Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Culture planning and radio: local music, local content vs. delivery nodes for a national network

Britain has just introduced regulations negating requirements for "local" radio stations to provide local programming ("Scores of UK radio stations to lose local programmes" and "Distinct radio voices: why we need local heroes," Guardian), which reminds me of how much U.S. radio stations have changed over the past 50 years.

Back in my high school days, local radio stations had shift-based DJs who programmed their shows, granted with requirements to play certain kinds of songs. The DJs had local followings, the stations promoted concerts, etc.

But local shows hosted by local DJs are but one element of "local radio."

Though even then it was not typical for the stations to play "local music," that is music created by local bands that hadn't already become successful.

A second and vital element should be the broadcasting of music by local bands.  This is another element of the argument of "arts as production" versus "arts as presentation" ("Reprinting with a slight update, "Arts, culture districts and revitalization" from 2009").

Detroit.  I am from Detroit/the Detroit area so in the 1970s our radio waves were dominated by Motown--by then the company decamped to Los Angeles but still many of the artists had homes in the area, and Bob Seger, a "local" artist, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, frequent mentions that Ted Nugent had been in Detroit.

I seem to recall one of the stations had a program on Sundays where they would play an hour of music by up and coming local bands, and sometimes stations would produce record compilations of local music. That's how I first heard songs like "Jesus Chrysler" by Luke Warm and "Go Baby" by R.U.R., songs that I still remember 40 years later. (... although probably I remember "Jesus Chrysler" too because my adoptive father worked for the company.) Another song from that same album, "I'm a college grad" I can't find.

The (Detroit) Romantics came on the scene more when I was in college. And that's when I learned about Iggy Pop, MC5, Destroy All Monsters ("Bored"). I never learned about Death or the "girl" garage band "Pleasure Seekers" until recently.

DC. But even when I moved to DC, which at the time had a locally programmed station, WHFS-FM, which had local DJs, and for a long time these DJs were allowed to freely program their shows, rather than hew tightly to a pre-selected program of popular music, that station never played music by local hardcore bands that went on to fame like Bad Brains or Minor Threat/Fugazi.

Manchester.  In terms of radio stations in Manchester, did they play songs by local bands like Joy Division/New Order and The Smiths?  (For a number of years the New Order band owned a club in Manchester, called The Haçienda.)  Probably they did, just like Detroit's WRIF-FM played Bob Seger incessantly, because the bands became nationally and internationally significant especially in terms of sales.

But bands equally significant but that "hadn't made it" at the same scale probably weren't played on stations in Manchester, just as I never heard songs by DC hardcore bands on WHFS.

So for a long time I've been thinking, there needs to be some kind of way maybe even involving "local content broadcast requirements" to promote and broadcast local music locally.

Thinking bigger in culture planning.  In the context of cultural planning, I've written about this some in terms of codifying and presenting a community's music history ("The song remains the same: DC's continued failures in cultural planning as evidenced by failures with Bohemian Caverns, Howard Theatre, Union Arts, Takoma Theatre...") but haven't fully codified this in terms of a music element as part of a broader approach to cultural planning in line with some of my other writings ("Should community culture master plans include elements on higher education arts programs?," "Culture planning at the metropolitan scale should include funding for "local" documentary film making" and "Cultural plans should have an element on culture-related retail").

Lyman Potts and the Canadian Talent Library of music for radio stations.  I was surprised to come across an obituary ("Obituary: Lyman Potts helped develop the Canadian music industry," Hamilton Spectator; "Lyman Potts was a founding father of Canada’s music industry," Toronto Globe & Mail) on Lyman Potts, a signature personage in the development of the Canadian radio industry.

One of his innovations was the creation of a "Canadian Talent Library" of recordings codifying music by Canadians, so that radio stations would be able to more easily feature national artists versus being dominated by songs from the US.  This extended to paying for recording sessions for up and coming artists like Gordon Lightfoot.

Potts did this before the Canadian broadcasting regulatory authority instituted local content requirements for radio stations.  (Which for us in Michigan meant that CKLW-AM of Windsor had to stop acting like a Detroit-based station, playing a heavy rotation of Motown and other Top 40 hits.)

The creation of the Canadian Talent Library of "local music" is a model for what could be done on a regional scale for radio stations in the US and the UK.

Seattle Public Library Playback Program
. While not for broadcast, SPL has a program, called Playback, to collect and offer to library patrons access to locally produced music ("Seattle musicians- submit your music to Seattle Public Library's collection," My Wallingford).

WCPO-TV digital website as another model.  While it doesn't feature local bands, but acts playing at local establishments, the "Lounge Acts" program by WCPO-TV's digital site is another example of how to create more focused music programming that has a local focus.  That program features touring acts.  But it would be easy for WCPO (and by extension, others) to create a complementary program featuring local bands.

Music and culture and economic revitalization planning:

-- "Leveraging music for cultural and economic development: part one, opera
-- "Leveraging music as cultural heritage for economic development: part two, popular music"
-- "Under threat: Austin's music industry as an element of the city's cultural ecosystem and economy"

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At 1:49 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Salt Lake City Library's HUM initiative, developing and maintaining an archive of locally produced music, is now adding video.


At 6:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Semi-related both for music as an element of cultural plans, and for a media and communications element within cultural plans, is local alternative weeklies.

This NYT article is about "City Pages" of Minneapolis, which was recently shuttered.


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