Petty's Tirade Against Corporate Radio Rings Hollow

Few musical artists have benefited from FM radio more than Tom Petty.

Can you hit the “scan” button on your car radio and not hear something from the nasal singer’s canon? And bully for that. Petty – with and without the Heartbreakers – has been delivering consistently great rock music for decades. Long may he reign.

Tom Petty

But Petty’s recent comments concerning corporate radio weren’t music to our ears.

The band was playing a pledge-drive benefit for KCSN, Cal State Northridge’s public radio outlet. The longtime classical music station switched to a genre-mixing “smart rock” format this year, and its fall pledge drive is aimed at boosting the station power to reach a much wider audience.

Petty mixed in some deep cuts along with standard hits like ‘Refugee.’ But he also sided with public radio versus the model which can’t stop playing his songs.


“I guess I should say something about why we’re here,” Petty said about a half-hour in. “First of all, nothing scares corporate radio like public radio.” He then addressed the big story of the week on Los Angeles airwaves: The sacking of Petty pal and The Last DJ inspiration Jim Ladd from Cumulus-owned KLOS. “Jim Ladd was fired this week for having an imagination,” he said.

No one likes to see talented deejays head for the unemployment line. Terrestrial radio continues to endure growing pains due to both the lousy economy and the changing nature of today’s media. That too often means listeners lose the locally produced shows they had enjoyed for decades.

So why doesn’t Petty put on more shows for public radio? Why don’t his peers?

It still feels odd to hear Petty slam a media outlet which has done so much to spread his music to the masses. But if he really wants to support public radio, he should do more than an occasional benefit concert for the cause.

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