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Monday, 25 March 2019

The Spirit Of Radio

This is the first of a series of articles under a general heading of "Where Are We Now". These will cover the Music scene over topics such as Promoters, Labels, Promotion, Retail etc and I start with Radio. My opinion is no more valid than others. Agree or disagree, I have just had a real frustration with these topics and if it's only to get this off my chest, then so be it.

The internet is to be congratulated and blamed for everything. For every sigh at the demise of Record Shops, CD, DVD and much more, there is a hurrah for the ability to access most music, converse with people and fellow fans and discover new music. There has also to be recognition that Youth generally drives most things and that they are never going to be as motivated about albums as generations before. They have instant access to whatever they want to listen to via Spotify and You Tube.

There are contradictions of course. The excitement of Vinyl and Cassette are surprising and probably this year's hot pants, just as it's bizarre to see people bemoaning the range in HMV and yet continually arguing that they shouldn't participate in record Store Day. But the point of Youth driving tastes and society changes is very relevant concerning Radio. Gone are the days of MW, FM or even DAB dictating anything. The Radio was a staple at work, now it's just as likely to be someone's Spotify Playlist.

So as Radio has become something that just may be listened to in the Car, so different ways of hearing music that we wouldn't normally listen to are available and the rise of Internet Radio and Related Podcasts is as good as it is bad. Getting played on "Radio" still means a lot to bands, but Internet Radio isn't the same thing, it doesn't have the same impact. An artist or band should equate the airplay to how it is affecting Sales.

Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic Labour Of Love stations that truly believe in what they listen to and I'd like to think that IDHAS is one of those. There are some fantastic Internet Radio Shows. Take Psych for instance, a genre that may leave people cold, there is a Peel like quality to many of the shows on the net, you hear something that is a cacophany followed by something that is so melodic that it could be Radio 2. The important thing is that you hear something you like and that encourages you to buy or look further into the artist.

However, there is unfortunately a great deal of deception and a buyer beware sign across others. If I look at IDHAS, I listen to a lot of stuff, some sent to me, others recommended by other Bloggers and Journalists. My policy is that if I like it, I review it or play it, if I don't I ignore it. I get a lot of emails from both PR companies and Pluggers. Most I don't like, but I do listen to it all and I realise that the people who sent the email or song are working for an artist who has paid them to do that and that's absolutely fine. They are doing what the artist wants and sending their songs to people who might genuinely be interested.

There are also plenty of great PR people, the best of which know what you cover and know that there is a chance that you'll like it. Those people are a god send to artists, because they know their audience. I'm thinking of people like Shauna McLarnon, Billy James and Robert Vickers. There is also stuff that arrives from cut and paste pluggers that is just laughable. When have you heard Hip Hop or House on an IDHAS Show?

It's this plugging that is ruining what should be a joyous Internet Radio experience. The ability to listen to a show that might make you discover ten artists is something to treasure, but too many stations are not that. I have often thought that the best way to direct people to music that they may like is to form a Radio collaboration or collective. Listeners could go to that station at any time of day and know that they'd find something to listen to that they'd like. The reputation of the collective may grow and allow one or two of the presenters to break out into something more mainstream.

The problem with this idea it's that it is being ruined by Alliances that are doing this under false pretences. Part of that problem is the term "Indie". It covers too much, mainly everything that probably has a guitar on it and isn't on a major label, therefore virtually everything. These Alliances produce Charts that have no similarity to anything else on the internet, so how are they decided? My concern is that these are dictated by Pluggers and I know in some cases that the Pluggers own the stations.

An artist pays them to promote their single and they go back to the artist and say you've had 600 plays this week. You can bet that this is probably 30 plays on 20 stations all in with the same plugger. The artist gets no value for the money, they are led into a misconception that they are on the radio and getting popularity, yet this is relating to no sales. You might as well spend the money down the Pub. This is yet another example of the only people making money from the Independent scene are not musicians.

Then there are these ridiculous charts. You can spot them a mile off. They have a weekly Top 40 of artists that appear on similar related charts. Most of the artists are artists that I have never heard of or have and they haven't impressed. That's not saying that I am the arbiter of taste. I listen and review lots of different styles of music, but I'm known for Power Pop and Pop Rock. I know at least a dozen writers and DJ's from a similar field and know that they have never heard of these artists either. I know one band that few rate that appear on every one of these type of charts.

I know that when I produce an IDHAS show or write about an album that listeners may not have heard of the band, it's what I do. But I also know that the majority of these dozen people will have heard from them and we feed off one another. This isn't a bitch at anyone in particular, it's a frustration. However I would advise any artist to ask serious questions about any person or company who tells them they will get a lot of Radio Play. Ask how many copies of the single will it sell me and base your decision on that.

There is definitely a place for like minded Internet Stations, indeed I am about to join one at Woody Radio. But there are also a lot of charlatans. Video may have killed the Radio Star, but Plugging and Self Interest is killing Internet Radio and ensuring that Spotify get all the money. It's like Payola never went away.

This series about will continue next time with an article about Gigs. Another example where the musician doesn't get the money, but the Promoter does.


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