Well, are they?
Think of this: in the 70s and Glam heyday of the 80s, disc jockeys helped break bands. In fact, back in ye olden days of yore, a DJ would be known to actually hold a physical record in her hot little hands. She could flip the record...and determine if an A or B side would be a hit! In that sense, DJs in big markets really did break bands. In the magical time before Clear Channel owned the broadcast industry, these mythical DJ-like creatures could play pretty much whatever they wanted...as long as they stayed in format. Sometimes these brave souls even - gasp - broke format for the love of music!
Now, everything in broadcasting - both radio and television - is automated. A DJ tapes a song intro four hours before it airs. The introductions become MP3s and are loaded into an audio vault of sorts. The computer can either randomly select songs or is listed by priority by whatever the station manager deems important to air. When I worked at a radio station, the song computer was set up to prioritize based on requests and numbers of plays. So, if a song is on four times a morning...it would soon be on six and so forth.
Without a human actually listening to the tracks before spinning - what's the point of a DJ anyway? Most of us have satellite radio. Once in a while, those jocks tell a cute story and intro a block of ten tunes. This might help break the monotony - but they are not discovering new music.
I want to bring back the days when a disc jockey could decide the "single" was less impressive than the B side. Fun fact: did you know that "Get It While It's Hot" by Kix was actually an A side? "Don't Close Your Eyes" was the B side. You guessed it: some DJs across the land flipped the record...and the power ballad eventually became Kix's most famous song.
Now, this article should not be misconstrued. I don't want you thinking I love DJ chatter - because I don't. I hate it. But I do wish disc jockeys had a little power to find great, new tunes. It seems Internet radio is really gaining ground - but still has a long way to go to outpace the popularity of more traditional radio format. Perhaps I'm wrong, but someone trapped in a car for a few hours really is a captive audience. This is where music fans are made.
What say you?