I’m in love with the radio onRoadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
It helps me from being alone late at night
Helps me from being lonely late at night
I don’t feel so bad now in the car
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
I always drone on about this musical utopia, one in which all aspects of making, writing, performing, reproducing, listening, and talking about music all exist on this hitherto absent level playing field. The results of which would be a flourishing and sustainable music scene etc etc. If that’s what you want to start your Wednesday by reading about, then you can find that piece here.
For grass-roots musicians in this day and age, when it comes to gaining ‘exposure’ (I hate that word) for the music that you have bled into, sweated over, and torn from your being, the options are certainly more varied than before.
Gone are the basement cassette tapes, the wee plastic rectangles of variable quality, home-made recordings that defined a previous age. In are streaming sites, algorithm-based playlists, a sort of inorganic meat-market/lottery that pumps music around the world at the touch of a button. Though the former was easy enough to address to the late John Peel at the BBC. The latter is a more complex affair in which, at best you can interact with an overwhelmed music enthusiast, or as is more traditional, you can send a digital file to a robot who then judges whether this music will increase the efficacy of the algorithm for other digital entities, thus either rejecting (normal) or accepting (rarer) your track.
In extreme cases, the possibility exists to even pay the robot for the privilege of being considered to form a part of a potential algorithm. If Philip K. Dick had written about the musical future I would imagine that his tales would have mirrored our reality.
So over to radio. Semantically speaking, the mere idea of ‘radio’ has become so dated that we can barely bring ourselves to refer to it in the vernacular, instead using the medium of podcasts to somehow detract from the fact that the majority of podcasts are, if not ACTUAL shows from the radio, then a segment of talking and/or music within a specified time frame; i.e. a radio show.
Don’t get me wrong, I love podcasts, and I suppose the shift in terminology reflects the convenience culture in which we live; the illusory nature of owning our time leading to the demonisation of having to actually wait for a specific moment to do something. It’s not so long ago that even my generation can recall actually having to tune in to a chart show, or buy the Radio Times. These actions would now be considered archaic, and contrary to the effective streamlining of modern life, probably by some wanker like Jordan Peterson or someone like that.
In terms of national radio, the same firewall has been erected, I guess due to the sheer volume of submissions that stations have to deal with. The old 8-track or cassette tape which required a fair amount of organisation and personnel, not to mention the fact that you had to own an 8-track or cassette recording deck, and know how to use it in a way that the sound didn’t come out as shite. Add on the notion of making tape copies and mailing them to stations around the country etc and you can see that modern music making has made the process way more accessible; indeed most computers come with a recording programme and half-decent mics are getting cheaper all the time. Tape some egg cartons to the wall and you are probably good to fire some Dropbox files away to BBC 6 or whatever.
Obviously the ease of making music has led to many national radio outlets ‘raising the drawbridge’ so to speak. Music station, BBC 6’s new concept is to get the artists themselves to talk about other artists over social media, thus devolving themselves of any responsibility to champion or discover music, while at the same time claiming to be fomenting some organic interaction between grass-roots musicians. I don’t think this is a sustainable way of going about things.
So in terms of radio/podcasts, I think the solution is clear. We must treat the concept like we treat eggs.
Bear with me. For whatever reason, we as a society are in the process of learning that buying eggs from local producers is better and more sustainable on a number of levels. The chickens are happier. The farms make more money. There is less possibility of starvation wages paid to undocumented workers. The eggs taste nicer when not seasoned with the misery of a battery farm. They are cheaper a lot of the time. I am talking about chicken eggs (folk, pop, rock, R&B techno etc), but I imagine the concept stretches to the eggs of ducks (jazz), geese (black metal), and maybe even quails (John Cage). If we can learn to understand the positive effects of eggs on our world, then why not apply this new-found love of local to the music that we make and consume?
For musicians, local radio represents an outlet for music that is monitored by genuinely passionate individuals. This passion should not be underestimated, for it is the same passion that the musicians themselves put into the music they make. If you are a passionate music fan, then the products offered by local radio carries with it a sense of soul that is absent from the anonymity of a Spotify algorithmic playlist. Anything done with such levels of love and care is beneficial for all concerned, from producer to presenter to listener.
I don’t want to criticise music streaming too heavily, as its sheer scale now represents a lot for musicians worldwide. That said, musical inclusion on a playlist should not be the be all and end all of the whole process. Using streaming services alongside local radio shines the torch at a musically inclusive future for listeners across all platforms. A great example of this is the Scots Whay Hae Radio Show over on CamGlen Radio and its New Monday Music Playlist on Spotify. I think this is a good nod to a better tomorrow, musically speaking.
Here on the Costa del Clyde we are blessed with many local stations that seek to celebrate the absolute plethora of local music that we have here. For those of you for whom the idea of living a life to the strict timetables of traditional radio, I am happy to say that all of the shows exist in podcast form too. In addition to Alistair Braidwood’s Scot’s Whay Hae, I would like to highlight Rebellious Jukebox, Postcards from the Underground, Jim Gellatly on Amazing Radio, The Saturday Show with James Elliot, and Celtic Music Radio, all of who have given me, and a multitude of other independent musicians, the opportunity to play our music, tell our stories and hear the music of others. There are many more. Why not leave any links to other radio stations in the comments box, or tag them in a post? That’s probably the kind of interactive stuff this blog should do.
Choose music. Choose presenters. Choose Listeners. Choose community. Choose eggs. Choose local radio.