Monday, April 16, 2007

Rattlesnake Confusion - April 2007

Radio Radio

They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason.
So you had better do as you are told. You better listen to the radio.
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel
– Elvis Costello

Elvis angrily spit out those words way back in 1978, but they are even more relevant in 2007. The control of the airwaves is in the hands of fewer and fewer people every day. Decisions are made about what you will listen to by people who think that music is simply something to occupy you between commercials. These are the people who think that even the lowest common denominator is too diverse. The “product” needs to come in easily digestible, American Idol-style segments. (See? It’s not even art, it’s a “product,” a commodity.) At first, these corporate executives thought that the worst thing that could happen was that you change the channel. But then they got smart: They said if we own all the channels, it doesn’t matter which one you listen to, and they won’t turn us off because we won’t give them an alternative! I can just hear the gleeful cackles and greedy hand-rubbing now.

So how do they keep listeners hooked on their unique brand of blandness? By squashing anything that is new or different, or outside of what they consider to be palatable by the masses. Water is one of the most wondrous things on the planet, a substance responsible for the miracle of life, and everyone likes water. Everyone doesn’t like espresso, or chocolate milk, or tequila. What’s the difference? Each of those last three liquids are distinctive and appeal to something inside us. We appreciate a quality about it and it doesn’t matter that someone else may not.

However, this is a flawed analogy: the difference between water and modern radio is that water gives life, and the radio sucks it out of us.

Luckily, there are ways to discover music outside of the present monopoly. The internet has allowed bands to market their music outside of Clear Channel’s stranglehold of radio markets, booking companies, and ownership of auditoriums around the country. But at every turn, someone tries to thwart that access. Low power radio stations, internet radio, bit torrent trading, at every turn the FCC has been a tool of the corporations, attacking small community radio stations for perceived profanity violations or devising creativity-crushing regulations. Most recently, internet radio has been assaulted by the Copyright Royalty Board, which has the power to set royalty rates. This three-judge board, appointed by the Library of Congress, is wielding an increase in rates the result of which will force many small internet radio stations out of business.

By the way, Clear Channel is not the only culprit, just the largest and most visible.

If I were getting paid for this shit, I’d have done some research, listening to the radio three or four hours a day, but I know what’s there, or better yet, I know what’s not there. And what’s not there in our community is community radio.

Some of the best radio stations on the planet are community radio stations. These locally autonomous, non-profit, non-commercial stations are supported by listeners and with donations from businesses. WRFG in Atlanta, WWOZ in New Orleans and Tampa’s WMNF are all examples of how exciting, innovative music can be heard. Community radio can also promote local artists and get them some otherwise impossible airplay.

I don’t know what it would take to start a community radio station in Columbus, but given our success at public-private partnerships, the expansion of CSU’s music department downtown, and the proximity of Auburn University, it is certainly an idea within our means.

For your Rattlesnake homework, compare and contrast the stations below with what you’re listening to now. I’ll expect a plan for a Columbus community radio station on my desk in the morning.

1 comment:

Brad Barnes said...

OK, I know this may sound like I just missed the whole point, but:
Elvis has just released two now "best-of" collections. One's a best of the first 10 years, and if you've already got one of his two other "best ofs," there's no point. But the second one is a collection of his favorite rock 'n' roll songs, and it has a bunch of songs I'd not heard before. Worth a listen.