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ARSCLIST  July 2006

ARSCLIST July 2006

Subject:

Re: Community Radio

From:

steven c <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 15 Jul 2006 20:40:00 -0400

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "phillip holmes" <[log in to unmask]>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "steven c" <[log in to unmask]>
> > ----- Original Message ----- 
> > From: "phillip holmes" <[log in to unmask]>
> > Well, "the public" have little to do with community radio...in fact,
> > if that large segment of the population listen to electromagnetic
> > (on-air) radio at all, it is generally one or another of the most
> > popular commercial stations...and those are often programmed by
> > "experts" many miles away from the stations!
>
> I was refferring to major labels and corporations like Clear Channel who
> create the market for artists, not community radio.  Sorry about the
> nonsequeter.    Instead of the big labels letting the game come to them,
> they look for a pretty face and produce them into a marketable commodity.
> That's supported with radio play.  You won't find something on Clear
Channel
> that doesn't translate over to MTV, The Tonight Show, etc..
>
Okeh...that makes it more plausible! However, this being current times,
it isn't a pretty "face" they seek...it's a bit lower down the anatomy
(nudge, nudge, wink, wink...)! More comment anon...
> > Also, it would be difficult to "force" content on radio...commercial
> > stations broadcast what they assume will improve ratings (and thus
> > allow them to increase advertising rates), while non-profit stations
> > usually have their objectives specified by their licenses.
> >
> I'm not suggesting blatant payola, but how many new artists from
independant
> labels make it onto Clear Channel?  Virtually none without a deal from one
> of the big record companies.
>
There's no doubt that 21st ventury media are all inextricably interlinked...
and that virtually all of that maze is most definitely profit-oriented!
However, terrestrial radio is rapidly diminishing in significance in that
world. The main target for pop music is, as it has been since WWI, the
younger end of the market (although the actual range of ages has been
continually headed downward 1918-2006!)...and the young folks of today
have abandoned radio as "old fashioned" for iPods. MP3 players and
their computers! These all (except iPods on "shuffle" with large
musical libraries) let them hear exactly what they want to hear
(and the RCA Victor slogan of the late thirties into the early
fiftie was "The Music You Want To Hear--When You Want It," proving
the more things change the more they stay the same...).

In fact, the main thing I use (FM) radio for, when I turn it on, is
as "background music" when I'm doing something else. I listen to a
local for-profit classical station (one of the few)...it wouldn't
be suitable for actual lovers of the classics, since it usually
plays only single movements of works (for timing reasons) and
has a fairly short playlist of "all those familiar classical
works one can hum along with"...all I can say in its favour that it's
the least likely to play things I'd find annoying! Beyond that, I
listen four hours weekly to a mostly-blues show done by an
acquaintance of mine...and while there are other programs I might
enjoy, I never remember they're on until too late. Of course,
once I get my "78 deck" up and running and can start digitizing
my "half-vast shellac archive," my music-listening habits will
further change...

> > Finally, the one most important characteristic of radio is the fact
> > that you, the listener, CAN'T see who is "on the other end"...so
> > pretty faces go unseen (except in publicity photos, which can be
> > faked if necessary). That's why, for example, Kate Smith could be
> > a star on radio...and why many radio stars never became TV stars!
> > Radio can (as an old ad created by Stan Freberg made clear!) use
> > its invisibility to broadcast events that don't happen, just by
> > selecting the right sound effects (i.e. "War Of the Worlds," which
> > created widespread panic among listeners who weren't aware it was
> > only a dramatization!
>
> That was then (all your examples are the "good ol' days").  I'm really
> speaking about today's MOR, adult contemporary, etc..  You won't find any
> artists being promoted on radio that aren't being promoted on television
at
> the same time.  A physically unatractive artist will find it virtually
> impossible to get a record deal.  Let's get a playlist from a Clear
Channel
> station and see if the artists being played aren't also being promoted on
> CMT, MTV, VH1, Lifetime, or whatever.  I'm serious.  It'd be interesting
to
> see if there are ANY of these groups/artists who are a radio only
> phenomenon.
>
As I note above, radio is of low (and, in fact, ever-diminishing) importance
in the merchandising (a standard 21st century practice for ANYTHING remotely
saleable!) of contemporary popular music. First, everyone under age 50 (if
not
higher) would have been "brought up" by the family TV set (just as those
older
but non-centenarian would have been by the radio...which, however, doesn't
demand ALL of one's attention) and, as a result, remain fascinated with TV
(and with computer monitors, which LOOK like TV's!). Audio has definitely
taken second place! Second, the pop-music demographic (especially as the
defining ages head downward) are notably "fad-sensitive" (Elvis-madness,
Beatlemania, "boy bands" and onward into the new century...). Third, the
current phenomenon of "celebrity worship" (should anyone REALLY be worried
about Britney & wotsisname...usw.?)

> > As far as special *E*ffects making old recordings once again
> > popular, I'm not sure exactly what is meant. You can "de-noise"
> > old analog recordings and make them sound more or less like CD's
> > (but not always without creating "artifacts"...) or you can
> > try to put them into "electronic stereo" (which isn't really
> > possible, as many LP's demonstrate)...however, the result will
> > still be OLD music (which is probably acceptable to many
> > classical fans, but appeals to a VERY limited audience in
> > the "pop music" field!).
>
> Damned English language.  Foiled again.  "W" likes to claim his mouth is
> where English goes to die, but I claim that distinction as mine!  What I
> mean about repackaging has already been done with stuff like those
> questionable duet projects with dead people.  Nat Cole and others I think.
> A lot of what people hear as "old time" sound is just old production
values
> like dynamic range and a real acoustic.  Just take something, add a
> monotonous drum track, compress it, put a rapper in it, and voila!  You've
> just recycled a 30 years old Verve or Blue Note track with contemporary
> production techniques and added a rapper with name value so it's easier to
> push.  It's already happened (and I'm embarrassed to admit I kind of like
> the results on occasion).  Also, rap and R&B tracks are released in mono
> (nothing seem to be panned left or right).  This plays just fine on car
> radios where stereo imaging isn't a priority, and clubs, and "boom" boxes
> with speakers 18" apart.  How many people would know it if their stereo
> program were replaced with mono?  They might be able to tell if one of the
> speakers were disconnected, but that's about it.  I've been in auditoriums
> where the speakers were out of phase with each other until I told the
"sound
> man" something was wrong.  I'm not claiming to be a "golden eared"
> audiophile.  I am claiming that not a single female I've known (mom, wife,
> girlfriends, etc..) knew it when something was wrong, and none of my
> non-audiophile buddies would know either.  They don't really care.  Also,
> all the people they listen to are in heavy rotation on VH1 and CMT before
> they hear them on the radio.
>
Actually, I haven't heard much in the way of "...old Verve or Blue Note
with contemporary production techniques..." among hit pop tunes...although
I would suppose it could be done, IF the tune was "fusion" (of soul and
jazz, actually) style...and IF they could get the rights to use the
original recording (for copyright reasons...remember every sound
recording ever made in the US is under copyright until 2067!)
> >
> > Somehow, I suspect that if I could somehow convince any local
> > pop-music station to play, say, fifteen minutes of my complete
> > archive of the Benson Orchestra Of Chicago...the next sound
> > you'd hear would be a million radio dials being re-set as
> > young listeners went looking for their favourite "Urban Dance"
> > charted hit tunes!
> >
> > Steven C. Barr
> >
> I disagree with you on this.  People will like what they are accustomed to
> hearing.  If you gradually reintroduced horns on pop recordings, then
> eliminate the drum track, then the "vocalists", then recorded in a real
> acoustic space, then introduced dynamic range, then started swinging,
you'd
> have big band back within two quarters, and the clueless public wouldn't
> realize what happened (because most have never heard Count Basie either).
> Perhaps I'm giving them too much credit.  It could be pulled off in one
> quarter.  You know that A&R men affect the tastes of the public.  What if
> John Hammond hadn't been born?  Isn't it possible for one powerful man at
a
> powerful label to dictate the tastes of a nation because HE likes a group
or
> thinks the singer is hot, or....?
> Phillip
>
Well, I see it as a bit more complicated...since dancing became once again
socially acceptable (say c.1910) one of the main functions of popular music
has been to be danced to! As well, this is more true for that section of
the public who are young enough to be involved in "pair bonding" (both
permanent and temporary). So, there is importantant meaning in the old
"American Bandstand" cliche..."Well, I'll give it an 85...it's got a
good beat and you can dance to it!" Since the advent of "The Twist"
around 1961, dancing has become a different sort of activity, where
the partners stay a foot or two apart and shake at one another...
and that sort of dance is best accomplished to what is called a
"funk" rhythm (think of soul music, James Brown, et al) rather
than its ancestor, the 4/4 beat of vintage jazz and pop to which
one performed the Charleston (and the later shuffle rhythm of
"swing" to which the following generation danced, and which
also "powered" the beginnings of "rock'n'roll"). This means that
the revival of pre-sixties pop music would also mean the revival
of older styles of "pop" dancing!

As far as to what extent an A&R man can determine pop music...I
think the one requirement is that he has to be familiar with the
current tastes of the pop-music audience. John Hammond's "discoveries"
during his career were all artists who were basically playing current
pop music, but doing so better than most. People simply won't accept
music that is significantly different from what they are already
listening to...over the years and decades, popular music has
evolved fairly gradually rather than in a series of "jumps!"
Music which is too radically different (i.e. avant-garde jazz
and some of the more outre "serious" music" seems to sail right
over the heads of about 99% of the public!

Steven C. Barr

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