, however, on air staff sometimes go way overboard. Not only do they back announce the songs, they pontificate about them until they’re blue in the face. And then comes the music community calendar about their chosen genre—ten to 15 minutes about every concert, show, and appearance in every auditorium, club, and bar in town. Snooooze.
But I’ll take that any day over the screw-you-if-you-want-to-know-what-we-just-played attitude of commercial radio. C’mon everybody . . . back announce!
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