Friday, August 19, 2005

Community radio rocks mo' bettah

Channel surfing on my way to work this morning, I heard "Old School" 102.9 play a funky New Orleans brass band. It was probably the Soul Rebels or Rebirth. Wow! What a concept! Local music played on a local station?


It's probably the only nice thing about satellite radio. I'm no fan of satellite radio because its just too civilized and characterless. Plus, it robs revenue and listeners from the thousands of local radio stations across the country.

Oh, I know. You're saying local radio sucks. But there are exceptions, and it could be different. There are some changes afoot that could dramatically alter the radio landscape.

In addition to satellite, webcasts are also playing a huge role in stimulating more competition for captive listeners. Why would anyone listen to a local radio station that plays the same songs 24 times a day when there is so much more variety? The same applies to internet listening. Why would anyone listen to an adult soft rock station in another town that plays the same crap that an adult soft rock station in their home town offers. With webcasting, everything becomes locally accessible. How interesting would it be if you could be driving down the road in New Orleans and tune into a college radio station in Toronto on your wireless radio receiver. Now there's innovation. Screw satellite. I want the technology that provides virtually limitless possibilities.

The times they are a changin'.

So now, the locals have to demonstrate that they offer something unique that listeners can't find anywhere else. I'm not sure it's going to produce better radio, necessarily, but the prospects are better now than they've been in some twenty years.

My hope is that digital radio, LPFM, and technological improvements to sound quality on the AM band will diversify the spectrum of local radio, opening up the medium to many more, and more local, participants. Community radio could explode, because with so much competition, strictly for-profit radio could become a lot more challenged.

Speaking of which, New Orleans needs to get an LPFM station going. I've been thinking of forming a Board of Directors to get the idea off the ground. Anyone interested?

Me, I'll always love WTUL here in New Orleans. The dj's are a bunch of boneheads for the most part, but they freakin' rock the mic (as the in-house self-parody goes). That is to say, it's a totally free-form radio station where the freedom to program musical choices is more important than ratings.

Meanwhile, here's a very special treat - or poison as the case may be - for PGR readers. I subbed the Alternative Oldies show. There's a little dedication to a WMSE dj, Mary Bartlein, who's had a Saturday night time slot for years. Back in the day, there was no one around doing what Mary was doing. Her show was like a forerunner to Hearts of Space, but with a little more heart and soul.

Being a two-hour show, the file sizes are fairly large. I wouldn't recommend trying to download from a dial-up connection. The download I tested of the smaller file took 15-20 minutes even with the fiber connection I have at work. I got the file size down as far as I thought reasonable while retaining the sound quality.

Good (variable 96-128kbps 11025kHz, 83mb)

Better (fixed 128kbps 44100kHz, 111mb)

I think this will be available for a limited time (maybe just through the weekend).


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