Tuesday, November 25, 2008

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 9 - North Carolina Station WNCW

This is the 9th (and final) installment of my weekly series of excerpts from the excellent Music Director interviews conducted by Brian John Mitchell for his 'zine QRD. For his "Radio Special" issue he tracked down MDs from a variety of U.S. and Canadian college and community radio stations. To learn more about the publication and Brian's connection with college radio, see my interview with him in which he details the project and some of the big insights that he gained from his discussions with radio MDs.

This week, I'm presenting excerpts from Brian's interview with Joe Kendrick, Music Director of Isothermal Community College station WNCW (Spindale, North Carolina). WNCW is an NPR-affiliated station, but the overnight hours are devoted to alternative music programming. The programming block, Alternative Radio Coalition, is overseen by Joe Kendrick. According to the WNCW website, "A variety of hosts. A variety of music. WNCW's Alternative Radio Coalition (ARC) - made up of dedicated volunteers and students from Isothermal Community College - reaches out to the night owl in us all, exploring the familiar, the unfamiliar and the unexpected...guiding the third-shifters, up-all-nighters and insomniacs though the wee hours."

In the interview he talks about how he got the Music Director gig, discusses his take on digital releases and DJ automation, expresses his displeasure about theft from the music library, and his feelings about the future of the music biz.

Thanks again to Brian John Mitchell for his fantastic interviews AND for allowing me to repurpose them for Spinning Indie!

QRD – Why did you want the position of music director & why do you think you got it over all the other applicants?

Joe – In 1997, I had time on my hands & was on the air at WNCW many overnights. Previous music director Emerson Dameron (who went on to work at WUOG & write for Dusted) stepped down & I was the only obvious choice, having six years of radio under my belt.

QRD – How much do you let your personal taste in music effect your station’s music?

Joe – It has to be front & center when selecting new music, without excluding obvious choices that have broad appeal. For example, I care little for Thom Yorke or Radiohead, but would never keep them from the control room. Same goes for latter day Moby, Bob Mould, Mike Doughty, & Stephen Malkmus. If I were to be programming a format that was distasteful, then there would have to be many times more the salary involved!

QRD – How have streaming online radio stations affected the purpose & competition for your station?

Joe – We stream as well, but so far haven’t offered an archive of our broadcasts. The future is here as far as the internet taking the lead from terrestrial radio. Many people now don’t even listen to radio in their car, one of the last bastions of FM. We still meet our goals during fundraising time, however, so our appeal remains quite strong even though our overall listenership is down just as all of radio’s listenership is down.

QRD – Do you read the charts of other stations & if so how do they affect your charts?

Joe – I keep tabs on stations like WXYC & WPVM periodically to get an idea of what we may have missed, either from not getting a copy or having passed it over. It is good to know a little bit about what is popular here versus the outside world.

QRD – How much control do you let individual DJs have over what they play & how do they deal with requests?

Joe – We ask that they play four cuts per hour of heavy rotation discs. Being volunteers on an overnight broadcast, they pretty much do what they want. The best hosts challenge themselves & the listeners with unfamiliar material both new & old while keeping an eclectic but entertaining mix going.

QRD – What’s the importance of specialty shows at your station?

Joe – Weekends on WNCW feature some of our highest rated shows with the most loyalty: Jazz & Beyond, Going Across the Mountain, Saturday Night House Party, Celtic Winds, Dubatomic Particles, Local Color, & This Old Porch.

QRD – With your experience in radio, are you jaded or hopeful for the music industry?

Joe – Music will always be with us & my hope is that the industry remains viable. While many harbor hard feelings toward the major labels, the possibility of ISPs & tech companies inheriting their role is disquieting.

QRD – How do you feel about automation for overnight or unfilled DJ slots? What program do you use for automation & how does it decide what to play?

Joe – Getting live bodies to volunteer in such an out-of-the-way place as Spindale has always been a challenge. At least nowadays we don’t have to shut off our transmitter when no one is here. We use Audiovault to automate those nights & for syndicated programs like The World Cafe.

QRD – I know that some labels & promotional teams are pushing towards digital download links over physical copies. How do you feel about this?

Joe – I pay little attention to them as I still have 50 discs a week to deal with, however I make them available to our hosts, who often use them in their shows. When something like St. Vincent rises to the top, I get a copy or make one & put it into rotation.

QRD – When I worked in radio, there was a big problem with theft at the station. Since so many people these days just use MP3 players, do they just steal the music rather than the physical disc & do you feel as a DJ they have a right to personally access any music from the station library at any time?

Joe – Last year the Led Zeppelin Mothership comp & Joy Division live double disc went missing within a week of being put in the control room, even with “WNCW” plainly Sharpied all over them. I don’t mind people ripping a disc or three, but theft is still as much of a headache as ever. Honestly, it makes me think twice about pointing out music to people. In the past two weeks I lead a trainee towards Masters of Reality’s Sunrise On The Sufferbus & although he says he re-filed it, I’ve not seen it since.

Previous QRD MD Interviews:

Interview with Brian of Silber Records about QRD Radio MD Issue

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 1 - Wesleyan's WESU

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 2 - McGill's CKUT

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 3 - UMass Dartmouth's WUMD

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 4 - University of Georgia's WUOG

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 5 - Stony Brook's WUSB

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 6 - University of Victoria's CFUV

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 7 - Foothill College Station KFJC

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 8 - Thompson Rivers University Station CFBX

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