4   Rock Around The World October 1977




Did you know that the music that you listen to at home or on the radio is increasingly being tampered with by a growing stable of sophisticated manipulators who have developed techniques for shaping your most personal emotional responses?

Are you aware of the new science of pyschographics which the hitmakers in the record business and the owners of many of our radio stations are tapping to find out how best to get us to buy what they are selling?

Are you ready for the Cybernetic Age of music where the sounds we hear have been programmed so that we might be as

These are not idle questions –nor would a reaction of “whatis-he-talking-about” be surprising. These techniques, now in wide use in the music business, are one of the industry’s better kept secrets. They are part of an insidious process of mind manipulation that is probably more dangerous than all of those CIA LSD experiments that we all read about recently.

Psychographics is the study of the psychology of demographic groups., the various distinctive parts of the population that those marketing radio stations or products aim at. TM Programming, Inc., a Dallas basely automated radio programming service was the first such company to use this approach in order to “gain great insight into the mind of the average radio listener, male and female, young, old and in between.” This psychological research is sold as technique for building ratings and profits for radio owners.


A TM (no relationship to Transcendental Meditation) brochure explains how they do it. “Using a device called a psychograph, we can measure such emotional ‘barometers,’ as the galvanic skin response, respiration, muscle tension and operant preference of test subjects, while these subjects are exposed to various programming formats and format components. The subjects measured reactions are then interpreted and a determination made as to which elements in the tested format produced positive emotional responses and which elements produced negative responses.”

Now picture’ this–a whole group of people thought to represent an “average” group of radio listeners are paid to sit in a room like so many guinea rigs, have electrodes tied to their fingers and allow their physiological reactions to be tested and

measured. All of these individuals are hooked up to a machine called the Physiograph Six B which is supposed to tell if you are bored or enthusiastic, attentive or pissed off.

“From tests such as this,” the TM brochure explains, “TM programming is able to tell what types of music, tempo curves, format structures and presentation styles are most effective in establishing the most positive response among the greatest number’ of average listeners. We can even establish how to place commercials within a format structure to assure maximum recallability.”


These same techniques are now being used, as the Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Ron Powers reports in The Newscasters (St. Martin’s Press, 1977), to measure the reactions of TV viewers to newscasters and to the news itself. This research is then used to guide news directors on who to hire and how to package their newscasts. Powers points out that this Orwellian system was first devised “to wire up adolescent girls and find out what sort of rock music they were willing to buy.” The technique itself was designed by Dr. Thomas Turicchi, a Ph.D. in music and psychology whose original research at Texas Women’s University launched his career as a consultant to the broadcast and record industries.

Turruchi’s skin tests were soon being used by record companies to predict future hits. “We don’t just tell the company if a record will sell,” Powers quotes Turrichi. “We tell them whether it will be superstrong, a mid charter or a stiff.” Reporter Powers then describes how it is done:

“On a given day, a visitor to Turicchi’s lab could look through a one-way mirror and observe six to eight subjects, usually teen-age girls, slumped in their chairs and listening to new pop recordings by Paul Anka, Tony Orlando, Donny Osmond or Barry Manilow. Electrodes attached to the subjects fingers would send their bodily reactions to an adjoining room where the Physiograph Six B would chart their boredom or brio on graph paper.


“Tom developed a Coca-Cola formula, “Paul Gentry, Turicchi’s assistant and brother-in-law proudly told Michael Gross in

New Times magazine, “and he sells it.” Of the test subjects, Gentry observed, “their heads may say they hate (a song) but their bellybuttons tell the tale. The ‘average people’ tested through this method are not told what the tests are.”

Other companies are now getting into the profitable field of psychographics. According to Wilson Brian Key, author of Subliminal Seduction and Media Sexploitation Signer, 1977), “There are a half a dozen organizations that I am aware of in this kind of research technology.” In an interview broadcast over WBCN, Dr. Key told me that, at one Los Angeles based firm called Preview House, “there is a department that does nothing but analyze popular music. They charge about $800 a cut to do this, and you can get any kind of a read out that you want about new records before you release them.”

Music critics have been complaining about what this can lead to for some time but without much impact. “With biofeedback equipped ‘hit prediction’ centers already in action, the day may not be too far off when all our. Top .40 programming will subtly program the listener instead,” wrote Rory O’Connor in (Cambridge’s) Real Paper. Robert Christgau of New York’s Village Voice fears that day is already here–and not only operative in the world of top-40 music. Once the commercial viability of the item had been assured by its aesthetic ambitions, its aesthetic ambitions begin to seem expendable,” he notes in a provocative analysis of how the size of the rock audience has led to the commercial exploitation of the music. “Art is messy, difficult and unpredictable, involving risk, wasted time and needless concentrations of product; good sound is easier to buy than good music and song samplers, concert souvenirs, programming plus filler and just plain kitsch are easier to sell. Sure enough, well engineered, well played albums –classy merchandise soon became the rule.”.


It’s interesting that Big Brother’s entry into the music business is not new. For years now, over 100 million people in 25 countries have been treated to the scientifically programmed Musak. Pumped into thousands of work places, it is used to attempt to improve the efficiency and productivity of workers. A recent investigative

report in Worker’s Power newspaper quoted a MUSAK company document as saying, “We want people to hear Musak, but we don’t want them to listen to

it … We don’t want them put- ,

ting down their pencil. In fact, if

we get a reaction from our customers saying they really liked a particular song, we take it out of circulation right away and work on it some more.”

By “working on it,” the MUSAK people mean, that they literally process the sounds themselves so that they can have the maximum sub-conscious impact on worker efficiency. Apparently now that music has been able to help pacify the place of work, the specialists in psycographic, manipulation are out to conquer our leisure time as well.


It’s scary stuff, and part of a much more broadbased effort to control human behavior. In a forthcoming book, the pop sociologist Vance Packard calls these human engineers, The People Shapers. In his book, he quotes the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, whose words have a direct relevence to the manipulation of music that is now underway, “We can choose to use our growing knowledge,” he warns, “to enslave people in ways never dreamed of before, depersonalizing them, controlling them by means so carefully selected that they will perhaps never be aware of their loss of person hood.”


In the everyday world of big time radio, the folks who own’ and control the media were cheered by a National Association of Broadcasters study which predicts that by the year 1985, radio will be even more profitable than it is today,” and that FM radio will have reached parity with AM in listenership but not quite in sales. The average radio station can expect a 16.2 percent profit margin, by then compared to a respectable 13 percent it enjoys now. (Incidentally, real wages of working people are continuing to lose ground to inflation while all this profiteering goes on)

In July 1977, the FCC refused to reconsider its policy of not interfering in a Management’s right to change the nature of its programming. This

decision gives radio consumers even less leverage over owners in attempting to insure that radio is responsible to their listeners as well as the broader community. The petitioners in the case were classical music fans in Philadelphia protesting against one owners’ decision to go rock. But the battle could just as easily have been between the listeners of truly progressive FMers, who resent and resist the trend towards more top 40 formats and the continuing demise of creative radio on the alter of the holy dollar … Meanwhile, women, gays and other minorities continue to press broadcasters for fairer representation on the airwaves, and more access. They are petitioning the FCC to force the broadcasters to act more responsible.

Speaking of access, Reuters reported In mid summer that a leftist group in Spain tried to commermorate the anniversary of the Spanish Civil War by forcing one radio station to broadcast a tape at gun point. The station “agreed,” but alas, the guerillas had recorded the tape at the wrong speed for the station’s equipment.


Although record sales continue to set records, both the consumer and the small dealer are feeling the squeeze. Here in Boston, like in many parts of the country, the big record discounters are squeezing out the small dealers. As one dealer told the Boston Globe, the big outfits who are monopolizing the market, “get a lot of free promotional stuff that we don’t get. if we dealt strictly in records, we’d be out of business. But the most aggravating thing about it is that the chains are allowed to run up large debts with the record companies and are given plenty of time to pay them off. Not so for us.” The ironic thing here, perhaps the poetic justice of it all, is that, according to trade papers, the chains are running up large bills which they are not paying. Monumental rip-offs are just being tolerated by the record companies who then pass their increased costs on to us. It smells to me like mob-type characters are muscling into the business in some cities in a big way The Wall Street Journal reports that record company execs estimate that http://www.ratw.com/percent of all records are bought for the