I’m fortunate to get to hear all kinds of new artists emerging from all over the country. I also get to hear stuff from people who have been around a while and are still trying to keep their place in the music world. It’s a strange phenomenon. For some, it’s competition when new people hit the scene. For others, it’s a welcomed event.
Indie music is becoming a hit all over the place. Some aren’t quite sure what it means to be indie, and that’s ok. It’s just a short and easy way to say that a band or artist isn’t signed to a major record label, therefore they inherently work in more freedom and less commercial pressure. Most indie artists are getting their start on public radio and community radio, because these outlets are more open to trying new things and don’t have to report to Billboard (the company that controls and runs the top charts on music).
Billboard is the reason why most pop, rock, country, rap, and other stations play the same songs over and over again all day. I got sick of the same song repeated several years ago, hence I started The Appetizer. Others are starting to get equally sick too, and looking for alternatives to this redundant media form.
I’m seeing this progression continue across the country. Public radio is growing in prominence in media in it’s music platforms, whereas it used to mainly attract listeners and supporters in news and classical music. The big stations in California and Pennsylvania are among the leaders in introducing new artists to the world of music and giving these artists a platform they might not have other wise. Us smaller media outlets are doing the same thing.
This is why public radio and community radio is so important. As time goes, commercial radio will either be forced to change its strategy and open itself up to unknown artists, or they’ll become extinct. I go to conferences where companies who study and track how all media sectors are doing, have shown a steady decline in the public’s interest in commercial radio. Public radio is on the rise and so is Pandora. XM radio has held steady because as people buy new cars, they get it. Yet when the free subscription is over, they aren’t renewing. So the numbers balance out. Pandora builds playlists for you based on your interests, but you don’t hear from a person on the other end. Not so much as a radio outlet as much as a programmed music outlet that picks songs based on your preferences. It’s not a bad idea, but there’s no connection with what you’re listening to or information on how/where to hear more.
It’s the personal side that I think we’re all looking for. That’s why we go to concerts and coffeehouses. We want to hear the musician live, but we want to enjoy it with other people. We want to talk about our experiences with music, what it means to us personally and how it impacts us. That’s what draws music lovers to new things. We want to be engaged in something bigger than us and share that with someone else. This is public radio. It’s a sharing and showcasing on music and the stories the music tells. This is where music is going, because this is what we’re hungering for, not just new things but an avenue to share our experiences with music.
I didn’t start this post with the intention of doing a sales pitch for public radio or public broadcasting. This is just where I really see things going. I was talking with indie artist William Fitzsimmons about where he sees indie music going and he said something that really stuck with me and I think is right on. We’re moving out of a place where people are going to sell millions and millions of albums into a place where people will have large followings, but those people will also follow and support other artists. They’ll sell albums and songs online and sell out concerts, but the platinum recording artist won’t be the big deal anymore. There will be those people who do draw the big numbers, but it won’t be as rampant as it has been in the past.
If you’re someone looking for new and emerging artists that you aren’t finding on the radio dial, you need to tune in to The Appetizer. We’re heard on KACU and KLVU and are looking to be added to other stations across the country. I’m not the only radio outlet doing this stuff, but public broadcasting is leading the way. Public broadcasting relies on contributions from regular, everyday people like you. Please support the stations that carry us. Go to www.kacu.org and http://dept.lamar.edu/kvlu/ for more information and to support their stations. Thanks.