Oldies music on the radio doesn't mean the 1950s anymore

Saturday, November 1, 2003

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- One of the surest ways to feel older is to listen to the radio and hear songs from your childhood -- or, even worse, your adulthood -- described as "oldies."

If over the years it seems those songs have gotten newer while you've gotten older, it's not your imagination. Oldies radio stations that once featured songs from the 1950s and '60s now play songs from the '70s.

"Radio is an ever-changing thing, especially an oldies station," said Jeff Gold, a 44-year-old DJ whose build and voice personify his station's call letters, WBIG.

"As the years go by, newer songs become oldies. That's just the nature of the beast," said Gold, known as "Goldy" to his listeners in the Washington area.

So roll over Chuck Berry and make way for Fleetwood Mac. Your music hasn't lost its appeal to listeners. But advertisers? That's another story.

Advertisers covet the 25-to-54 age group. The first baby boomers -- the generation born right after World War II and the primary audience for oldies music -- are pushing 60.

"This is Marketing 101," said Dick Bartley, host of two nationally syndicated oldies programs, "Rock & Roll's Greatest Hits" and "American Gold." "The oldies format is doing what every business has to do -- follow your demographic."

So as radio stations seek to attract advertisers, it's increasingly difficult for fans of 1950s and early '60s rock to find those tunes on the dial. A study by Coleman, a North Carolina media research firm, found the vast majority of oldies stations in the 50 largest markets are playing more modern music than they did three years ago.

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