These are my thoughts and come without endorsement.
I have been asked to take part in some research about local music and its promotion on community radio. I found the process enjoyable – here are my responses.
1. Because never before have so many people listened to music made by so few.
Ofcom recently received a complaint that Heart didn’t offer ‘more music variety’. A significant challenge being how large the Heart network is:
Heart – Devon (South Hams)
Heart – Devon (Barnstaple)
Heart – Devon (Exeter)
Heart – Devon (Plymouth)
Heart – Devon (Torbay)
Heart – Cambridgeshire (Peterborough)
Heart – Cambridgeshire (Cambridge)
Heart – East Anglia (Suffolk)
Heart – East Anglia (Norfolk)
Heart – Essex (Colchester)
Heart – Essex (Colchester)
Heart – Essex (Harlow)
Heart – Four Counties (Milton Keynes)
Heart – Four Counties (Bedford)
Heart – Four Counties (Herts, Beds and Bucks)
Heart – Four Counties (Northants)
Heart – Gloucestershire
Heart – Hertfordshire
Heart – Kent
Heart – London
Heart – North West and Wales (North Wales)
Heart – North West and Wales (Anglesey)
Heart – North West and Wales (Wrexham)
Heart – North West and Wales (Wirral)
Heart – South Coast (South Hampshire and West Sussex)
Heart – South Coast (Dorset)
Heart – Sussex (Surrey)
Heart – Sussex (Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings)
Heart – Sussex (Surrey)
Heart – Thames Valley (Berkshire)
Heart – Thames Valley
Heart – West Country (Bath)
Heart – West Country (Bristol)
Heart – West Country (Yeovil and Taunton)
Heart – West Midlands (West Midlands)
Heart – West Midlands (East Midlands)
Heart – Wiltshire
Interestingly Ofcom rejected the complaint, finding that Heart do provide more music variety. Odd, considering all of the above stations share the same playlist – hell the above stations share the same audio – produced in London, 17 hours a day.
Localness, it seems, does not apply to music.
Why is this? At the time of writing there is a song in the charts (whatever that means) by Jessie J, it’s called Price Tag and features the line ‘it’s not about the money money money. Why then, Jessie, do you go to the night clubs you’re told wearing boots that hurt? Shurely not because of the money money money?
She’s Got You by Cosmo Jarvis, a local music video rejected by MTV due to the rolling down the hill scene (which they felt promoted irresponsible behaviour). Jackass (born on MTV) is currently in 3D and released in supermarkets worldwide (and arguably responsible for a great deal of irresponsible behaviour)
For fear of sounding like my dad…
pop songs seem to be so divisive these days…
don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me… don’t think too much this beat is sick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick… And what little boy wouldn’t want to check out my humps my humps my lady lumps…
Don’t get me wrong the tunes all sound great to me, I always love a good hook and rarely listen to the words. But the sentiment in them is shite marketed bollocks that can only make you dissatisfied with your life.
On a media UK forum recently people were talking about the demise of the radio presenter. One guy defended the role because all the stations sound the same (meaning the music) and therefore the presenter still had a place in defining a stations brand. Given the tiny marketed remit stations tolerate their presenters working within; that guy was actually fighting our corner. And more to the point why do all station types sound the same? Why are they all playing the same, national, music? Music that has, like polititions, fought to the top aggressively.
We used to sing together about commonalities. Difficulty, seasons, shared strife. We used to sing our hearts out at harvest time, given a good summer. Now they sing. And they sing that I should distrust my partner and see her for whatever I can get, they sing that I should measure my self worth by the bling hanging off her. They sing about individualism and there’s very, very few stations with the balls to deviate.
I simply don’t hear this separateness from the hundreds of bands I’ve met. I think this is significant too, politically, and that is why I think it is important to promote local bands. It’s my act of lawful rebellion.
2. Do you think community radio stations can do this better than other types of radio stations?
2. Community stations can do better, BBC and commercial stations are doing the best they know how – being, as they are, scared. We need to recognise what we can do. Community licences recognise the fact that it is cheaper not to have presenters on radio overnight. The death of the graveyard shift on commercial radio was the final nail in the coffin for new presenters. Different presenters, fresh blood. Also, modern playout systems work by producing audio that less listeners tune away from. So presenters can’t breath for branding and listeners aren’t trusted with unknown music, bloody hell hun – you won’t believe what didn’t happen on the radio today!
Ofcom wanted an open door for the next Kenny Everett. I can picture the meeting now ‘what if the next Kenny Everett walks into a radio station and gets turned away? – what unknown British radio future might be denied? We are, after all, globally admired. So commercial stations have revenue fears and BBC fears the next Russell Brand.
They chase the same safety zone with the music they play – what would you play if your brand depended on it?
Community stations have as broad a remit as they define for themselves. Why, with this freedom, would a community station describes itself as the ‘Bastard child of Radio 1 and XFM’? Why would I listen to the bastard child when the parent is really good at what they do? Is this really a sound anyone needs more of? Why should I listen to playlists (R1 + XFM) copied from the web? As I write this Media UK is carrying an advert for voiceover artists for a ‘community’ station. Unpaid. They request experience but don’t care where you live, as long as you have access to a studio. Sorry, I must have mis-heared you, did you say internet community station? I hadn’t noticed the internet being so picky before.
Yes I think community stations can promote local music better than other types of station, if we stop pretending to be something we are not.
3. How did you go about promoting local music for your station?
3. We find local bands, continuously, buy or beg for CDs from them and play a 3 hour show exclusively of local music. There is no playlist on Soundart Radio and other peoples shows often play local music if the presenter(s) like it.
4. Have you encountered any problems/difficulties with doing this?
4. We did present the Totnes Monster daily but frankly burnt out. We had no real way of paying the bills and had a newborn baby. We always have a live band in, I used to present and produce, and video bands playing live, Shannon would have the baby strapped to her in a sling and would co present and hold mics and make tea. Our early recordings have baby noises peppered throughout! So there’s research and prep, and post production. Uploading half gig videos to youtube can take 3 hours (and sometimes fails). So time is an issue, but when Kenny walks in with an unsigned band I will listen, and I will make damn sure there’s juice left in the camera battery.