December 11th, 2005

Brad @ Burning Man

Santarchy, Jazz

Back from Santarchy. I won't say that I didn't have fun, but I will say that it was awfully sedate fun. Except for a few people who drove by out on the streets as we were marching, etc from bar to bar, we were roundly ignored. I'm not surprised. As a group, we were more sober, polite, serious, and (frighteningly) quiet than any average bar patron on a Saturday night in St. Louis. I don't think that most of the people there "got" Santarchy. It was fun, and I'll do it again next year, but, enh. Didn't even vaguely live up to the hype.

On a completely unrelated topic, while I'm tired and want to go to bed rather than right something of any length, let me mention something I wanted to complain about for a while now and keep forgetting to bring it up. A year or so ago, I bragged that St. Louis had finally broken through one of the "cool barriers," the signs of mediocrity that separate a real city from a hick cow town: we finally became a three jazz radio station town. It didn't affect my life very much, because as I've said, I get most of my music from streaming Internet radio stations on Live365.com or di.fm. But it was nice having them for times when the radio really was what I wanted. More importantly, I liked what it said about St. Louis, that we were a town where at least some people, not a whole lot but at least enough to justify three different formats of it, were sophisticated enough, old fashioned enough, educated enough, or at least in some way different enough to seek out a educational jazz station, or a soft jazz/adult contemporary station, or a jazz/lounge station. Not any more. I had occasion to turn the radio on the other day for a few hours, and had to turn it back off in disgust. Two of the jazz stations went generic pop music. The third, the one I liked the least anyway, now devotes almost as much time to sports broadcasting as it does to music, at least during hockey season. We went from a three-jazz-station town to a not-even-one jazz station town in mere months. I'm disgusted.

I'm further disgusted by the fact that they replaced those two radio stations' formats with ones not in any way perceptibly different from six other stations on the FM dial, so I'm at a total loss as to who they think is going to listen. Maybe the topic isn't so unrelated, after all. Has this town turned so "safe," so outer-directed, so conformist that it's a better investment to just try to copy what other stations are doing and hope to luck into picking up a few listeners who misdial than to play something other than Clear Channel's Currently Most Payola'ed Popular Songs? If so, it's a bad sign.

For one thing, it's further proof that all that money that the state and city governments, and corporations, and and wealthy private investors are pouring into trying to set up biotech innovation business incubators are wasting that money. Nobody looking to start a company that depends on recruiting top creative and intellectual minds, and then retaining them despite underpayment propped up by vague promises of hypothetical future stock market wealth, nobody who would be involved in building another Silicon Valley or another Cambridge or another Austin (as if it were guaranteed that biotech is going to be as big as silicon has been) is going to do so in a town where they're shutting down every radio station that isn't country, right wing talk, or top 40, and that just shut down all but the last starving few of its dance clubs. Nobody builds high-tech VC startups in places like that. They build minimum-wage call centers. Which yes, are jobs, but they're jobs whose payroll won't cover the taxes the area needs to pay the cops and the teachers, and can most easily of all be moved overseas and therefore will be.