Let me get this out of the way up front: I stumbled across this song as I stumble across many: random YouTube link chasing. You start with a song or an artist you like, and keep clicking through until you find something brand new that catches your attention. And now it’s stuck in my head, and so, like all good friends will do, I share my earwig with you:
For those unaware, I host a specialty show on Monday nights on Birmingham Mountain Radio (an Internet-based radio station, with international reach and a local approach) called, cleverly, (The Show With No Name). And I’d love to sit hear and preach-type to you all about how awesome it is, how I’m living the glamorous life and rolling in extra money and fame and scantily-clad barely-of-age groupies. But I can’t. I can’t because it’s not true, and because I’ve got too much else to do.
Like what, the smart-ass heart surgeon asks? Well, for starters, there’s putting the playlist for next week together. Two hours worth of showtime means I need about 1 hour fifty minutes of music. Sure, I could randomly grab 25 or 30 tunes from my iPod and hit shuffle, but crafting a specialty show like (TSWNN)* — and giving them reason to tunes in every week — means putting some thought behind song choice and play order, making sure you’ve not played the same song two weeks in a row, ensuring that you’ve got the latest new releases that people will tune in to hear, that you’ve not picked a song that contains language that might offend listeners or your program director (the bastards).
And then there’s the marketing, to make sure that people know about the awesomeness you’ve created, that they know what you’re offering and why they should listen. There’s Facebook posts, Twitter, and all that other social media crap (you’d never guess I work in advertising, would you?). There’s emailing friends and family, and asking them to email their friends and families, and so on. Writing and recording 30-second spots to be played throughout the day on the station. And spending stupid amounts of time and brainsteam crafting marketing text:
For those who want to explore the boundaries of the music that is the backbone of Birmingham Mountain Radio, (The Show With No Name) is your starting point. From emerging artists on the envelope of the AAA format to deep cuts from your favorite albums like “A Night at the Races”, “Summerteeth” and “Let’s Get Small”, the music on (The Show With No Name) is hand-picked by BMR’s very own chainsaw-juggling ninja ferrets to enlighten, educate, and entertain. Tune in on Monday nights to discover new tunes, rediscover favorites, and to truly understand the dangers and long-term issues with alcohol consumption.
Yup. I could have been learning about new web design techniques, or learning a new language, or writing a new song or finally beating my girlfriend at Words With Friends, but I spent that time writing a paragraph about my radio show.
All told, prepping for Monday nights takes up about five or ten hours of my time. And then there’s the two hours of the show, hoping that the computer that runs the software doesn’t choose that two-hour span to go tits-up, that the server that handles our stream isn’t scheduled for maintenance, that I don’t slip and say “fuck” over the air (or worse, forget to mute the microphone and go live with one of my not-safe-for-prime-time conversations). It can be stressful.
Oh, and I do it as a volunteer. We get the occasional staff tickets to concerts and other events. There’s schwag, every now and then, freebies from some of the labels like shirts and whatnot. But it’s unpaid, because we’re a small (but by-god-i-can’t-believe-how-fast-we’re growing) station, with most of us serving multiple roles to keep it all running as streamlined as possible.
But at the end of the day, I do get something out of it. The entire reason that I asked and cajoled and (drunkenly, I swear) begged the guys in charge of the station to give me a few hours each week was to share what is easily my biggest passion — arguably, a trait that largely defines who I am: my love of music. The hours spent each week putting together what essentially amount to 110-minute mix-tapes would be spent listening to music anyway. I’m constantly searching for new music that moves or connects with me. The only extra effort I put in is considering what I think is worth sharing with people that might not otherwise hear it, and how to surround and anchor those tracks with something I know (or at least, hope) that people want to hear.
And it doesn’t happen much, but there are those moments when someone lets me know that some song I played struck a chord in them, that they discovered a new band or even just a chorus that they fell in love with. It’s in those times that I’m rewarded ten times above anything I’ve put into it.
So, yeah. To all of you who have asked or considered asking how to break in to radio, there’s at least the first part of the answer (because I don’t know the rest): love music. Breathe it, dream it, feel it so strongly that you don’t have a choice but to share with other people. Once that’s accomplished, the rest will figure itself out — by which I mean, you’ll have no choice but to find the rest of the answer, and no price will be too high for you to find it.
* The irony of the name of the show is that I was too lazy to come up with a title that summarized the feel of the show, and so, thinking I was being clever, called it (The Show With No Name). Which, a year later, I realize takes a lot of effort to type. Who knew karma and laziness were related?