Sunday, November 2, 2008

CMJ Music Marathon Day 4 Recap Part One - Metal Radio Panel

Sign near NYU during CMJ Music Marathon
October 24, 2008

Friday, October 24th was the final day of panels at the CMJ Music Marathon and, in my opinion, it was one of the best days in terms of the presence of fascinating discussions about radio. The "Metal Radio 2008" panel was skillfully moderated by Mark Abramson from Roadrunner Records and featured Music Director Greg Ahrens of WSOU (Seton Hall University, NJ), Music Director and DJ Frank Webb of commercial radio station The Fox (Louisville, Kentucky), Vince Edwards from Metal Blade Records, and Munsey Ricci from Skateboard Marketing.

A consistent theme throughout the panel was expressed by Mark at the very beginning when he stated, "metal is a lifestyle." Everyone talked about the demographic for metal fans and reiterated that they are passionate radio listeners. Frank mentioned that many of the younger fans tape his Saturday night metal show in Louisville, Kentucky.

When the discussion turned to the wide range of styles within metal, Mark asked the panelists, "How extreme do you get?" Frank explained, "My job is to entertain my audience...not to be too cool for school or too avant garde." His show is aimed at the "average metal listeners" and he said that "it's a curse that I'm on a commercial radio station and a blessing...we have to provide ... everything...metal...death metal...hard core...grind the limited time that I've got."

Frank's been doing his show, "The Attitude Network" for nearly 16 years and said that he tries to portray the show as if it's "taking over the radio station." I really appreciated that Frank talked about the craft of putting together a good radio show. He mapped it out, saying, "The first hour of my show I try not to scare new listeners the show goes on I get a little more adventurous."

Greg's mission is a little bit different since he's at a college station that primarily plays metal music. He said, "I'm fortunate to be a 24 hour a day, 6 day a week metal station..." He also mentioned that since WSOU is at a Catholic university, they do have some restrictions about what they can play and that one of their goals is to present music that is "fair, balanced, and goes with the Catholic mission."

"Metal Radio 2008" at CMJ Music Marathon
October 24, 2008

Like many of the panels throughout the conference, this one also talked about digital distribution. Munsey said he's sent out digital releases, but that "less than 10% of radio stations are really using it." He said there's some backlash against digital, stating, "I'm sure there were vinyl junkies" and also acknowledged that "it's a new system," so it can take time for people to adjust. Vince said, "It's just not cost-effective to send out promos to radio anymore" and gave a glimpse into the future when he told the audience that by next year he will only have 30 copies of CDs to "promo to radio."

Frank said that he is utilizing digital releases, arguing that if you want to expose listeners to new music, you have little choice. At the same time he said, "It's selfish...but I still wish that we got CDs," saying that he likes having cover art and liner notes that provide "information that's helpful to give out to listeners."

Both Greg and Frank talked about shows and segments at their stations that feature unsigned and local metal acts. Additionally, they work with venues to bring artists to their towns and help promote metal shows. Frank said, "In Louisville...I have to help the promoter get the bands...we've become a real metal market."

Vince also talked about how radio is still a relevant and powerful medium, saying, "Radio is the most local and immediate...when the power goes out, you listen to radio." He said that in radio you have to entertain and that "nobody's gonna listen just to hear the music."

Some of the events mentioned by panelists included a live broadcast from a tattoo shop, a blood drive hosted by metal fans, and a haunted house. Greg suggested that it's great to "scare some people...have some fun."

During the Q&A, an audience member asked the panelists how they decide what to add to their stations and play on the air and if they will play bands that they don't like. Frank said that he will play bands he's not a fan of, as long as his audience does like them. Greg said that "labels that talk to me have a much better chance of getting...bands played." He added, "There's no reason that Seether should be the heaviest thing...on radio...Find a way to get metal to the masses."

Greg then took a shot at Roadrunner Records saying that they "dumb down" their music by removing screaming, which he believes is "the number one attractor" of metal. Mark from Roadrunner then addressed this critique saying that in the past "Active rock radio and commercial radio [were] put...on...heavy stuff." He argued that bands like Slipknot were a "tremendous victory" when they got on commercial radio. He agreed that yes, "we make some of these songs...more they'll get played." In defending the practice, he said, "We need a virus" and that it's good for the metal genre if more bands make it big.

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