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The Wisdom of the Taxi Driver

“What do you do?” the driver asked me, so I told her.

She had a lot to say about radio (and that’s before she notified me that she was considering having “the stomach stapling” but was afraid she would get so thin she would disappear).

I asked her about satellite radio (I know, I encouraged her, but I was trapped).

“I don’t want to pay for radio,” she said.

“That means you don’t have a radio problem,” I replied.

“Yes, I love KOIT,” she said (although I don’t know if this is the kind of fan KOIT should be bragging about).

It seems to me that one of the challenges of satellite radio (and HD likewise) is that it’s in the “radio” category. And the “radio” category is, to many listeners, a part of their ambient environment. Nothing they seek out, because it’s always there. And nothing they pay for, because it’s always free. Is “radio” the wrong name for a subscription service when a free version is ubiquitous and satisfies the needs for a large fraction of its audience? Maybe.

And then she came out with this:

“The eye wants the new, but the ear wants the familiar.”

“What?” I asked. And she repeated it. It seemed to me that these were the most profound words I’ve heard from a cabblie – not to mention from more than a few broadcasters.

What she means is that we like to LOOK for what’s new but like to HEAR the music we’re most familiar with, the stuff we’ve grown up with.

A gross generalization, of course. But from this 40-something cabbie (and raving fan of KOIT) comes an oversimplified but accurate explanation for why the hits are the hits, why radio is part of the ambient fabric of listeners’ lives, and why any new technology with “radio” in its name will have a tough time in the mass market where the average outnumbers the extreme by a wide margin and the air is thick with free audio entertainment.

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