The Clear Channel owned modern-rock station in Denver has added the Beastie Boys new anti-war song to their playlist, but not without having to run a poll first, according to the alt-weekly Westword.
“More than 2,000 listeners took a survey about the track, and in answer to the question ‘How does the fact the song is a ‘protest’ song change your opinion about it?,’ 34 percent said, ‘It makes me like the song more,’ 16 percent conceded, ‘It makes me like the song less,’ and 51 percent replied, ‘It doesn’t change my opinion one way or the other.’
The poll-takers, most of whom were in their teens and twenties, were given the chance to offer personal comments, too, and many of them are quite thoughtful. Some simply didn’t like the cut, which is musically weak by the Beasties’ high standards…. However, many more saw airing the song as a free-speech issue. A typical argument was: ‘We need more uncensored music.’ Perhaps that’s why a plurality of the respondents — 45 percent — said that if they heard ‘In a World Gone Mad’ on KTCL, they would turn it up, not off.”
Clear Channel, you might recall, is the monster radio chain that has been hosting pro-war rallies across the country, including one in Denver. So, one might argue that their station’s decision to add an anti-war song to the playlist is evidence that the pro-war stance is not a corporate-mandated one, but truly the result of individual station initiative.
I say that’s like arguing that a pihranna isn’t a man-eating fish because it let one guy swim by unharmed.
The simple fact is that the modern rock station added the Beastie’s song because it’s getting airplay across the country on modern rock stations and in the radio industry it’s certain death to be left behind on a soon-to-be popular song. Politics may be important to Clear Channel, but it’ll never trump profits.
Really, one three-minute anti-war song is but a whisper compared to the jingo war-drum roar of Clear Channel’s right-wing talker line-up. And I’m sure Clear Channel’s classic rockers are probably playing old anti-war songs by the Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, and such, primarily because the songs are so entrenched and worn-in that, to an extent, their meaning has been lost, or even just misunderstood. Clear Channel stations probably played Rage Against the Machine songs, too, when they were at the top of the charts, despite the band’s explicitly anti-corporate stance.
These songs are sandwiched inbetween a blitzkrieg of commercials and blaring DJs that have no other purpose but to get you to buy shit anyway. While I think it’s great to get some protest music back on the air, I also think that the music is pretty well declawed when forced into the context of most corporate rock radio, if not completely undermined.
In the end it has nothing to do with the music itself, nevermind its message. It’s about what the station thinks its audience will tolerate, or possibly demand because some other station is beating them to the punch.
If an anti-war song is in demand, then they’ll play it, but don’t expect Clear Channel to start chanting anti-war on the air outside the song. No, it’s still too profitable to snuggle up to power and inflame patriotic passions. Letting a token anti-war song leak out is simply a great cover so that management can claim that the company doesn’t take a war opinion.
So you might hear a protest song from the Beastie Boys, but I can all but guarantee that you won’t hear ones from otherwise less commercially proven artists, or artists that are more past their commercial prime. It is all still about business, which means giving the people what they want, if it happens to be in stock and somebody else is already selling it.