A Little Disclaimer
I've tried to describe this to people, but no description can even come close to doing it justice. It has to be heard to be believed, but it simply wasn't something that was easily available to be heard. However, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, that has changed. I have it available for your...well, I can't say "listening pleasure," but perhaps "fascination": is best.
First some background. It tells a history and is necessary to put things in perspective. Like most histories, it's detailed. But the devil is in the details...
There are two classical music stations in Los Angeles (a fortuitous luxury, since so many cities today don't even have one). KUSC is the commercial-free, NPR station, and KMZT was a commercial FM station but switched a few years back and is now on the AM dial. One would think that KMZT (which stands for K-Mozart) would be at a big disadvantage -- having commercials and being on the lower-fidelity, non-stereo AM frequency -- but they do a very respectable job of programming, have solid announcers, and it's justifiably managed to sustain itself.
I tend to listen to the high-tier KUSC more often, but if they're playing a piece of music I don't like, I'll switch. Also, because I find the KUSC morning DJ to have a pissy on-air personality -- just what you want to wake up to in the morning -- I set my clock alarm to KMZT. (He seems a nice-enough guy, just that he appears annoyed to be there, which is gratng.) And then switch back-and-forth between the stations during the day.
A few years back, KMZT started running a contest disclaimer that was...well, it was numbing. Quite awful. Long and tedious and so overloaded with convoluted lawyerese that it was almost painful in its total cluelessness. (A friend of mine, Rich Capparela, was a DJ on KMZT at the time -- after having been on KUSC, and now back again on KUSC in the big afternoon drive-time slot, yes, he's quite the vagabond, as well as wonderful and the single best reason to listen to KUSC -- and when years back I told him about this mind-numbing disclaimer his then-station was running EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, he explained that they'd had a problem with one contest, and the lawyers freaked out and got involved.)
It was awful, but time passed, and the disclaimer seemed to go away, or at least was well-hidden. But...but...but it has returned. And with a vengeance. If I thought their original contest disclaimer was mind-numbing, the new one risks creating a Black Hole and sucking all life into a vacuum. The old, galling contest disclaimer was like a soul-soothing Bach cantata by comparison. The new disclaimer comes close to making your head explode.
There are additional problems with the new disclaimer beyond it being so monumentally, other-worldly horrific. For one, as I noted with the original, it too runs EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. For another, it always runs at around the same time each evening, between 11 PM and midnight. So, if that's when you like to listen to rich, ethereal classical music -- and as you wind down for the day, before you go to bed -- you're out of luck. You get slammed EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
I do sometimes listen to KUSC in the evening. They have an often-superb host, Jim Svedja -- though "often" means just that. Terrific as he is mostly, at times he has it in him to kick things into overdrive and get a bit too pretentious for human consumption, and at times also he'll devote an entire evening to a specific movie composer. Now, such fellows might indeed be quite talented and write beautiful themes, but movie soundtracks are generally intended to be in the background, and not draw attention to themselves, but augment the action. And more to the point, just because a piece of music uses an orchestra that doesn't make it classical. I don't mind listening to movie scores -- I own a few soundtracks -- but when I listen to a classical music station, classical music is usually what I want to hear. An occasional change-of-pace is fine, as an intended contrast, but not as the main diet. So, periodically I'll switch over to KMZT.
And therein lies the problem.
It got so bad having to listen and listen and listen -- and listen -- to this mind-numbing KMZT contest disclaimer that I finally wrote to the radio station. Basically, I explained that the contest disclaimer was so horrific and inexplicable and even insulting that I simply couldn't take it any longer, and whenever it comes on, I immediately switch the station to KUSC. Which means I no longer wake up to KMZT. (Alas, it also means that I'd have to wake up to KUSC's pissed-off morning DJ, except that I have a clock-radio that lets me wake up to my iPod, so...well, I now use an involved set-up with two radios, so let's just say I have options and worked out a system...) I added that I couldn't imagine I was the only person SO annoyed by the disclaimer, and even if these others kept the station on, it no doubt ticked them off -- something I'm guessing most radio stations try not to do to their listeners -- and I suspect some would indeed turn it off, as well. It's that bad.
Know that the problem for a radio station when listeners turn to the competition is that listening tends to be a habit, and people stick longer with the station they have on. Station-jumping does happen in a car, what with its push buttons at your fingertips, but less so at home. Which is why stations really, really mean it when they say, "Don't touch that dial..."
I should note -- going on at length here about this, and so minutely with the station itself -- that I actually care about such things because I care about broadcasting and the media in general, it having been my major in college at Northwestern, graduating in Radio, TV and Film. (My college roommate even made up a t-shirt for me that said, "MEDIAC" across the front.) And also, liking classical music much as I do and knowing how lucky we are here in Los Angeles to have two such stations, I'd love to keep it that way. "If you don't like it, just turn it off" was no resolution -- I did turn it off. The point was that I didn't want to, and didn't want others, too. I wanted KMZT to flourish.
At the very least, I begged the folks at KMZT to put the disclaimer on at 3 AM, when there were fewer listeners, and when those listening would probably appreciate something SO grating because it would keep them awake. But I said too that I couldn't imagine why it had to be soooooo loooooong. Or on EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Surely, they could just air it just one night a week, on Sunday perhaps, and then every other night simply have a brief, 15-second spot that pointed listeners to the KMZT website with the full contest rules. I said I understand completely that this was lawyers getting involved and lawyers writing the disclaimer and lawyers setting the guidelines for airing it, but that was just a horrible way to program a radio station. What I explained is that EVERY SINGLE NIGHT the radio station (thanks to their KMZT lawyer programmers) were insulting their audiences by telling them in loooooong, meticulous terms that..."We Don't Trust You. We Think You are Cheaters and are Looking for Ways to Cheat Us. But We are On to You, and Here are Our Rules, and We Have Lawyers to Watch You, and If You Don't Follow Our Rules Exactly, No Dessert and Go to Your Bedroom. Or We Might Put You in Jail."
And by the way, I should add that KMZT almost never has any contests any more! Not since their problem years ago. I mean, seriously, folks. They almost never have contests. In fact, I can't even tell you the last time I heard a contest on the station. And yet they run this contest disclaimer EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. (Hey, here's a concept: why not run your contest disclaimer during those periods when you actually have a contest?!)
Okay, so how long is this disclaimer, that they run EVERY SINGLE NIGHT between an 11 PM and midnight? Well, let's put this in perspective. How long would you be willing to listen to a contest disclaimer just one time without turning the channel? Perhaps 30 seconds? Maybe a full minute long? (Those disclaimers on medical drug ads, like for Xeralto, run about 10-15 seconds. And you know how teeth-gnashingly annoying those are.) Perhaps even a minute and a quarter? The KMZT contest disclaimer runs...are you ready?... THREE minutes! Yes, it is three freaking minutes. And it's not just once, or even once in a while, but EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
And saying that it's three minutes doesn't even begin to do it justice. Because the disclaimer is read in one of those FastVoicesThatSpeedsUpTalkingMoreThanWhatIsNormal. It's probably sped up 50%, so it's like the equivalent of listening to five minutes of insulting legalese minutiae information. EVERY SINGLE...oh, you know.
As you can imagine, as I said at the beginning, it's near impossible to get the full impact of this across by mere description. Even a description this loooong. (And trust me, I know this is long. But I'm telling a history, as well, and also comparing radio stations. Yet even something THIS long is almost literally shorter than the KMZT disclaimer. And you only have to read it once. Not EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.) But long as this story is, for years it's been the only way to get across the point of this other-worldly KMZT contest disclaimer without being able to hear it. But happily, thanks to digital recording, I had a brainstorm. As we hit the 11 PM hour the other night, I got my mobile phone ready and launched the voice recorder app. And I waited. And waited. And then, when the disclaimer finally began -- I recorded it.
And, folks, here it is!
Yes, I know I've explained how long and tedious and insulting and head-exploding this disclaimer is. So, asking you to listen might seem odd. But remember, you only have to listen to it once, and will be doing so for scientific research. Even under those conditions, I suspect some people won't make it through. But I implore you to try. You just won't get the full impact if you stop after a minute. Or after two minutes. Or two-and-a-half minutes. Oh, no, you have to listen to the whole thing.
As you listen, though, create the proper setting in your mind: imagine listening to this EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Actually, even easier, just imagine listening to it more than once. In fact, I offer a challenge. Bookmark this posting and come back to see if you can make it through this on just three consecutive nights. Not every night, no, no, I wouldn't expect that of anyone, just a "mere" three nights in a row. I suspect that most people (understandably) won't even have the slightest inclination to try, preferring instead to banging their collective heads against the wall if they had to make a choice. As for succeeding at the three nights, only the most beatifically tolerant or callously inured will likely make it through. There's no prize to be given here, just the pure, self-satisfaction of knowing that if you were ever captured during a war, you could survive almost anything.
(By the way, for those of you wondering if you should dive in and even just listen to the whole thing even once -- something I do highly suggest -- here's a carrot to make it worth listening to the whole freaking thing. Near the very end, after you have listened for almost three full, numbing minutes -- of fast-paced, intricate, detailed, convoluted, insulting, legal mumbojumbo -- the announcer explains (are you ready?) that if you want to read the "full" contest details, go to the KMZT website!! Yes! Honest. These here aren't even the entire contest rules! There are actually more. And so many more that after three minutes of fast-reading even the lawyers felt it was too much and needed to write them down. It's absolutely hilarious to hear. I burst out laughing the first time I heard it. And it of course also begs the huge question: if they are willing here after three minutes to tell you to go to the station's website to see the full rules...why on earth couldn't they just do what I suggested above, and present a simple 15-second contest disclaimer before telling you to go to the website if you want to know more???!!)
And remember: KMZT almost never has contests.
Classical music and lawyers. It's such a vibrant mix.
And with all that now explained, here, ladies and gentleman, is the KMZT contest disclaimer. If you think that after such a looooong build-up that this recording can't possibly live up to those lowly expectation -- just listen. Because they can. Oh, my, they can.
And yes, this is real.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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