That interview several weeks ago with Bill Lueth, the KDFC program director had me reeling:
For stations of any format, the game is the same. "In commercial radio," Lueth says, "you have to have a certain level of popularity in order to survive." KDFC needs to be inclusive, he says, "to get as many people to come to the party as possible. Over the years, we've got 200,000 new listeners, and the demographics are better -- we have more younger listeners. But, sadly, we leave maybe 10,000 classical music fans at the table."
The article implies 600,000 or so listeners tune in to KDFC. Just to see if I am really part of the 10,000 rather than the 600,000, I've been listening to the station again for the first time in awhile. No contemporary music obviously nor did they play any American composers while I was listening. I did learn that I don't much care for the music of Boccherini. And, I'm surprised at the number of lesser European composers from the 1700s and 1800s that I had never heard of. I'm also astonished I heard absolutely no music I ever need to hear again. For example, lately I've been enjoying MP3s of Handel's organ concertos. But of all the baroque music KDFC played, nothing was of any interest. Nothing.
All of which is the point, I guess. KDFC provides classical music with no effort required on the listener's part. No need for a musical education, no need to have any prior musical experience, no need to judge for one's self what music is worthy let alone challenging, no need to even note works that merit future investigation -- just turn it on and let it soothe.
There's always the "it leads to the 'real stuff'" argument. At age fourteen, my listening to Chick Corea and Weather Report did in fact result in, at age sixteen, hearing John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon. But, I suspect that KDFC's lifestyle music doesn't generate that kind of progression for most of their listeners. Several years ago, I bought a KDFC sampler CD as a Christmas gift for a KDFC listener I know. But in hindsight, that was probably superfluous. You don't listen to the station because you care about any particular piece; you listen because of the predictability. Hey, I can respect that.