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I was having lunch with a dear friend of mine recently. She is also a musician but spends most of her time writing articles for music websites in Australia and abroad. We were having a long overdue catch up. We talked about life, the kids and then went on to music. As musicians do.

We got on to talking about why we write music and in part of that conversation I said, “I don’t care one way or another if any of my tunes get commercial airplay or not”.

She instantly went from musician mode to interviewer mode and remarked on how interesting that comment was for a recording artist to make. After I reminded her that as a middle aged independent artist, no commercial station would give a shit but if by some weird chain of events it did happen that was great.  The thing is, I don’t write or record music for the sole purpose of getting airplay. I do it because its what I love to do and if I get to hear it beaming off a transmitter then its a bonus.

She then threw another hook and asked me if I thought commercial radio helps promote new music. To which after I stopped laughing, I replied “nuh”! It just swallows what Sony gives it and spits it out.

To back up my point, I asked her which commercial radio station is she aware of that plays music by Gurrumul for example. What commercial radio stations play new music by artists like Paul Kelly, Deborah Conway or Russell Morris? The latter three only get airplay of their back catalogue which were released in an era when commercial radio actually promoted local artists. That’s how they became classics. The figures for local content on commercial radio today are a joke. Commercial radio is irrelevant when it comes to promoting music.

Now I was on a roll… And I asked her to make sure the batteries on her i-pad were full because I couldn’t guarantee how long this rant will go for.

Commercial radio is merely a collection of ex-football players, very bad comedians, B-grade celebrities and loud mouthed self opinionated arse holes. You can count the number of contrived laughing fits “the crew” have to keep people believing that the shit they’re talking is actually funny. It’s formula driven mind numbing rabble.

I was asked if I was being a bit harsh and I gave her one of those swashbuckling laughs.. “haHAAA” I’m not finished yet!

To prove just how low the talent pool is, stations resort to stunts to keep ratings up. Putting 14 year old little girls on lie detectors and admit to having sex (all for the offer of concert tickets), or being really really clever and pretending to be the Queen and calling hospitals. Really fucking clever! It’s a competition for media notoriety. The music is an afterthought.  Anyone who puts “Commercial Radio Music Programmer” down as their occupation is lying. The music on commercial radio is filler between ads and to allow “the crew” to recoup some undeserved oxygen before starting on another brainless dumbing down of the masses.

Commercial radio was not always like this. Yes you did have your madness, the competitions, secret sounds, who can burp the longest. But you also had shows that featured artists, there were album shows, live concert broadcasts, music jocks who earned the title of Disc Jockey who knew their music and interviewed artists about their music and not who they shagged recently. Commercial radio simply does not do that anymore.

Commercial radio is desperate. Just like newspapers and magazines. In order to keep their flagging sales up, they resort to the low denominator tabloid stunts because some people get off on other people’s misfortunes.

Maybe the reason they don’t do music well anymore is because they realise that real music fans don’t actually need them. I didn’t know about Gurrumul’s music or Russell Morris’ new album listening to Triple M, Fox or 2DayFM. I didn’t hear about Deborah Conway’s latest work by tuning into Eddie Maguire or Kyle and Jackie O.

People are getting their music fixes from other sources. To which at this point in the interview I said, “I find it very flattering when a broadcaster on a community, public or internet radio station plays my music”.

 These guys have picked up where commercial radio dropped the ball. Many former commercial DJs now run or work for these organisations and using them as the training ground in the hope that the next generation of broadcasters will restore credibility to the industry.

As a Melburnian, I think I’m blessed to have access to so many non-commercial stations. Yes we do have the ABC of course and they still do a great job promoting local music of many genres but we also have stations that are unique to Melbourne such as Triple R, PBS, MBS, 3CR and 3KND.

I have driven around the country and avoided commercial radio by finding a local community station that’s got something different and interesting to listen to from baroque to hard core punk to country to blues, soul, jazz, metal, indigenous Australian music to Cambodian and Hindi music. Even when there’s no music you get to learn a bit about the region you’re driving through rather than listen to some networked syndication from Sydney or Melbourne.

There is a huge family of community radio broadcasters out there. Some have more exposure than others but all share a love and knowledge of the genres of music they put to air and to be included in their playlists is a real treat. This is where music is played for the love of it. This is where you get asked questions about your music and get a word in to answer it.

In addition to that, there are other public and internet radio stations around the world who play our music and it’s through them we get our music out there. It’s really cool receiving an email from a radio station in Aberdeen, Scotland or a listener in Denmark who loves your music and purchased your album.

There’s Channel 31 who feature music from all over the place. Wrok Down, Tone Control, Melbourne Muso’s etc. All by people with a passion for local music.

The real champions of radio are out there working on small to non-existent budgets, relying on faithful subscribers and fundraisers etc. They deserve all the kudos and support they get. Local and independent artists owe a lot of their successes to community and public radio and those who have moved on to bigger and better things should never forget the role non-commercial radio played in their rise to success.

Video didn’t kill the radio star. They just found a new place to groove.  More is the pity that those who advertise on commercial radio cannot see the growing potential of the alternative. Then again that might not be such a bad thing after all.

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