Friday, May 18, 2012

LISTEN: Amazing Radio (17 May)

In January, I joined the lineup of Amazing Radio as its first American presenter. What drew me to the station was, of course, the music, but also its fiercely independent ethic which in no small way reminded me of my beloved WOXY (97X).

Yes, it was the music that kept me involved at WOXY for close to two decades but not only that, it was the values with which the Balogh's ran the station that appealed to me in a way that's hard to describe. It was their business, running it their own way and often chose a path that would've soured a bottom-line, profit ├╝ber alles mindset. I took away countless anecdotes from conversations with Doug that still resonate with me to this day. He would describe the station as being "51% commerce & 49% art" and, as businesspeople, they had "an obligation to be profitable but night a right to be greedy". I also liked that, as a small business - and WOXY was the epitome of a mom-and-pop operation - the head of the entire company was always a few steps from my office, especially after working for one of the world's largest multinationals.

The Balogh's had numerous chances to cash out during their 20+ years of ownership, especially after the Telecom Act of '96 removed ownership limits of American media. It was a gold rush for the Clear Channels of the world, but Doug & Linda held firm. When the decision came to sell the station in 2004, I completely understood. I think we all knew that it'd been increasingly difficult to operate when the big players were crowding out small station owners and - more to the point - were sucking up available ad dollars. The same mom-and-pop businesses that, for years, advertised on the station were themselves, falling by the wayside: the Looney T-Birds and Buzz Coffeeshops of the world, among others. iPods were introduced, personalizing the music experience. 97X as it had existed, a fiercely independent station in a large market, sticking to its ethic (no strip club ads, no screaming DJ's, truly alternative music as we defined it, not by some corporate marketing department), had simply run its course.

In the last few years, Doug used to comment that the 'format had matured' and he was right. By the early 2000's, the musical connection to the earliest days of 'modern rock' had weakened. Record label people who'd championed the station for years were replaced by types with little or no appreciation of the station's heritage. In fact, 'heritage' became a four-letter word in the alternative format. I specifically recall a galling experience where sponsorship for a local Iggy Pop show was awarded to a competing, corporate station, who'd never played him until 6 weeks prior as opposed to a lifetime of WOXY support. It was calculated and disingenuine. The music people were gone. The people in charge now opined that by not fully maximizing profit opportunities - playing ball with corporate - meant the station was no more than 'a hobby' to the owners (yes, someone actually told me that). The bean counters had won.

There was a time that I wondered if my stewardship as Program Director led to their decision to sell. Ultimately, I think it was just time. That the ownership group who purchased the station ultimately failed with a more mainstream format and a stronger signal served to reiterate that it wasn't me. I'm awfully proud that the only time the station was voted 'Best Radio Station' by the readers of Cincinnati Citybeat magazine was during each of the three years after I became PD.

So hooking up with Amazing Radio was, to a degree, like coming home. Which is odd to say when 'home' is 5000 miles away. But after speaking with Paul Campbell, Amazing's founder, it all came back to me. Here was someone who is, yes - very much a businessman obligated to turn a profit, but has instilled his own values and ethic into the company. Someone who marches to his own drummer which, by the way, he is.

Amazing's similarities to you-know-who are astounding: no kowtowing to corporate interests, precious few major labels, no commercials, knowledgeable presenters from across Britain and now, the globe. And, perhaps best of all: keeping the focus squarely upon music. Music you won't hear anywhere else. It's the new 'Future of Rock & Roll'.

Alas, operating in today's economic climate is extremely difficult, as anyone who followed's struggle to survive can attest. Even BBC 6Music faced being written out of existence by funding cutbacks not long ago. Earlier this week, Amazing was dropped from its spot on digital radio (DAB) in Britain over a financial dispute with the company who enjoys a monopoly on the spectrum. I can speak with 100% authority that operating a fully staffed, internet-only radio station, which without being on DAB Amazing is, is next to impossible.

So just as there was a campaign to 'Save WOXY', there's now a campaign to 'Keep Amazing on DAB' because in this case, keeping them simply online is just not enough. For the station to flourish, it has to remain on the national DAB network throughout the UK. I invite you to read a message from Paul, sign the petition, and investigate other ways to show your support. I say this not only as a presenter on the station but as someone who, like you, genuinely feels alternatives to corporate (or state-run!) media should be preserved.

Thanks for reading this.  And now, on with the show...

TOY "Motoring" (Heavenly), single (video)
PINS "Shoot You" (self-released), from "Eleventh Hour" / "Shoot You" single (video)
TALL SHIPS "T=0" (Big Scary Monsters), from T=0 EP (video)
POND "Moth's Wings" (Modular) from Beard, Wives, Denim
YOUNG KATO "Drink, Dance, Play" (LAB), from Young Kato EP (video)  
GAGGLE "Army Of Birds" (Transgressive), from From The Mouth Of The Cave (video)  
THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE "Crack In The Clouds" (Erased Tapes), from Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu
VED "Liquid Shadow" (Adrian), from VED 
TWO JACKALS "Arrows" (self-released), demo  
BRETON "Foam" (FatCat), from "Jostle" / "Foam" single
THE FRESH & ONLYS "Yes Or No" (Souterrain Transmissions), single
TAFFY "So Long" (Club AC30), from Caramel Sunset (video)
SISTERLAND "Milk & Honey" (Blessing Force), from Dirty White EP
LIBRARY VOICES "Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers" (Dine Alone), from Summer Lovers
FRACTURES "Ride" (Distiller), single (video)
JAPANDROIDS "The House That Heaven Built" (Polyvinyl), from Celebration Rock
VIOLET "I Come Undone" (Luv Luv Luv), from "Y.O.U." / " I Come Undone" single
THE SHUTES "She Said" (Cross Keys), from Echo Of Love EP (video)
YOOFS "Love At 140" (self-released), free download
TRIPPPLE NIPPPLES "L.S.D." (self-released ), demo (video)
PAWS "Oh The Places You'll Go" (FatCat), from Misled Youth EP
SPOKES "We Can Make It Out" (Counter), from Everyone I Ever Met (video) 
NOVELLA "Don't Believe Ayn Rand" (Italian Beach Babes), from Novella EP
O. CHILDREN "Chimera" (Deadly People), from Apnea 
THE INVISIBLE "Wings" (Ninja Tune), from Rispah 
BLUE BOATS "Summers Down" (self-released), from Sun Burns EP
THE DUBWOOD ALLSTARS "Under Dubwood" (Rivertones), single
TLEFOU "Carrion" (self-released), from The Divers
CURXES “Creatures” (self-released), from “Creatures”/”Jaws” single

Music via: EARMILK, Fluxblog, Austin Town Hall

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