I was listening to — wait for it — “Sunny 99.1” in Houston last week, thinking they should’ve changed their name to “Irony 99.1”
It was voice-tracked (I think: spots running on top of songs). Market #4. Egads.
Should I be able to listen to a music station in Houston, where tens of thousands of people are stranded in shelters, where millions are dealing with life-altering loss, where re-building will take years, perhaps decades, and find it sounding pretty much as it did before Harvey?
Granted, I heard a very brief, rushed “news” line (less than 60 seconds) about levees, but everything else seemed pretty much as it was before the heavens opened and dumped the largest amount of rain on a city in American history.
Is that good? Is that what people in Houston needed?
Maybe they just wanted some normalcy as they were waiting to be rescued.
Maybe hearing Katy Perry sing “Roar” took their minds off losing everything they own.
Or maybe what they desperately needed was information and a way to vent about this incomprehensible catastrophe.
Maybe they needed to use the airwaves to tell loved ones they were safe because their cell phones are out of power, or sitting at the bottom of 5 feet of water, lost in the rush to escape the flood.
Maybe they just needed some human contact, reassurance brought only through personal connection.
Did the management and staff of music radio stations in Houston have this conversation Friday the 25th, before Harvey came ashore?
Did they make plans about how to best serve the needs of those that hear them in their city of license?
I don’t know. And I don’t know what the right answer is either.
Because I’m not there. It’s not happening to me. I don’t feel the desperation and grief I see on TV.
It just seemed so weird to hear normal “Sunny” jingles sweeping between pop songs while I watched people navigating neighborhood streets in boats.
It felt absurd to hear recorded liners about at-work listening when the city is under water.
The whole listening experience felt disconnected from the reality I was watching.
No question Radio in Houston will do a stellar job raising money and resources for the recovery.
Radio always shines brightest after the storm.
But what should music radio have sounded like last week, during the storm?
And if you still have the resources to help in South Asia’s disaster, try UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders and request that your donation be specifically used in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and/or Yemen.