Today is the last day for WBRU, our local college radio station. Everyone on Facebook is acting like it is the end of the world. Honestly, radio is no longer the way I listen to music. Ten years ago, I invested in an iPod and spent hours downloading music and creating playlists. The internet further changed my listening habits with the creation of Pandora and Spotify. Once I had a Spotify Premium account, I increased my data plan on my phone and streamed music all the time. For the past two years, I’ve relied on my Amazon Echo to fill my home with music. If someone recommended a band or artist to me, I could find them easily online. I’ve discovered some of my favorite bands this way.
Radio took a backseat to how music filled my life. In the car, I listen to CDs, books on CD borrowed from the library, and NPR. (Even Liam asks me to leave it on the “news.”) I rarely listen to the radio. During my commute, I would sometimes turn on the radio and scan stations for a traffic report if I found myself crawling up 95. Now, I have an iPhone that can inform me where the problem is, how long it will take to get through it, and suggests alternative routes. Radio can’t do that.
BRU was a huge part of my formative years. I turned to them to teach me music worth listening to: REM, Pearl Jam, They Might Be Giants. As a teenager, I would call them over and over to request songs and artists, assuming that would never realize it was the same person calling four times in an hour to request the same Presidents of the United States song. I heard songs I loved and had to wait until the end of the music block in hopes that the DJ would reveal the title and artist. No Shazam back then. It took months to learn the title of “How Soon is Now?” The radio station shaped what I heard and who I became. We went to their events. We tuned in, eager to buy whatever music they were selling.
Fast forward twenty-five years. We’ve come a long way since trying to find 95.5 on a tune-in radio, moving the antenna and hoping to get the signal as I moved around my shared bedroom in Burrillville. And now we are upset that they’re shutting down. We’re acting like the boy we all had a crush on who strung us along then got upset when we started dating someone else.
Unfortunately, we forgot about radio. We subscribe to satellite and streaming services. (In college, I remember the morning DJs on the drive to class talking about XM Radio, explaining that people would pay for radio the way they pay for cable TV. At the time, we all thought it was a ridiculous idea.) On the occasions it’s on, I remember its joy when they play a forgotten favorite. From now on, I will have to rely on following the right people on Spotify to surprise me with classic songs. Or, I will have to continue my current habits of Spotify, books on CD, and NPR.