Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Crazy Final Day at CMJ: Radio-o-Rama

The final moments of CMJ 2009

My final day at the CMJ Music Marathon 2009, Friday, October 23, 2009, was jam-packed with radio-related adventures. In the morning I headed over to commercial radio station WRXP in order to hang out and get a tour of the station. It was a really fun experience and actually made me a bit more optimistic about the potential of commercial radio. My next post will be a full write-up on that tour.

College Radio Mentor Session with KDHX's Kate Estwing
Following that, I raced back over to NYU to take part in a short "college radio mentor session" that I'd arranged the previous day. Students participating in College Day the day before were entitled to sign up to have 15-minute chats with various folks from the industry, including radio promoters and community radio station KDHX.

KDHX's Program Director Kate Estwing talked to me about the St. Louis station. She mentioned that her station streams the past 2 weeks-worth of shows and said that the streams are really successful because "people don't like appointment listening anymore." I was also heartened to hear that KDHX plays vinyl and features a lot of in-studio performances (200 this year!).

The station gets its funding from members (they're doing a fundraiser right now), grants, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Right now they're in the midst of a "Station Renewal Project" grant from CPB and the ultimate goal is to get the station to a place of self-sufficiency.

Man Behind the Curtain Engineering during KEXP Session

KEXP Sessions at the Cutting Room
Next, I raced over to the Cutting Room to see some of the live music that KEXP was hosting and broadcasting from there. On that particular day they were only doing acoustic sets and I caught a bit of the performance by Choir of Young Believers. There was lots of documentation happening, as the set was being filmed, photographed, and recorded for the archives and live stream. The set-up wasn't super conducive to having a live audience; but it was fun to hang in the hallway, meet folks from KEXP and see a bit of how radio was covering the festivities at CMJ.

Internet Radio: A Free-for-All
The final panel that I was able to make it to was all about Internet radio and featured a range of folks from KEXP, East Village Radio, the Future of Music Coalition, SoundExchange, AOL Radio, and Yep Roc. Much of the discussion focused on licensing and fees related to Internet radio and the affiliated rules and regulations. After a long week (and little sleep) I had a hard time focusing on all of the nitty gritty details of the conversation, except to recognize that there's much complexity surrounding these issues.

We heard that podcasting is different from streaming in that a podcast is considered a "distribution of a sound recording" and streaming is a "public performance" according to Kyle Funn from SoundExchange. SoundExchange helps artists get paid for streaming radio.

People talked about fee structures, reporting requirements and the currently imperfect methods for getting royalties to artists when not every song being played is necessarily reported. Internet Radio was described by Casey Rae-Hunter of Future of Music Coalition as having "tremendous promise" in terms of breaking new music and a future was imagined in which "a new breed of entrepreneurs" work to sort out all of the connections between radio, technology and reporting on artists/songs being played.

AOL's Peter Schiecke pointed out that the majority of the money that AOL Radio makes is used to pay royalties, meaning that it's "not a booming business." He suggested that there should be rates in effect that aren't "driving people out of business."

A few highlights/quotes I liked:

Emch Subatomic (KEXP, BrooklynRadio.net): Internet Radio is "a little bit of the wild west...right now."

Peter Schiecke (AOL Radio): Internet radio... "it still feels like it's in its infancy."

Jeremiah Lewis (Yep Roc Records): Radio is "a source for us to make money" (singles sent to radio are meant to encourage album purchases)

Peter Ferraro (GM, East Village Radio): "We are not making money at the present time...it's been a promotional vehicle for the restaurant [Little Frankie's] more or less...[that is] funded by tomatoes and dough and flour."

Casey Rae-Hunter (Future of Music Coalition): He uttered my favorite word all week: "Earballs"

Artist Lounge at the Pure Volume House
My final stop before departing NYC was the artist/press-only "lounge" at the pop-up venue at Collective Hardware dubbed Pure Volume House. This was a place where bands could hang out, get free haircuts, and the occasional free pizza slice. Press (like me) were also allowed, although I was initially denied access to the exclusive loft area where the hair cutting and massages were taking place. As is often the case, when one is told that something is off-limits it often sounds way more interesting than it turns out actually to be. I was in and out in a flash as there was no free food in sight. On my way out I ran into some college radio kids from KSCR who had been hanging there all week disguised as the KSCR Family Band. Rock on.

Previous Posts about the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon:

CMJ 2009 Band Name Trends Revealed
Radio is Alive and Well at the CMJ Music Marathon (for Radio Survivor)
Radio's Presence at CMJ
CMJ 2009 Music Marathon Recap Part Two (10/20/09)
Social Networking, Metal Radio & Digital Music, and Miles Davis in 1959 (10/21/09)
CMJ 2009 College Day Part One- College Radio and Competition
CMJ 2009 College Day Part Two: Music Directors' Summit
CMJ 2009 College Day Part Three: Making Executive Decisions Panel
CMJ 2009 College Day Part Four: College Radio Awards
Small Beast Showcase at The Delancey During CMJ: Theremin, David J, and David Lynch Covers

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