I’ve been teaching music radio programming for a good few years now. All right, maybe it’s a decade. Or more. At any rate, it’s something that I really love doing and it’s something that I think there’s a real opportunity to have fun with, particularly given the technology available now.
That said, it’s not as straightforward a process as you might think (as my students and any half-decent DJ will tell you) and there are lots of things to think about when doing a job that essentially involves choosing what song comes next.
In part to show my students what’s possible; in part as research for the book I’m writing about Radio in the Digital Age; and in part just because I’ve always wanted my own music radio station, I’ve decided it’s time to finally just get it going.
Introducing… Simple Radio – my own online, internet-only music radio station.
I’m going to play an extremely broad variety of music; I’m going to play a lot of music (at least five times as many songs in the catalogue as most commercial broadcasters – more than ten times some I could name); I’m only going to play music that I absolutely love; and I’m only going to play music that I think works together.
It’s about time spent listening
Radio stations that you can simply turn on and leave on all day are hard to come by, especially if you genuinely love music. It should have a fairly consistent feel so that nothing disrupts the flow of whatever it is you’re doing, but it should never fail to be interesting.
It should have a nice groove. It should be more positive than melancholy. There should be some familiar hits that make you think “Oh, I haven’t heard this for AGES!” and others that could easily become your favourite songs, but which you’ve never heard before.
That’s the aim of this radio station:
Eclectic – though its aim is not eclecticism
Some very popular songs – though its aim is not populism
Wall to wall music – though it’s far more than an iPod on shuffle.
So that’s the slogan: “Excellent music, played in the right order. Simple.” Hence Simple Radio.
Hoping to launch in March – but there’s lots of work to be done yet (y’know… in my spare time).
As it stands, I’ve only sorted out about 40% of the playlist, and I’m yet to finalise arrangements for streaming servers, payment of PRS & PPL and a workflow that lets me maintain it once it’s up.
There will be jazz. There will be hip hop. There will be folk, country, reggae, pop, rock, blues, dance, afrobeat, salsa, and lots more. But it won’t be a jumbled mess. I’ll have got this right when everything just works together nicely.
There won’t be any advertising, and certainly at this stage, there won’t be any talking – other than the occasional pre-recorded thing that reminds you what it is you’re listening to – but if I’m doing this right, you won’t need to be told. You’ll put it on and leave it on, and it will be good.
That’s the aim, anyway. I’ll keep you posted.
What this radio station is not
Of course, as soon as I tell anyone that this is what I’m doing, the first thing they want to know is whether they can have a show. The answer is no. It’s not that kind of radio station.
The next thing they want to know is whether I’ll be covering local issues or promoting local events. The answer is no. It’s not that kind of radio station.
The third thing they want to know is whether I’ll be playing Frank Zappa, John Zorn, Steve Reich, Napalm Death, or Skrillex. The answer is no, no, no, no and no. It’s not that sort of radio station.
Yes, the music that you like might be excellent music – but just because I’m only going to be playing music that is excellent, that doesn’t mean that I will play ALL music that is excellent. Yes, I aim to be eclectic, but I do not aim to be utterly unpredictable or alienating.
If you want that kind of radio station, they do already exist and I can recommend WFMU (and their excellent iPhone app) on that front. I would not be adding anything if that’s what I did.
Alternatively, if it’s important to you that I should do any of these things, then perhaps you should think about starting your own radio station. I’m more than happy to give whatever advice I can to help you do that. That’s not the hard bit.
But if the radio station you think I should make and the radio station I want to make are different, we’re probably just going to have to live with that, and you can choose to listen or not listen as you see fit.
Personally, I think if you give it a chance, you might like it. But if not, it wasn’t for you. C’est la vie.
For me, I’m quite excited. This should be fun. And of course, when it stops being fun, I’ll stop doing it. Given that I’ve wanted a radio station where I could choose all the music for at least 30 years, it might be a while before it stops being fun.
Wish me luck…