The Radio Station Tree of Life.

If you tracked a person’s favorite radio stations over time, you’d be able to figure out what stage of life they are in much like counting the rings on a tree.

This of course applies only to generations that actually listen to the radio once in a while instead of iPods and iPhones, but I like to start my posts with a grand generalization.

I started thinking about radio station history and life stages while attending a seminar on marketing earlier this week. One of the other participants was from public radio. She was lamenting that they have a very small audience in the 18 to 34 demographic.

She said, “People don’t start listening to us until they have matured, sometime after turning thirty.”

She had me pegged. Not that I wasn’t mature before thirty. I was born mature. But I didn’t become interested on what public radio had to say until my mid thirties.

After my Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett phase, I wasn’t into the current music until I was well into high school. I blame my mother for always having Elvis playing. I didn’t get a chance to hear anything recorded after 1977.

But after I got my driver’s license, I dropped my mother off at work then drove myself to school. During that time I listened to the pop station… The Bangles, Bon Jovi, Huey Lewis. Oh and George Michael’s Faith of course.

In college, the pop stations were no longer cool so in public I listened to the college station, too hip student deejays playing “classic” albums like Dark Side of the Moon, The White Album and Led Zeppelin. Or angst-ridden singer songwriters like Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair.

In secret, though I still liked pop music. I would listen to the John Garabedian’s “all cool, all request Open House Party” when no one else was around.

After college I started listening to “Adult Album Alternative” stations, which are kind of like post-college stations, or college stations without all the pretension and with more variety.

That’s quite a thick ring in my radio station history tree and led, quite naturally, into my public radio phase. I had finally become mature enough for Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and Car Talk.

I still listen to NPR, but lately my “dial” (even though it’s not really a dial anymore) has drifted to the classic rock station more and more often.

I figure “classic rock” is the step before the oldies station, which will probably be the last ring in the tree unless I make a pre-death stop at an easy listening station.

See what I mean? From teenager to senior citizen, radio stations can track where you are in life.

Sure, you’ll still have your favorites. I expect to be listening to Guns N Rose’s Appetite for Destruction and the self titled Indigo Girls album until the day I die.

But the car radio presets will be firmly set on end of life stations, right where the rings said I’d be.


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