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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

What stops radio stations from playing heavy music?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (15019 points ) May 10th, 2014

A few months back, the rock music station in my city acknowledged that there was significant demand for them to start playing material from Stone Sour. However they said they wouldn’t be doing so, as it would push the boundaries of acceptability. They won’t play anything heavier than Metallica, and won’t explore newer heavy material.

Who decides what is too heavy for radio? This has nothing to do with bad language either. Few bands are better lyrically than Iron Maiden, but yet I have never heard them on the radio. Why do radio stations shy away from heavy music?

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33 Answers

hearkat's avatar

It does seem to be a small, niche market, but if they admit the listeners are requesting it, I don’t know why the station you’re referencing would refuse to give its listeners what they want.

The station owners and program directors decide what is on the playlist, and the have to operate within governmental regulations, of course.

Seton Hall University’s Pirate Radio plays metal, if you’re looking for an alternative.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Some people are “offended” by it because of a decades old “satanic” stigma heavy metal once had. Here in the bible belt radio stations may as well not exist IMO. There is nothing “mainstream” I’m interested in. I’m a huge fan of heavy metal but that’s not all I listen to. There are people who love music and are happy with what is ~in then there are people who LOVE music. Many people who listen to heavy music are true music lovers who are not afraid to branch out and discover what the different music genre have to offer. It is not surprising to many who “get” music to see the deep classical roots many of the progressions have. The mind blowing complexity and skill of the musicianship needed to compose and perform modern heavy metal is almost incomprehensible to those who are non-musicians or just unfamiliar with it. It is one of the highest pinnacles of modern secular music.

Radio stations have to be unoffensive and have wide appeal to be commercially successful. Couple this with an old guard still watching the doorway and you get highly derivative, commercially (corporate) produced, uncreative auto-tuned profit engines which is like elevator music to my ears. I may be a snob here but I simply cannot stomach hearing this. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

cazzie's avatar

Radio is a commercial enterprise. They need advertisers. The advertisers want to reach a certain market (big, that is) and if a station started playing music that would offend people and people turned their station dials, they wouldn’t have the market for their advertisers. So, commercial radio = vanilla.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Follow the money . . . the listeners don’t pay the bills at the radio stations the sponsors pay for the music. The sponsor is usually middle of the road but may be a little one side or the other. Heavy is not close to the mainstream / middle of the road for the sponsors,

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@hearkat Internet radio is great, but I mainly listen to music in the car, which leaves me with CDs. I just have to pick an album at the start of my journey.

@ARE_you_kidding_me Nikki Minaj offends me, but I don’t demand it not be played. I get sick of the connotations surrounding heavy music. Of course skilful music seems to have given ground in the popularity stakes to mindless electronically generated shite.

@cazzie True, but you would think the radio station would improve its market share by playing what the listeners requested. Maybe the advertisers don’t want to be associated with the music?

@Tropical_Willie Fair point. But I’m not suggesting Marilyn Manson or something crazy like that. Surely Stone Sour isn’t all that far from mainstream?

jerv's avatar

This makes me happy I live in Seattle then :/

I’ve heard considerably heavier than Metallica around here. But with so many people around, they are bound to have a sizable audience for things that more sparsely populated areas won’t have enough demand for to pay the bills.

Or, in certain areas, the fans are outnumbered by the pitchfork-wielding anti-fans to where it’s just safest not to play it just to keep the studio from being sued or burned down.

Also, I take it you’re not a fan of Trance

dappled_leaves's avatar

With “hard rock” stations now regularly playing songs like Get Lucky and Sweater Weather, I think hoping for Iron Maiden is unrealistic. I honestly don’t know what’s going on in radio these days. There seems to be a shift towards all things pop lately.

zenvelo's avatar

Because it’s not very popular, and chases away more listeners than it attracts. If I hear heavy metal on the radio in the car, I hit the preset button and switch to news or NPR. So do my kids.

cazzie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh because a few people call in and request a certain type of music isn’t going to necessarily improve their overall ratings.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh There is good electronic music out there.

Symbeline's avatar

It only plays what’s popular or classic, like classic rock or pop music. Revolves around money, advertising, something metal can’t hack because it’s not popular enough.
But some stations do play it. Around here there are some, only you’d have to turn on the radio pretty late at night to catch metal shows, usually organized by college students.

But it’s juts sad that they always play the same kind of stuff usually. I like Celtic folk music a lot, and was lucky once to find a radio show that played one hour of this once a week…but that was before the Internet. Aaah God bless the net. If it becomes the death of radio, well we’ll know why. But the radio is free, yet it has to have a good reason not to charge us, so playing all the popular mainstream music is probably the only way to stay alive. That and news stations. (I mean serious ones with news shows and all, not just telling you what’s going on all day in the span of 47 seconds)

Anyways the Celtic music isn’t ’‘offending’’, but like metal, it’s just not popular enough.

Cruiser's avatar

In my day, radio stations did play Iron Maiden but they were obscure college radio stations. Back then we did not have YouTube or streaming audio on the internet to hear on demand the latest and greatest. I remember huddling around the radio in my friends garage on Sunday nights that after 9:30 on a German Radio station a fledgling station called WXRT would take over the airwaves and play the greatest rock and roll of the 70’s you ever heard. Plus they would air the King Biscuit Flower Hour where you could hear re-broadcasts of live concerts like Zappa, the Who, Genesis, Jefferson Airplane and the Stones. Music was raw, and cutting edge back then and the limited radio exposure gave the music then a sense of decadent naughtiness you don’t get in this mass media day and age. I say you missed out on the good ol’ days.

Symbeline's avatar

@Cruiser I don’t know. I’m thankful for the Internet for being able to discover a lot of music with it. I’m a big fan of Viking metal, and have discovered so much over the passed four years. Truth be told, without the net I’m not even sure that I would know what pagan metal even is.
And I enjoy the music very much and it’s all special to me, it’s not because music is limited that it becomes more special. And remember, in the nineties I didn’t have the Internet, so it’s not like I’m speaking on the grounds that I’ve always had the Internet for music.

It’s also a good tool for young fans today to discover the oldies. Many young people are into Frank Zappa and Iron Maiden, a lot more than most people might think. And The Misfits. Hell yeah! And don’t think I just listen to music and don’t pay for it. I’m wondering how many people like me still buy CD’s haha.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Yeah, the internet is making it possible for people to connect over vast areas to share their likes and dislikes. I’m not talking here about file sharing, although that has been part of it, but rather sites that offer “if you like X, here are 5 other bands that you might enjoy.” It’s a great way to discover new things once all your friends are tapped out. :)

Symbeline's avatar

Yeah. I mean I probably would have discovered pagan metal without the internet, but the trickle of new bands to experience would be so freakin’ slow. Especially when it comes to non mainstream stuff.
Of course I like going to concerts and fests…when I can afford it. But nothing beats online for discoveries.
Let’s not get us wrong, I’m sure that before the net, there obviously were ways to discover new music and genres…it would be silly to think otherwise. But let’s not dismiss current technology in that respect, either.

I’d still rather go to Germany’s metal festivals, listen to all these bands live while getting drunk and eating kick ass German food but…wtf am I gonna do. Lol.

Darth_Algar's avatar

While there’s a certain amount of FCC regulation over broadcast airwaves (in the United States anyway) more than anything it’s the sponsors who determine what’s played at what isn’t. Same with cable television. Actually the FCC doesn’t regulate the content of cable television. The argument being that since you have to pay for cable TV anyone watching has opted-in to it, as opposed to free, over-the-air networks like NBC, ABC, CBS. Still most cable networks are tame in their content due to sponsor pressures (though with networks like FX and AMC successfully pushing boundaries in recent years that’s starting to shift somewhat).

El_Cadejo's avatar

Start listening to college radio stations. I’m sure you’ll find at least a few metal shows at different times of the day. If I listen to commercial radio I don’t hear anything worth listening too but I can find pretty much any genre of music on the various college stations.

wildpotato's avatar

Uh…are you talking about this band? Sounds more like emo or alt and not at all like heavy metal… Not sure what about this would possibly push the boundaries of acceptability.

jerv's avatar

@zenvelo Amongst news/NPR listeners, music in general chases you guys away. I’ve seen few in that demographic listen to music at all, and amongst those few, nothing put out in the last 60 years; even The Beatles are too new/hard. Face it, you and your kids probably aren’t the target demographic.
That said, I think that for you to be correct, fewer stations would play boy bands since the majority of boy band fans lack the purchasing power for sponsors to bother funding the station to play. I don’t think it has to do with chasing people away.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I’ve heard Neurosis (who are slightly harder than the Beatles) played on NPR.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@wildpotato Correct, that is not even close to metal. This is metal.

Cruiser's avatar

@Symbeline I am so jealous of what kids have at their disposal for disc-covering new music…my 14 yr old is my best resource for the latest and greatest. He turned me on to this a week ago. Gotta love the boy! (3:23 is where it gets nasty good)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Thanks all. For the record, I’m not a metal-head. I was several years ago, and much of my favourite music is still melodic metal, hence the question. But I like everything from Mozart and Bach to Slipknot and Trivium, Neil Young and Mike Oldfield to Armin van Buuren and Calvin Harris, Sigur Ros to Linkin Park.

I have nothing against electronic music (thanks @jerv for the playlist), but I do have a problem with shallow music – most of which seems to have electronic backing these days, or at least enough auto-tuning to mask poor musicianship.

@wildpotato Correct, but they also write songs like this.

@ARE_you_kidding_me I’d never heard of Insomnium before. I’m liking it. Thanks!

Symbeline's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I try to keep an open mind as well, but I just can’t stand the kind of music where it’s all electronics with robotic voices singing haha.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Symbeline Agreed. There are a few genres I can’t see any value in. Unfortunately much of this is what is most popular on commercial radio.

Cruiser's avatar

I just thought about something. I have wondered why radio stations today are still playing the music I grew up with and it dawned on me that my generation is the ones still actually listening to radio stations. My kids probably have never or almost never turned on the radio. Kids today are listening to streaming music or playlists on their Ipods and droids.

Symbeline's avatar

Well radio stations have always played some of the timeless classics. I mean this question was about metal on the radio, and while it’s not popular on it, there’s always some station somewhere that has its ’‘Mandatory Metallica’’ shit going on, for example. Some kids have to listen to the radio though…because actually, speaking of which, I listened to it for a good two hours yesterday evening. Pop songs, pop songs, pop songs…all new ones which I’ve never heard before.

But yeah, mostly I would think it’s also streaming and ipods and everything.

Cruiser's avatar

@Symbeline I got a new car that came with Syrius service and I love it for just that reason. One of my fav channels is Ozzi’s Boneyard. There is also a college station here that plays metal for a few hours on Sunday eve. Now technology allows us to make our own internet stations at places like Pandora.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Honestly, every since I started listening to music on my own instead of just whatever my parents were listening to I’ve hated radio. Commercials have always been a pet peeve of mine as well as not having selection over what’s being played. In a nutshell, I want to listen to what I want to listen to when I want to listen to it. With radio I get to listen to what some station programmer thinks I want to listen to. Thus I’ve never really been one to tune into radio.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Even that’s still too “pop-ish” for me I’m going to call that rock. unlike this or this

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Well you’re way more metal than me then. I need something more melodic in there somewhere. The optimal balance between melodic and heavy, in my opinion, is something like this.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

My optimal balance is more like insomnium, meshugga is about as heavy as i like it. I do prefer melodic also. This. Is also in the sweet spot for me

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Top stuff, that.

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