Thursday, November 20, 2008

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

This is the 8th installment of my weekly series of excerpts from Brian John Mitchell's radio-themed edition of his QRD 'zine. Brian conducted interviews with Music Directors from a number of college radio stations in the U.S. and Canada for his "Radio Special" issue. 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 highlighting tidbits from Brian's interview with Steve Marlow, Music Director of Canadian station CFBX ("the X") out of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in British Columbia.

CFBX is a campus/community radio station in Kamloops, British Columbia. The station began broadcasting over campus cable networks in 2000 and hit the FM airwaves in 2001.

According to their website, "CFBX is an alternative radio station that specializes in local programming and offers music and spoken-word shows that are normally not heard on private stations. We offer programming that ranges from classical to industrial, with plenty of international and unique shows added to the mix."

In the interview Steve talks about the best and worst parts of the MD job, why digital releases can be "dispassionate," his take on DJ automation, his devotion to indie music, and why he hates small talk with record promoters. Here's a bit of the interview:

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

Steve – I was the only person interested in the position at my current station. CFBX was just starting up in 2000 & didn’t have any organized library or music system at all. I was coming in to the school here with five years experience as a DJ/MD/all around radio person from CKUL in Lethbridge & offered to set up the library, which I did, over the next year or so. I took on the music director position as a volunteer & eventually became indispensable; they had to hire me.

QRD – What did you initially think you could accomplish as music director that having obtained the position became obviously impossible?

Steve – Championing independent music. Getting rid of the fratboy mentality of “I have a radio show! Cool! Let’s play Dave Matthews every single hour!” Letting our audiences know that there is intelligent, non-repetitive radio that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

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

Steve – We do stream, but it doesn’t really affect us. Only a handful of listeners use it. Our main audience is in town, not on the internet.

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

Steve – They have pretty much total control over that. Naturally, we have Cancon (Canadian content. In Canada a certain percentage of airtime must be Canadian artists.) & rotation requirements; but there’s a vast selection for both of those, so it’s never a burden. We rarely get requests, but they have discretion to play them if they want.

QRD – What are the best & worst parts of your job?

Steve – Best, getting paid to listen to music all day. Discovering a band that makes me say, “Wow!” Working with enthusiastic & knowledgeable volunteers willing to explore & letting me give them the tools to do so. Worst: Pushy record label & distro types.

QRD – I imagine a lot of the younger generation of DJs pretty much exclusively use MP3s over CDs (much less vinyl). How do you feel about the situation?

Steve – I have mixed feelings. I think that the electronic distribution of music gives more people an opportunity to hear music, but it’s over shined by both the low quality of electronically distributed music & the lack of music being a tactile thing. If you have a burn or an MP3 version of an album, you lack the tactile “artifact” quality an album has. With a CD or a piece of vinyl, you can hold it in your hand, you can look at the artwork, you can read the liner notes. You can feel the effort & love that went into creating the album. You don’t get that with an electronically distributed, it’s anonymous & dispassionate.

QRD – Do you try to get your entire catalog digitally encoded on a hard drive for radio play?

Steve – Why bother? I just bring in the CDs. I have my collection on my iPod, but it’s for personal use. Compressed music sounds like crap anyway, I’d never put it on the air.

QRD – How do you feel about automation for overnight or unfilled DJ slots?

Steve – Totally against it. It’s live or nothing. We go off the air if there’s no one in the booth doing live programming. If it’s during the day, we have pre-recorded shows to fill in unfilled spots.

Coming up next week, in the final edition of this series, I'll provide excerpts from Brian John Mitchell's interview with the Music Director of North Carolina station WNCW.

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

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