November 25, 2004
Radio, Radio.

Over on NerdFilter, Mike Skallas recently posted about streaming radio being the best venue for him to hear Indie Rock.

He has a good point, of course. In most communities radio is owned by conglomerates upon conglomerates, normalising the feed of music to a pablum of the lowest common denominator. Arguably, people like it - advertising and listenership remains high, money is made by those that are at the top of the pyramid.

However, I worry about thinking streaming music is THE solution for the independent listener. In large areas (where you're going to have higher broadband concentration), you also have a fighting chance having community radio at your disposal. Radio where you can often get involved, on some level, as well as consume.

In Chicago, off the top of my head, I can think of four good venues which I'd advocate (and, for the big-box-office-worker, several of them have online components as well).

None of these is full-city in power - WHPK is a South Side thing, the rest are North Side.

Many other communities have their own community radio - I find myself periodically streaming WFHB, KOOP or KEXP into our house.

This is not to say that pureplay streaming services are bad - I listen to those Mike mentions, and have become quite intrigued by's tying together of my Audioscrobbler neighborhoods. But by ignoring the real world communities we live in, we end up in a walled garden online potentially little different than the large commercial station walled garden of the air.

For further reading on radio, may I commend:

Lorenzo Milam's Sex and Broadcasting: A handbook on starting a radio station for the community - this is a bit of a utopian book, and dates itself in Milam's background as a Pacifica founder, but is both inspiring and insightful on the good that community radio can do.
Matthew Lasar's Pacifica Radio: the rise of an alternative network. This has been reasonably well received, though I confess it is stuck in my to-read pile. Pacifica has had a.... troubled ... history, so insights into it are essential for anyone actively engaged by community radio.
Bruce Girard (ed.) A Passion for Radio: radio waves and community. A collection of essays on community radio efforts, from Inuit broadcasting to Pacifica outreach.

Somewhere in a box of tapes is an old Heat (with John Hockenberry) show that focused on community radio. I'll have to digitise that someday, as it includes some excellent discussion of Zoom Black Magic radio and other micro radio efforts...

Posted by esinclai at November 25, 2004 12:27 PM |

Yay, WFHB streams again. I was terrified that I would never hear The Dark End of the Street after l leave town.

Posted by: Matt Liggett on November 26, 2004 09:52 PM
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