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October 9th, 2007


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03:08 pm - And the hits just keep on coming here at T Radio
(apologies to those who also read b0st0n for what's essentially a repeat)

Circumstances today called for me to curtail my working hours short for the day and so I found myself on the South Station platform around 2:00 pm. Making my way to the end of the northbound platform, as I am wont to do, I heard a woman's voice reading off last night's lottery numbers. It sounded pretty loud and professional DJ-like, and I assumed someone had left a radio on in one of the work rooms next to the platform.

"This is so-and-so for T Radio," the woman said in an annoying yet chirpy voice. "See you on the train! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!"

Wait. What? It's coming from the platform speakers?

Next thing I heard is a polished DJ voice -- the kind of disembodied voice you hear in the movie theaters telling you what insipid and forgettable R&B/pop song you just heard over the auditorium PA system before the previews begin. He also introduced himself from T Radio, and proceeded to read the same "Safety is our Number One concern at the T" announcement that the recorded voice of Dan Graubaskas has been reading for months now. Immediately afterwards, the voice launched into an ad for the Mass. Lottery, urging us all to make sure to try the new scratch-off game or whatever. At this point the volume of the announcement kept changing, from "sounds like it's behind that door" audible to REALLY FREAKING LOUD. Then it went silent altogether, making me wonder if I'd hallucinated the entire thing.

T Radio? Surely the T isn't thinking of running a constant stream of chatter and music on the platforms. Surely this is just a test and they'll recognize their folly and drop it. Surely nobody has Written To The Top complaining about the silence and lack of wallpaper media while waiting for their trains. And surely nobody asked us whether or not we wanted to hear Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot", which eventually started playing over the speakers.

No, I'm not feeling hot hot hot. I'm still not feeling hot hot hot. I won't be feeling hot hot hot. Stop saying hot hot hot!

The proceedings weren't even interrupted by the automated voice announcing the train arrivals. They're on separate channels, apparently, so the two voices merged and we could HOT HOT HOT! barely hear the fact that HOT HOT HOT! the next train to HOT HOT Alewife HOT! was now arriving HOT HOT HOT!

The volume went up and down again a few times, then turned off completely just as the train was entering the station. They're testing this today, apparently. I'd be curious to know if it's going on during afternoon rush, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the wake of shoddy customer service, no information on delays, mishaps or otherwise, stranding passengers in trains so that they are forced to make their own evacuations and incredibly stupid decisions involving chained emergency exit gates ("No problem, we'll just remove the emergency exit signs"), the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has decided the best way to spend its money is on a system-wide radio network, forcing a captive --and paying-- audience to listen to loud, annoying music and ads for the Lottery. Billboards are one thing; they're visual, you can turn away and not look. Overhead music? Plug your ears, bucko, you ain't escaping this one.

This isn't the first time the T's experimented with mass media; back in the early 90s there were the television sets hung from the ceilings in Park Street and Downtown Crossing, among others. Remember them? They silently displayed the weather, ads, sports scores, that kind of thing, and each one had a little camera mounted on the bottom to monitor exactly how many people were watching it. Not enough were, apparently, and the TVs were removed after a few years. It's kind of hard to judge how many people are actively listening to your T Radio unless you want to count the number of people holding their ears during rush hour.

But what really really really pisses me off about this is the fact that we already have music in some of the T stations. They're called buskers. You seriously cannot tell me the T wishes to put the buskers out of business by blasting this stuff over all platforms and then telling us to buy scratch tickets. You can't do that. I don't believe it. I simply won't believe it.

This morning a guitarist in Davis was playing a reasonably nice guitar version of Your Song. He was picking the piano bits on the guitar, and doing a good job of it. Sure, Elton John isn't always my cup of tea, but the guitarist made the music his and that personal touch made it sound nice. I don't mind listening to that on the platform, and hey, a dollar or two in his guitar case helps him make his livelihood doing what he loves to do.

I am not, however, about to spend money on a monthly pass just to be a captive audience for Lottery commercials and Buster F'n Poindexter telling me all about how it's HOT HOT HOT.

I am seriously hoping this is just a test program, a pilot program, some kind of "hey let's see the reaction." If that's the case, then let the reaction be swift and let it be vituperative and angry. Trust me, you don't want this crap to listen to while you wait in frustration for a train that never comes.

Drop the T Radio, you goons, drop the loud ads and the "cha-ching! cha-ching!" lottery announcements and the music I avoid by not listening to Magic 106.7, and let the buskers do their thing.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 9th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
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What, and give up show business?
[User Picture]
From:brak55
Date:October 9th, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
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I can see it now.

"...and now T-Radio presents a medley of tunes by the always popular Celine Dion."

Followed by the sound of gunfire as the first postal rider takes out every speaker on the platform.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 10th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC)
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And here we've been trying to cut down on the number of homicides in Boston.
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:October 9th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
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I'd actually expect the T employees' union to put a quick end to this experiment, as the workers would have to put up with the noise a lot longer than customers do.
[User Picture]
From:fancycwabs
Date:October 9th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
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I'm reminded of the time I worked as a bagger in Food World, and got to listen to "La Isla Bonita" and "Don't Mean Nothin'" every half-hour for an entire summer.
[User Picture]
From:allicat42
Date:October 9th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Some of (most? all?) the MARTA stations in ATL have LED display boards that run news headlines... I think they do time too. Sometimes, they even tell you how many minutes until the next train and which direction it's heading (north/south, etc.). Sounds like y'all could use those thingymabobs...
From:kayleetvs
Date:October 9th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
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Wait a second ... wouldn't that kill the buskers' business completely, to have prerecorded music piped in overhead? I don't always want to hear their music but they're just trying to earn a living. Is that going to be taken away from them?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 10th, 2007 01:11 am (UTC)
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Yes, yes it would, which is what is really angering me and I am hoping that once the buskers do get wind of this, that they really stomp and put the kibosh on what is sure to be a never-ending stream of bland, blah, horrible supermarket music and inescapable ads.

There's an old article from Boston Magazine that someone dug up, from a few months back, that mentions the station would placate the buskers and "spin tunes by T musicians."

Sure! Spin the tunes from the ones who have had the time and money to make a professional recording. Not everyone who busks has a CD for sale. :(
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:October 10th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
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These are the folks you want to get in touch with regarding subway busking.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 10th, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the link. I just sent a letter off to Mr. Baird, who appears to be the Busker's Advocate and one who was instrumental in helping get rid of the TVs in the 90s. I hope the email helps increase awareness and hopefully get folks involved in sending the MBTA extremely negative feedback.

REAP THE WHIRLWIND!
[User Picture]
From:violacat
Date:October 15th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
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FYI, you were the one who first brought this to Mr. Baird's attention. Then he got 283908107 communications from the rest of us. :)

He's working on this right now; I'm not at liberty to discuss exactly what, although if you were curious and tossed me an e-mail, I might be able to mention a specific or two.

Probably the biggest hurdle right now will be keeping the public sentiment up until Thanksgiving, when the decision will be made whether to keep it (and of course, they certainly couldn't possibly have already made their minds up or anything like that, oh no).
[User Picture]
From:crankyliberal
Date:October 10th, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)
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After a summer in Boston, I went back to DC wishing for buskers. I did NOT wish for "crappy piped in music from hell at varying volumes".

[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:October 10th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Here is a link to the T's official press release:

MBTA Launches T - Radio Pilot Program

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