My music focus group experience was a mild disappointment. No opportunity to make 18 year old Linkin Park fans cry or anything, but still an interesting experience into the mind of corporate radio. There were about 50 people in this hotel conference room (male/female ages 17-24...not surprisingly, all whiteys.) We were each handed a handheld set with a keypad and dial. The keypad was used for basic demographic questions, and the dial was used to register our take on songs. You could "turn up the volume" on the dial when you liked a song -- scale went from 1 to 100. And like that, we jumped right in. The moderator played 8-10 seconds of a song (either the hook or chorus), and then another song would fade in. Each CD had 50 songs on it, and then we'd take a minute break. The music ran the full gamut of your alternative music fare (I passed the screening by saying a clip of music featuring old pearl jam and audioslave was my "1st or 2nd choice" for music...not true, but close enough.) We listened to grunge, crappy new metal, punky stuff, crappy punky stuff, the occasional heavier System of a Down like song, and any crossover hip hop (Eminem, 50 Cent, I'm looking at you) stuff that white suburban kids would listen to on the radio. Through the course of the night, we listened to a whopping 650 songs. And amazingly (sadly? surprisingly?) enough, I knew 649 of them. The best were the random novelty hits from high school. Hits such as 'Popular', '6 feet underground' and 'Standing outside a broken phone booth...' resonanted with the older (22-24) folks, and drew blank stares from the young'ns. Two absolutely awesome moments of the night. One, they played King Missle's classic 'Detachable Penis' (again, more blank stares from youngsters.) Two, after a string of so-so songs, what do I hear but the strains of "Cal-I-Forn-Iaaaa! CAL-I-FORN-IAAAAA!!!!" Yes, it was the theme song to The O.C.brought to you by Phantom Planet! I was instructed not to talk to anybody beforehand, but I couldn't help but laugh when this came on. Afterward, I talked to the moderator; as I suspected, this was for satellite radio (another one of the screening questions was if I had heard/am interesting in buying satellite radio.) Unfortunately, they are planning to become even more genre specific for the radio stations -- they'll release 4 different alternative stations and tailor it based on how much older alternative you like, how much hiphop you like, etc. A couple of things that were disappointing. The whole night was nothing but singles...no original music. Plus, there is a whole bunch of crappy, crappy music out there. I've also resigned myself to the fact that radio is going the way of digital TV and will serve nothing but highly specialized niche markets -- the chances of hearing Basement Jaxx followed by Pavement are decreasing by the day, as are the chances I'll listen to anything but college radio. But then I also felt good about music. Despite all this, there is a plethora of good music to be found...it just takes a little effort, effort that I'm still willing to make on a regular basis. People manage to realize there was a golden age (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Rage Against The Machine, Stone Temple Pilots) of alternative that holds up against any era of rock. There are also good bands today (White Stripes, Interpol, System of a Down) that manage to break through and actually garner some exposure. And, as always, the under-the-radar world of indie rock and hip hop remains fertile as ever. So yeah, there's the rant. All that, and I made 60 bucks. I just hope all the 5 out of 100s I gave Creed, Limp Bizkit, and any generic rock band makes a difference somewhere along the line. Anybody have similar experiences?