That song request you just played or the caller you put on air serves as more than show content, it is a bonding experience the listener has with you and the station’s audience. In a world of playlists and instant, on-demand music, people still take the time to call into their local radio station and request a song, sometimes even sending it out as a dedication. The reasons for this delve deeper in the human psyche than may appear on the surface.
“The radio request’s biggest allure has always been about more than hearing a specific song. It’s about making everyone else hear your request and the message you attach to it,” Sabrina Maddeaux writes in the Canadian publication, The National Post. “In an age that values insta-fame and ‘being relevant’ more than ever, the prospect of having a megaphone — however brief, through whatever platform — remains appealing to many.”
The selfie-generation certainly gets a kick out of hearing their song request, or even better, their voice on the radio, but the action of requesting a song also fosters a sense of community. Citing studies which show music triggers a psychological process that reflects emotion, “a requester feels like they’re sharing more than a song with others; they’re sharing a feeling,” the article states.
Radio has also been used to provide a sense of community in United Kingdom prisons. National Prison Radio is a station made for and by inmates. The station is seen as a rehabilitation tool for the prisoners by engaging in “education, debate and community.” More than 10,000 letters, requests and messages were received from prisoners and their families last year, the National Post reports.
Requests also form a two-way communication avenue for listeners and station talent, helping build station loyalty. “While the convenience and scale of the internet has laid waste to many beloved cultural practices, it appears the humble radio request is one tradition that isn’t going anywhere,” Maddeaux writes.