May 22nd, 2012
|09:22 pm - Hear ye, hear ye, punks and folks and journeymen|
So, this happened.
The road that brought me to this point has been a strange one, alas one where radio stations are roadkill. And it's not the first time I've ended up listening to a lame-duck radio station. The sound is familiar to me, one where much of the day is tunes being spun by a radio automation system, with no voices to be heard other than canned ads. It's a lonely sound.
Want to know how ClearChannel (well, realistically, a smaller local group they bought after it was consolidated into larger groups a handful of times) did this to me before, and at about the same time pretty much wiped out the chance for Pittsburgh to have alternative radio?
When I was in college, my musical tastes were different, somewhat softer and a lot older. After one of the many format changes of 96.9 in Pittsburgh, one that saw it become a hard rock station, left me behind, I discovered a radio station broadcasting from Beaver Falls, WWKS. Branding themselves as Kiss 107 (and later Kiss 106.7 after a slight format tweak), they spun adult contemporary, perhaps some of it overplayed, but I remember Crowded House butting up against Lindsay Buckingham's first solo album, some Led Zeppelin, a lot of Beatles... Once I got a single room at Carnegie Mellon, the radio was "on", always, just like the computer (and, due to being above the boiler room, the fan, even on the coldest day of the year). Even if I put the TV on, the radio still played, the soundtrack to my life.
November 17, 1993, though, I left for class, returning to hear "Rock rock til you drop" by Def Leppard. And again. And again.
All but 2 of the DJs were let go (stunt man Bill Cameron, and morning show guy Carl Anderson) and the station went satellite-fed hard rock. And so closed that chapter of my life.
If getting a Beaver Falls station in Oakland was a challenge, getting one from Greensburg was impossible. But moving on to WSSZ meant I did just that. With the moniker "Classic Hits", the station was programmed and mostly staffed by veterans of fallen new wave rocker WYDD. Some attention had been paid it in the years before I started listening, but it was clearly a low-budget operation, with some staffing shared with the co-located WHJB-AM. Notable local morning show guy John Garry ended up doing a stint there for a bit after losing his last gig with usual partner Larry O'Brien at WMXP, only to leave WSSZ to rejoin him at WTAE-AM. Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall.
Living, and later working, at Carnegie Mellon, I started to explore the idea of using the internet to get music from first my parents home, then my own, to my office. However, the first "real time" MP3 encoder only just made its debut, and I was in no position to pull this off at the time.
Around the same time, alternative radio had finally gotten to the big time in Pittsburgh. Not simply relegated to the upper end of the AM dial, the hard-rocker then on WWKS 106.7, by then owned by Pittsburgh Radio Partners, moved toward alternative and became "The X" (WXDX) as it was purchased by Secret Communications in September 1995; Just a few weeks later, WNRQ appeared on Entercom's 104.7 as "The Revolution", replacing a country format. While The X kept its hard rock sound, the Revolution had a more new-wave feel, and better ratings.
Of course, none of this was to last, as when 1996 rolled around, Secret first struck by arranging a frequency-swap for urban station WAMO's 105.9 frequency, giving them 106.7 and a pile of cash. This gave WXDX a better signal than WNRQ.
As May rolled around, I got the birthday surprise I didn't want. Flush with new wealth but a signal that didn't hit much of its audience, WAMO turned around and put in a bid for WSSZ. My station was suddenly living on borrowed time. I learned what I could about objecting to the sale (and failed), wrote down what was played, and got a tour of the station. I also taped about 48 hours worth of programming.
In a parallel development, Secret Communications' ploy paid off, and Entercom gave up. Secret purchased WNRQ, and at the end of May squelched the Revolution. WSSZ lasted until September 6, signing off at midnight.
I then wandered the desert, musically, until 2005, when I first discovered WWCD, CD101, while in Columbus. By this time, internet broadcasting was well within the realm of available, but I quickly realized that with the right phone, I could stream via internet in the car as well. And so life was good right up until June 2011, when suddenly the stream went dead.
Cast adrift, cut off from new music, I surveyed my options. Independent alternative is a dying breed. Having not been to Boston in several years, WFNX wasn't on my radar, but I quickly discovered it, and found my niche. An historic alternative station with a seemingly healthy music scene around it, operated by a player who also had regional indie papers. What could go wrong?
Well, you know the answer. So here I am, back in 1996. Radio automation systems are lonely; Coldly spinning tunes is no substitute for a DJ engaging the audience and having fun with the music. Just as Z107 had Jim deCesare til the end, Paul Driscoll is doing his thing at WFNX now, and I'll appreciate the ride the remains. But I am spoiled, and with potential options nearing exhaustion, I shudder at the idea of a potentially hopeless musical journey from this point on.
What I want:
-Old and new alternative. The great new stuff coming out is great, but hearing that old Television goes nicely with Interpol. M.I.A. sampling the Clash is better when I'm also hearing the Clash.
-One station. Set it and forget it. Satellite radio has a bunch of choices all of which are probably fine for what they are, but if I have to hunt around, it means either I'm managing my own experience (which is time-consuming) or I'm missing out on some things (which, well, see above).
-DJs. An automation system isn't going to interact, select things outside my comfort zone, and while a service might be able to guess what new things I'd like, there may well be things it wouldn't.
-A station in a city. *my* city would be ideal, but the best chance at that died with Secret Communications in 1996, and their purchase by SFX led down the ClearChannel path we ended up at here (and WFNX ended at now). So, *some* city. I want to hear about local events, concerts, and hear some local bands! You can tell by my music collection that I was exposed to Columbus alternative bands. If I hadn't listened to CD101, I probably wouldn't have been. The sad thing is almost everywhere has local music that's interesting but just hasn't gotten national exposure.
-...In my timezone. Well, not necessary, and this is pretty far down, but having the morning show in *my* morning, and the afternoon drive in *my* afternoon would be nice.
-Features. Have some shows, maybe a local music show, a new music show...
Can I have it? (Probably not)
Where? (Not here)
How long can I have it? (Not long enough)
So yeah. Back to the desert, I'm guessing. Enjoying it while I can.
you know, an LP-FM license isn't too hard to get, even in a larger market like your town. why not just start your own station?
How about KEXP:http://kexp.org/
More new than old, college based alternative, and it's west coast, but when I listen to streaming radio now it's what I listen to.
(When I commuted by car, WFNX was my main station. But I've mostly stopped listening to the radio now that I can T to work again.)
Looking at http://kexp.org/playlist/
I suspect not, but I'll give it a spin at some point.
And at this point the car mostly stays parked except when I'm going somewhere for work, or chasing trains. "Radio" is internet streaming at home, at the coffeeshop, in the car or on the bike... because the odds I am in a city with something worth listening to? Pretty low!
Well, it's college radio. Checking the playlist in the middle of the World Pop Show hour's special on Africa isn't representative of the whole station 24/7, but it is a part of what makes it college radio. They have a feed selector that lets you pick subsections/individual djs and shows to listen to on a loop, too. (Which is effort, again.)
also, a loop...
live has its advantages, it means a DJ talking to me about what's up now, and better yet, one I (might) have a chance to interact with, as well.
Do you have some objection to WYEP? I ask because it seems like they are at least 85% of what you want.
- Old and new alternative: yes
- One station: yes
- DJs: yes, to the point where I have intense likes and dislikes and can ID when there is a guest DJ for a particular time period (and sometimes who the guest DJ is -- Kyle Smith is particularly identifiable)
- In your city: last I checked, they were like. down the block from you.
- In your timezone: yes
- Features: local music shows, soul show, new music blocks, other specialty genre shows, Discography segments, select bits of NPR programming
I actually joined WYEP today, but they definitely skew ... something. Softer? More singer/songwriter than is my taste? I'm not sure. And there's a lot that seems missing when I listen.
"Softer? More singer/songwriter than is my taste?"
Same. I miss Kyle Smith having a regular show, because he was always throwing some punk or Johnny Cash all up ins. I really enjoy the post 9pm blocks particularly these days.
|Date:||August 15th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)|| |
WYEP's Block Party (weeknights from 8 until midnight) is definitely less singer-songwriter. :) I realize this is way after the fact, but if you haven't discovered that yet, give it a try. I find Friday nights to be especially great.
I did. Sadly those hours are when I am just about least likely to be listening to music, these days. Not deliberately, just how it's worked out.
I'm lucky in that I like the chaos of WRCT and I have also found a radio station who has a couple of shows that I like - JJJ in Australia - which keeps each week's show available for streaming for a week. It's enough to keep me going and engage me.
Have you tried Bob FM (it's in various markets and may be clear channel)?
Good luck, and if I hear anything, I'll pass it along. You might try checking out JJJ if you're bored: www.triplej.net.au
Bob in Pittsburgh is probably about the most independent we have; the owners of City Paper (Steel City Media) also own it. But it's definitely more classic rock than I'm into these days.
Does HD radio (*not* satellite) help with this at all? I know that to listen to jazz over the airwaves in Pittsburgh right now, you've got to have a digital/HD receiver and use one of the subchannels (90.5 subchannel 2, "WESA-HD2"). (I know this because my father-in-law is a huge local jazz fan.)
Here's a list, not sure how up-to-date it is:http://www.hdradio.com/stations/Pennsylvania-PA/Pittsburgh-68
(I'd have trouble figuring out the answer on my own mostly because I cannot really relate to the problem.)
none of the local ones, but HD radio itself is a source I hadn't considered. Thanks!
I went looking up to see if the loss of WHFS in the DC area was due to Clear Channel, and discovered that it has returned as an HD (and internet) radio station. I'm not sure if it's quite the type of alternative you're looking for, but once upon a time, they used to be good for playing both old and new alternative with a habit of introducing new stuff.http://whfs.radio.com/
On the topic of Clear Channel - I definitely hear you on that one. KSJO was Kathy's and my favorite radio station out in Silicon Valley. They were mostly a hard rock station, but they played a wide variety ranging from classic to modern with several "alternative" type acts thrown in. Plus, they played their music uncensored. Their DJs were generally pretty good as well. Then Clear Channel bought them. The first casualty was the lack of censorship. Then they cut down the playlist to the more standard stuff. Then they let go their best DJs (and kept the worst ones). Then, when the station that had once been one of the highest rated in the Bay Area had its ratings drop because of all of the above, they ended up switching it over to a spanish-language and music station instead.
Clear Channel seems to buy up the best radio stations, and then decide to ruin everything that made them good in the first place. So, yeah, not a big fan of them.
If I remember correctly the bands that have been at HFStival (i think I spelled it right, anyway) that might be worth listening. Currently giving KNRK Portland a spin but if this fails I'll try HFS.
|Date:||May 28th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)|| |
Welcome back online. Its been along time since I saw an update from you on LJ.
Work, and using twitter, but just a lot of busy. I haven't done much in the way of blogging tho I have some ideas. Not even time for train chasing alas.