“Now I’m in the BATHROOM”

This is the Chase radio ad that shouts at you: “NOW I’M IN THE BATHROOM”. The ad boosts Chase’s new smart-phone check bank-deposit service. Chase, a 2009 recipient of $25 billion in TARP funds, needs to peddle a LOT of checking accounts to pay for their $138 million plan to buy two new luxury jets and a new hangar.

I, for one, am not now in the Chase bathroom. Courtesy of iTunes music streaming, I’m listening to classical FM radio station KBAQ in Arizona, on my PC.

KBAQ is an NPR station affiliated with Arizona State University, Rio Salado College and Maricopa Community Colleges. As far as I know, it’s the only classical station in the Phoenix area. Advertising consists of community announcements and sponsor info for the programming segments. The classical music selection is interesting, diverse and non-repetitive. You can leave KBAQ on all day and never become bored or irritated. It’s a 24-7 delight.

Around San Francisco, we also have just one classical FM station, KDFC. It bills itself as the Bay Area’s classical “Island of Sanity”. The announcers have a friendly, generally relaxing and low-key delivery, they’ve been around for years, and they’re nice people.

Unfortunately, KDFC was bought out a couple of years ago, or otherwise suffered a radical management change. The subtext was PROFIT. Management started selling more advertising content, and that wasn’t “highbrow” any longer. It was cheap and sleazy, and “the Chase ad” is far from the only ad that shatters the relaxed listening experience.

I can just hear KDFC management telling the staff, we need to reach out to a younger, broader advertising base. You need to broaden programming to attract people who may not even care for your classical music.

For some reason, KDFC also gets a lot of bank and credit service ads that read legal “fine print” like an old 33-1/3 rpm record played at 78 speed.

Now we know why we really NEED an”island of sanity”: to recover our composure before the next round of grating, irritating, distractingly inane ads that will overload the senses again and again. KDFC ads can rattle the aggregate out of a concrete freeway overpass.

KDFC has a predictable repertoire of “standard” classical, including much Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Mendelssohn. This is “elevator music” for the classical crowd. A lot of it is still very nice, but wears thin quickly when you realize the day’s programming sounds like an endless-loop tape. If I hear another Beethoven’s 5th or Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture excerpt, I think I might just be sick.

I used to discover a lot of great new music and obscure old favorites on KDFC: Guiliani, Tallis Singers, and Schubert (to name just a few). What KDFC has done now is to substitute classical diversity with movie and television sound tracks. Harry Potter and Star Wars theme songs are insipid at best. Like the Chase ad, they have their own way of detracting from the classical listening experience.

Gotta go; another CHASE ad!

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