Saturday, June 09, 2007

big box media

From the Indie 101.5 website:

Have you been hearing rumors around town about a takeover and consolidation of radio stations KWRP, KLBU, KBAC? Maybe you've also heard that KSFR is going to switch channels. Wondering why? Then come to the Santa Fe Brewing Company out on the patio this Saturday for a panel discussion about the consolidation of media that is threatening Santa Fe as well as other cities across the country.

I'm on the panel, and it will be interesting to be a part of this event. This Santa Fe Reporter story gives an overview of what's been happening here.

Here's a few things I don't understand. Independent radio here in Santa Fe plays music that is decidedly commercial. Music widely available on iTunes or in CD stores or at Amazon or whatever. It's mostly still a form of "branding." If anything it creates the opportunity for people to feel "hip," as they tune in to "alternative radio" under the illusion of being anti-corporate and anti-homogenization. But the reality seems to me to be that just about anything that ends up on a commercial radio station, no matter how "alternative," has as much of the full weight of the great mass marketing machine as, say, Garth Brooks or Classic Rock. (I'm reminded of Amercan Spirit cigarettes as an analogy. The Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company is making millions, hand over fist, selling "all natural organic cigarettes." I smoke them like they're going out of business. This is the kind of odd "alternative"-ness I'm talking about, that is as much embedded in mass marketing and homogenization as Marlboros or Kools).

Santa Fe's one public radio station, where I enjoy doing my 2 hours a week, breaks this mold to a large degree. Except that listener pressure (which equals donor pressure twice a year during fund drives) shapes the aesthetic. It's not marketing so much as community taste/standards/listener preference. Check out most of the "jazz" programming on KSFR for an example of what I mean. It's a funny scenario: 24 hours of jazz programming a week, most of it during the day, a very rare format. Yet most of what gets aired is soft, easy, mainstream, non-threatening. The attempt is to appeal to the broadest possible audience. But the difference is that this appeal is not manufactured in a marketing office, whereas in so called "alternative" commercial radio, it often is. Playlists are playlists, after all. KSFR's great strength is in having independent producers, no playlists and a reasonable amount of freedom in what gets aired.

My last show a couple days ago is an example. Charlie Parker, Sonny Sharrock, Herbie Nichols, Dave Douglas, Henry Threadgill, Andrew Hill, Horace Tapscott, Marc Ribot, Malachi Favors, Abdullah Ibrahim, David Murray. From 1-3 in the afternoon on a weekday.


Dan said...

Chicago's local public radio, WBEZ, made a move to eliminate all music programming recently. Since then they have backpedaled a bit and said there will be music programming with more talking to explain the music. Ugh. A post on radio and the arts has been stewing in my brain so long I think it might be overcooked now.

peter breslin said...

hi dan- please post on radio and the arts. I enjoyed your take on Rob Brown, by the way, who performed here in Santa Fe for the High Mayhem Festival a couple years ago with my pals Zimbabwe Nkenya on bass and Dave Wayne on drums. Brown's alto playing and his compositions I highly recommend.

More talking to explain the music? WTF kind of marketing study or whatever leads to this sort of decision? I do a bit of talking but I'm not doing a history show nor am I a music docent. If people want to know more, they'll find out; if they can't hear they need to clean the shit out of their ears.

Hmmmm...I might be too cranky to be on this panel today.....