I’m afraid Don McLean was was wrong about the day the music died. Last week it was alive and well at the 17th annual NON-COMMvention at the World Café in Philadelphia.
WXPN radio hosted this musical spectacular which included 28 bands and hundreds of radio industry professionals coming together over three days and nights for the music. It was a half-week of pure musical bliss interspersed with a critical examination of the radio industry. And being there just made you feel good.
That is not to say that everything is good in the radio industry these days – for either non-comm or commercial entities. Radio, like many outlets, is being threatened by technology. With so many entertainment options, and the appeal of specific gratification on demand, radio is suffering from feelings of abandonment. The non-comms have the added pressure of the federal government’s threats of reducing or eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts which has been in effect for more than a half century.
So where is the feel-good part related to the radio industry? As with most things it is found in the people who work in it. More specifically, the commitment of those people.
There were representatives from dozens of stations from around the country. From one-year start-ups to old timers like WXPN who all had one thing in common: they cannot see themselves doing anything else. Regardless of the long hours and short pay, these professionals are dedicated to bringing good, meaningful music to their fellow human beings. And besides friends and family, there is little else that’s more important to them.
Listening to, and observing, these professionals, I became keenly aware of the dichotomy in their existence. The non-comm radio world needs each other to survive and flourish; and yet the theme, nay mantra, across each station is to promote local music. So, how do you both depend on outsiders and keep it local? The answer again is in honest and open nature of these music advocates.
There were station owners from Minnesota sharing ideas with content providers from Colorado who were giving tips to station interns from Philadelphia. Everyone was so generous with their knowledge and experience, even to potential competitors, that it is truly a unique business model.
Everyone is pulling for everyone else’s success because they know their own success depends on it. A very non-capitalistic approach to say the least. When one market thrives other areas simply study what they do and implement in their own market. And it doesn’t matter if the primary content is Rock or Blues or Jazz or Indie. It’s apparent that people engage in the concept of music as much as the genre of music.
A perfect example of this is Vuhaus. With support from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, a dozen non-comm stations around the country collaborated to introduce this video streaming service designed to showcase new talent. Starting just one year ago, the service has already posted over 3,000 videos from 1,300 artists drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers. Roughly half of these viewers are under the age of 35. The content is not developed via algorithms but curated by hand from the top music programmers of the non-comm radio community. They not only share content but also aggregate underwriting spots, marketing, and live events. The entire three day NON-COMMvention was available live via Vuhaus.
So, what is the purpose of this article? It’s quite simple: it is a message of hope and awareness. The hope is that these music professionals will continue to bring us new and important bands to ensure that music remains more powerful than a thousand IEDs. And the awareness is that these bands are out there right now for us to appreciate. You just need to google your nearest non-comm music station and get involved.
Take a look at the artists who caught our attention at NON-COMM.
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