I was excited to note that Spotify, my music streaming program of choice, was finally allowed to offer the song catalog of Led Zeppelin, one of the bands that provided the soundtrack of my misspent youth. In fact, the band’s music has played on an assortment of radios, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, and MP3’s while I have attended the Indianapolis 500 over the past years. Good times. As always, you can count on New Track Record to reference the very best in pop culture as it relates to IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. This is no different.
As I scrolled through the band’s progression from a blues-influenced group to the masters of heavy metal that they became, I smiled at the name of one of their cuts: “The Song Remains the Same.” While quite likely referencing some drug-induced peek into an altered reality, it also offered a contemporary take on the new voice of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. It seems Hulman Racing has decided to go retro with the familiar pipes of Paul Page, the former radio and TV voice of IndyCar and the 500. The song of the Indy 500 will remain the same. And that’s not a bad thing.
The fans of IndyCar fall into two groups: the long time hard-core fans and all the people who do not listen to or watch the series or the 500. That sums it up neatly, don’t you think. While Page will not attract any new listeners to the IMS Radio Network, his hiring is a tasty bone tossed neatly to the small-but-noisy set of long time fans gnawing on the leg of Mark Miles demanding a return to roadsters, the Snake Pit, and the way things were in their memories. One of those memories is Paul Page. His voice connects us to IndyCar’s past, and I can only imagine the ways that IMS Productions is already planning to use him.
A change in the radio booth was well past time. Mike King, a decent announcer in a corner or in the pits, had become a joke as the anchor of the broadcasts to many of the fans listening to the radio. Hulman Racing had a choice: replace him or continue to demonstrate that they did not care about their radio and on-line product. King went out on his terms, resigning to prevent the ritual press release saying the company had decided “to go another direction.”
While not a big money maker from rights fees paid by radio stations across the country, the IMS Radio Network does make money on selling ads that are broadcast to the listeners on that network, particularly during the Indianapolis 500. The network is a must-have if the series is going to expand beyond the hard-core fans it now has. And it must have a recognizable voice to be attractive. Enter Paul Page. He brings instant recognition and gravitas. He knows how to call a race.
The fact is that only the dedicated fans listen to the radio. The myth of the whole family gathering around the picnic table to listen to the race has been replaced with the reality of hand-held video games and easy access to other forms of entertainment. By this choice, the powers that be at 16th and Georgetown have tipped their hats to mythology, to history, and to the long suffering fans of a a formerly dysfunctional series that had no idea who their fans were. This tells us that they now know who those hard-core fans are. The real problem is figuring out who the future fans of the series are going to be. And I don’t think Paul Page’s voice can tell us that.