Thursday, April 8, 2010

Radio is Doing Fine -- Online

In a CNN interview last week, David Byrne remarked how he doesn’t listen to radio much anymore (the excuse he gave is because he doesn’t have a car). As a certified tastemaker over the years as a solo artist after leading the Talking Heads, it seemed funny to hear this from a guy who posts his personal playlist on itunes as Radio David Byne. I’m a huge fan, but it was just not what I wanted to hear, I know he’s a great supporter of new music from all over the world but you don’t need a car to listen to the radio. In fact, I have found my best source of finding new tunes listening to radio programs online.

I have always been on the hunt for something new to listen to and the radio has provided me with something new through the decades. From my tranister in my room or in the car listening to top 40 hits on NYC stations in the 70s during my childhood in suburban CT – try explaining the next generation used to fancy sound systems in cars (or at least ones that don’t add fuzzy or tinny sounds to the mix) that it was still awesome. There’s just something about the combination of traveling roads with a favorite tune playing. I tuned soley into the iconic station WLIR on Long Island in the 80s with its “Screamer of the Week” voted for by phone calls to the station. I’d sit by the radio with great anticipation of catching a listen in order to press record on a cassette player so I could play it over and over again, from UK bands like Squeeze or a new group called U2. My best tunes of the 90s and early this decade came from a station in Annapolis called WHFS, which I could listen to during visits to my parents who had retired to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I could count on returning home with a fav new tune from Weezer or more obscure hits from Sebedoh or Eels.

Right when WHFS was calling it quits, I heard that a station I knew about from trips to LA was going online. The music producer Nic Hardcourt’s ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic” was streaming online with new tunes daily. I couldn’t believe was the option of listening live or on demand anytime – radio could continue to be my salvation, feeding me new bands and tunes for my own personal playlists. With some decent speakers attached to my laptop I was in new music heaven. I even had copy of Nic’s book Music Lust signed by him during an appearance in New York a few years ago; I even had a name for my attraction to having something to feed my ears.

Although the show’s reigns have been passed to Jason Bentley, it’s still the classic radio formula that makes it work. Take a knowledgeable dj who selects and spins the tunes with background on the bands plus any info on upcoming gigs or releases. I still catch it almost daily or archived online, especially enjoying the live sessions. While this fills my essential need for new tunes, I also enjoy more radio shows found more locally on the dial in the New York City area but also online: “Alternative Side” on and “Next Music” on Back up lists of playlists and information at our fingertips online ful

I’m not talking about Pandora, the service which requires you to put in music you like and it plays you other music you might like. I tried this and there was nothing I didn’t already didn’t already know, though it was all music I technically ‘liked’ anyway. And Sirius radio makes you choose such narrow genres I feel locked in – switching back and forth from Alt Nation to nearby New Wave station which is now deemed ‘Classic Alternative.’

The iTunes store will recommend other music to check out just like Amazon but I never trusted those, actually they kind of freak me out a bit. A friend’s recommendation makes more sense but a dj is more opt to play something you haven’t heard before. I’ve been that friend to many and now post personally crafted playlists on because I do believe it matters. Old songs take us back to a time and place we can instantly revisit but something new is pure ear candy.

Yes, David Byrne says he probably doesn’t listen to radio much because he doesn’t have a car. I’ve seen him in NYC a few times, once with his bike sitting outside a rest. And thankfully he has been instrumental in getting bike racks. But let the term radio expand to the web and indulge in the many offerings that were once just found along a dial – you might even find a new tune for your playlist.