Speaking of meta-media coverage, Lindsay Barnes looks at the rise of WCNR “The Corner” in local radio in this week’s Hook, focusing on the station’s program director, Brad Savage, and his counterpart at WNRN, Mike Friend. The formats of the two stations are very similar, but WCNR is owned by media conglomerate Saga Communications while WNRN is is a locally-founded non-profit. Barnes explores the degree to which that difference in business approaches ultimately matters, and how it affects the two stations. There’s some good discussion about the story on The Hook‘s website, and over at CE Conversations Ralph offers some thoughtful analysis of WNRN’s ban on the phrase “The Corner”

43 Responses to “WNRN vs. WCNR”

  • Further to my comments in The Hook — confessing that I’m simply not cool enough to have heard of 90% of the music that WNRN plays — I just looked at the last 1,000 songs played on WNRN. I’m looking, right now, at the last few dozen artists played. Sea Wolf? Blaqk Audio? Shiny Toy Guns? AFI? The Shore? The Starting Line? Satellite Party? Shout Out Louds? Evans Blue? The Kooks? Mute Math? I have no idea of who these bands are. The ones that I am familiar with (Courtney Love, Offspring, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Arctic Monkeys, Dashboard Confessional) I just don’ like. There are a few songs by artists that I like, but they’re not the few songs by those artists that I do like — stuff by Poe, Foo Fighters, RHCP, Modest Mouse, and Feist that doesn’t interest me.

    This isn’t WNRN’s shortcoming — it’s mine. I think it’s great that there’s a station where people get to hear these artists, who I assume are not enormously famous, or else I imagine I would have heard of them. But in the past few months, since WCNR has hit its stride, I’ve stopped double-checking for my iPod every time I get in the car. Because now the odds aren’t bad that I’ll find something on the radio that I care to listen to.

  • I dislike hearing the same songs over and over on WCNR, which has always been my experience with that station (yes, even after they got DJs, who drive me nuts). If I listen to a station all day, I don’t want to hear a song replayed within a six hour block, which most stations are guilty of. I don’t like heavy rotation that beats you over the head.

    I don’t always like the current flavor of modern rock played on WNRN, but I do enjoy Shiny Toy Guns, AFI, and many other newer artists. I wish they’d play a few more old school things, but that’s that. And WNCR plays a LOT that I don’t like. I’d listen for Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana, but as soon as anything remotely jam comes on, I’m diving for the dial and swerving across lanes.

    I’m glad some of my favorite NRN DJs have podcasts of their specialty shows. I’m not cool enough to stay up to listen. ;)

    Frankly, I find myself pushing tapes in the tape deck more often than not when I’m out and about. I need to fix my CD player and buy a new adapter for my iPod.

  • Waldo, I’m pretty much in your camp. I really enjoy Anne Williams’ show, as well as Les Temps Per Due (although it competes with Garrison Keiler on WMRA). I really do not see much comparison in the formats, either, excepting for a few hours in the day. TMBG and Pixies on WCNR sold me.

    Dare I say that this little dust-up reminds me of The Hook/Cville Weekly divorce? It’s bound to be ugly when two media outlets are competing for the same ad dollars in a small city such as ours. The “they’re just corporate scum suckers” argument is quite silly, I think. If WCNR can generate enough revenue to make a profit, more power to them. That really must put WNRN’s undies in a twist, seeing as though their annual revenue is only a few hundred thousand bucks. WNRN is going to have to revamp their programming, because I’m not buying the “but we’re more real than they are” bit.

    I loved WRSI The River when I lived in Massachusetts, and for what it’s worth, Richmond has a new station with an uncommon format: WWLB 98.9 The Liberty. They claim to play anything, which ends up being a mash up of any and all current rock and top hits from that last 30 years, which is a good “this song reminds me of..” experience. When I drive to Richmond, I switch from 106.1 to 98.9 right around Goochland.

  • I quickly read the post by Ralph on the CE Communications site, re: Mike Friend’s ban on the phrase “the Corner” on NRN. It seems right to me that (as Ralph says) most listeners don’t even know what station they’re listening to — if you’re not a radio junkie, deeply into the arcana of it all, then it’s just music. Most people have no stake in these little turf wars and political battles. I feel like Friend overestimates the level of political commitment to truly local radio among NRN’s listeners; he thinks we all think like him, when most of us think more like the listener Ralph describes (i.e., the particular station means nothing, the particular song being played means everything).

    I do wonder, though, about NRN’s underwriters who have businesses on the Corner; will this new policy mean that when they thank, say, the College Inn (I’m just picking a Corner business at random), they will make a point of NOT saying “the College Inn, on the Corner” — will they say “the College Inn, on Main Street near the university”? Are Corner businesses going to be less than thrilled that a phrase that is pretty central to identifying their businesses is banned now?

    I feel like Friend got outmaneuvered here; while it might make sense to avoid using the phrase and so giving free advertising to the competitor, it also shows me that NRN kind of got caught napping, or taking the local community for granted. If it was that easy for 106.1 to come in and convince people that THEY are the more local station, then NRN wasn’t doing everything they could have. The most telling thing I’ve read on this issue yet was a post from Chad Day on the Hook’s blog about how he felt NRN wasn’t interested in his business/project (Cville Sports &
    Social Club) beyond depositing his check, but that 106.1 seemed more genuinely interested in working with him. That’s kind of damning for NRN.

  • the Grateful Dead and friends is good on NRN

  • Wake up call on WNRN is one of the most the most unlistenable shows on the air. Rick Moore seems nice enough but the show is just terrible. Now that WNRN has been around for a while every program seems set in stone- like it’s the Holy Grail. I think WNRN needs to shake it up, if they don’t want to keep losing listeners. Nuke the rap show as well. The Corner will further gain marketshare during the fall fundrasier. That’s when alot of people go station hopping.

    It seems that the corner strength is that it is new and just wants to have a big audience. It’s is a business after all.

  • Cecil,

    I’m not sure if it was made entirely clear, but since I was spending less than 4 figures, I didn’t *expect* NRN to be that interested in what I was doing. I floated some ideas out to them like a charity dodgeball tournament, like a fundraiser thing for them, and got shot down — considering I had been in “business” for only a couple months, that’s really totally understandable.

    I got treated how I expected a small advertiser to be treated.

    The Corner just happened to go above and beyond when I started working with them. Be it that they had more ad slots available, or were genuinely interested in building a long-term relationship — it certainly made an impact on my decision on where to spend my advertising dollars in the future. Even with stations like 101.9 that I’m advertising with now — I’m even less in touch with their music than NRN, but I had a better sales experience.

    I don’t know if NRN is just making that much money that they don’t need to aggresively go after small businesses or what, but I really don’t have the time to worry about that. I’ll go with the service and results, and let the cards fall where they may. Just like listeners who tune in — they don’t give a shit about the politics, the ‘free’ vs. ‘commercial’ bit, or anything else this is being made out to be. They want to hear music they like, and if 106.1 is being successful, then NRN obviously was not catering to their demographic.

  • I will do anything… ANYTHING… to avoid radio commercials. That alone is enough to keep me with WNRN.

  • Maybe “the corner” merchants, who I think have an association like the downtown merchants do, should try and trademark the term “the corner” for their exclusive use before it’s too late. I’m surprised they didn’t hire a lawyer and go after WCNR right from the get-go.

  • Chad, I still think it doesn’t speak well of NRN that you felt the difference that you did b/w NRN’s and 106.1’s responses to your business. Maybe they don’t have tons and staff and resources, but it doesn’t take $$ to be nice to people.

  • They are both absolutely horrible stations.

    The Corner plays nothing but middle-of-the-road 90’s nostalgia crap, it’s specifically designed to be comforting and unchallenging and therefore overwhelmingly uninteresting. It’s exactly as trite and boring as those boomer-nostalia oldies stations, and the selection is just as limited and predictable, except the target demographic is 25-35 years younger. It’s just more corporate bullshit disguised as a “friendly neighborhood” radio station. The station has nothing whatsoever to do with Charlottesville or the local community, it’s just marketed that way so that people can feel some sort of legitimacy when they heard the DMB on a station called “The Corner.”

    WNRN was a fine station when it started out 10 years ago, but in his haste to compete with ClearChannel, Mike Friend has become his own enemy. It’s been years since I tuned into NRN to hear anything other than what I like to call “whiny asshole rock.” The reason you haven’t heard about most of those bands, Waldo, is that nobody cares about any of those bands. They’re aspiring major-label failures who have already been forgotten, mixed with a smattering of grunge leftovers. I mean, there’s a ton of really interesting rock music that’s come out in the last 10 years, and NRN has ignored all of it in favor of watered-down MTV-style Rock that primarily appeals to mallrat 14-year-olds with anger management problems. Some of the late-night specialty shows are occasionally worthwhile, but most of them have just been treading water for years now. I did hear a really spectacular episode of “The Boom Box” recently, but I’m pretty sure it was an anomoly.

    Now, WTJU on the other hand, has a 100% hand-picked selection of music from a vast assortment of genres and eras, selected by a devoted and knowledgeable group of people, many who have been actively involved in the Charlottesville music community for a very long time. I’ve been sitting in on various shows as a guest DJ over the past 6 months, and I plan to go through the formal training and get myself a time-slot as soon as I have room in my schedule for it. WTJU is exciting, it’s unpredictable, the music is solid and there are no ads. It’s what a good radio station should be. It’s been around for 50 years, and I hope it will be around for another 50. Give me WTJU or give me silence!

  • Speaking of the Wake-Up Call, this Sunday featured WNRN’s management talking about how music gets on the air. I did not listen all the way through, but it’s available on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

  • Personally, I do like WNRN, and I think it revolutionized radio withing the area. I think even stations like 3WV had to reconsider their programming after WNRN hit Charlottesville. Of course, like another person said, I think WNRN’s earlier days were the best. In those days it felt as though they gave their DJs more freedom to play what they wanted. Unlike Waldo, I feel the biggest problem with WNRN is not too much diversity but rather not enough. They don’t seem to be willing to take the kinds of risks they once did in terms of the music that they play. They also once did alot more to rotate in local artists into their modern rock programming, instead of just pushing them off into the Local Motive. I look fondly back at the days when I could regularly hear Baaba Seth and Lauren Hoffman while driving home from work. (The fact aht I didn’t mention newer bands indicates how lond it was since they really included local music).

    I also think WNRN arose out of this whole alternative movement that was a reaction to Classic Rock, and that carries with it it’s share of problems. There’s this long list of musicians that they won’t play, no matter how good the song, because it could be considered “classic rock”. For that matter, they seem to keep rather strictly to the Alternative formula which pretty much makes power chords and over-simplified music the standard. I understand that the thirty minute guitar solos are one of the big things that the alternative music reacted too; however modern alternative rock has left very little room for people trying to push the limits of their instrument or music itself. In other words, what was once “alternative” has now become safe.

    Perhaps like Waldo, one of the best parts of listening to the radio for me is the ability to hear something familiar that I like and sing along. There’s such a pressure to play new music on WNRN that I barely get to know a song before its off the play lists. Likewise, when they do play older songs (outside of Le Temps Perdue) then it seems like they rotate in this very small selection then play it too much. It’s just wierd to not hear a song for four years then to hear it practically every day for a month. I’d rather that they rotate in older music in a more random organic way (and more frequently).

    I personally think that, like the competition between C-Ville and The Hook, having The Corner station will hopefully help revitalize WNRN. I think they’ve gotten complacent, and lighting a fire under their behind is probably just what they need. I like Mike as a person, and enjoyed working with him we we did our paid PSAs, but he can be really overly dramatic at times. My advice to him is to see this whole thing as blessing in disguise. Now he and the other staff have the opportunity and incentive to push the boundaries again and redefine themselves. That maybe uncomfortable, but a wise person should always welcome that sort of thing.

  • NRN has been playing entirely too much Emo stuff (angry young man music) of late. So I switched over to WCRN just to have a respite from that. But I’ve found their playlist too repetitive and have now switched back again. Can’t stand to hear that Fiction Plane song one more time… gah.

    The market is already saturated with stations rehashing the same old stuff over and over. I like hearing new music and don’t have a problem widening my musical horizons a bit while I’m being entertained. In the beginning NRN used to fill that need far better than it does now. Unfortunately though, when they do play oldies like the fabulous Pixies, it’s the same one or two hits over and over. NRN seems incapable of digging into an artist’s catalog for other songs and it’s all become formulaic, tiresome, and smug.

    WTJU is by far the best station in town for music lovers, but sadly their rock programming has dwindled down to a few precious hours.

    I’ve never met Mike Friend, though I did read the Hook article and listened to Rick Moore’s show yesterday. This is all too reminiscent of the gratuitous public potshots he repeatedly took at WTJU in the start-up days of NRN. Friend’s unpleasant outbursts may well spur me to purchase a CD player for my car and eschew radio entirely.

  • It appears to me that I listen to the radio a lot less than most of y’all.

  • local radio is the #1 reason why i bought XM radio six years ago. over 60 commercial free music channels covering all the genres i like, and even the ones i don’t! sure, it costs more than terrestrial radio, but you get what you pay for.

  • Lonnie has hit the nail on the head w/r/t the decline of NRN, much more eloquently than I managed.

  • Yea, while I love rock music, and consider myself relatively abreast of what’s happening, my radio dial stays almost exclusively on the NPR stations in town, especially now that we have Radio IQ. There’s just too much crap to wade through, otherwise.
    I do think the WTJU rock shows can be excellent, though.

  • NRN lost my attention years ago. Wheras almost every time I turn on WCNR the play list is like a love letter just for me.

    NRN strikes me as a lot of tired alterna-crap. And they are always waaay behind WCNR with interesting new music. It took them a good month longer than WCNR to notice the Arcade Fire or the Kaiser Chiefs. And they mix that stuff up with old Cure and that sort of thing. I was sold on them the first time I heard them play a Peter Murphy solo track.

    WCNR is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to the WHFS of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Those call letters don’t mean much to most people around here, but if you ask anyone who has been professionally in radio for a long time then they probably have heard of ‘HFS.

    Put a fork in NRN. It’s done. I never could stand their self-righteous crap about being non-commercial in the same breath as a pre-scripted shill for whatever sandwich shop or something has ‘sponsored’ this program.

  • I don’t know I’d say NRN is done .. I certainly hope it isn’t. After a weekend in the DC area, the radio stations here are f’ing awesome in comparison.

    While stopping DJs from saying the word ‘corner’ has some sort of weird logic behind it, the advertisers who are ON the actual corner .. that has to really suck for. “Student Book Store .. located on .. um .. ”

    If anything is going to hurt them financially, I think it’s that decision. With the name that WCNR picked, it kind of put the screws to NRN there .. damned if they do mention it (due to the reasons listed in the other post), and damned if they don’t as it makes the advertisers who are located there upset (when they already have to deal with FCC underwriting rules).

  • I remember the staff meeting where they banned that phrase… I thought Mike was overreacting a bit at first, but then I realized how many of my friends had started listening to 106.1. NRN took a really big hit when the Corner started broadcasting, and all of a sudden, banning one phrase doesn’t seem that drastic when faced with loosing your listeners.

    Then again, WNRN’s last fund drive raised more money than ever before, so in some ways I’d argue that The Corner has actually increased local support for community radio.

  • Oh WHFS– thanks for the memories, Jack! Loved Weasel and Damian. That was some great listening in the late 70s to early 80s (before I moved here). WHFS really promoted the local music scene too, not just lip service.

    Also loved mid-to-late eighties TJU (the “Maynard era”) because there was so much diverse rock and world beat programming. It was fun hearing something fresh and exciting and calling the DJ to ask about it. They seemed really passionate and knowledgeable about what they were playing because they had selected it personally, not a corporation or a computer. Sure, the shows were self-indulgent at times, but it was usually a provocative listening experience.

    It’s like going to Sneak Reviews for your movies versus going to Blockbuster. Altogether a completely different experience.

  • I haven’t been to Blockbuster since Sneak Reviews opened (back in like, ’94 I think?)

  • The most recent episode of The Wake-Up Call did discuss how the station selects music, but this show topic had nothing to do with WCNR and The Hook’s article. I first sent e-mails about covering this topic to Anne Williams and the rest back in July. Lindsay Barnes may have been working on his story at the time but I was unaware of it. I tried very hard to prevent Mike Friend and other guests from comparing WNRN to ‘other’ stations. Like the show or not, I believe that goal was accomplished on Sunday.
    Rick Moore – host, WNRN’s Wake-Up Call

  • as soon as anything remotely jam comes on, I’m diving for the dial and swerving across lanes.

    The “jam” only gets played on Saturdays from 9 AM until noon during The Grateful Dead & Phriends show. The only time I listen to local radio is when that show is on. I gave up on good radio when I moved to Charlottesville. That’s kind of sad considering all the great music in this town.

  • I love Charlottesville radio! Maybe it’s because most of my “Last Letter Game” requests get played and one was recorded as an ad for the show? Or because on Facebook I am Ian Sulla-Yates’ official #1 fan? I travel for work, and the only radio station I’ve found that I prefer to the 91.1/106.1 duo (because yes, I can have my cake and eat it, too) is in San Diego. Little far. Anyway, Corner fans will be glad to hear that they’re streaming online, now.

  • The “jam” only gets played on Saturdays from 9 AM until noon during The Grateful Dead & Phriends show. The only time I listen to local radio is when that show is on. I gave up on good radio when I moved to Charlottesville. That’s kind of sad considering all the great music in this town.

    Have you tried WTJU? Not only do they have a Grateful Dead show that has been on the air forever (Sunshine Daydream, at noon on Saturdays), they have other excellent programs that would be promoted by Amazon as “People who like Sunshine Daydream also like these shows…” And no other radio station in town promotes local music and local musicians as thoroughly as TJU. Nobody else even comes close. While stations such as NRN and The Corner are really targeting a specific audience, TJU has eclectic programming and heavily promotes local rock, jazz, blues, folk, and other artists. There’s an ethic at TJU that “It’s all about the music.” They’re at 91.1 – you might want to peruse the schedule on their web site and see if there are any shows you may enjoy.

  • My big issue with WTJU is that you basically need a program guide to find what you want to listen to. It has it’s place and I’m glad its there, but it’s way to diverse and eclectic for me. Sometimes it’s nice to just turn on the radio and know it’ll be something you will probably want to hear.

    I also like NPR a whole lot, mainly just as a way of staying informed as I drive to work, but I do like Thistle and Shamrock and Prarie Home Companion (If for no other reason than they play a song about Batesville every now and again called “Old Plank Road”)

  • I was referring to the insipid jam-style stuff I’ve heard in WCNR. I’m well aware of NRN’s show–thank goodness TJU has a good show Saturday mornings. As soon as the celtic show is over, I quickly switch to NRN to avoid TJU’s Dead show. The timing is perfect for those of us who can’t stand jam.

    I’m listening to TJU more often at other times. It reminds me of Prineton’s station, which is amazing in diversity, lacking in assigned format.

  • Doolittle,

    I *knew* there had to be someone reading this who would know what I was talking about!

    The great example of WHFS is that you can have a commercial, nakedly for-profit radio station that has all the interesting musical taste of a college station combined with the professionalism of a commercial station. And it worked for many, many years. As I understand it, WHFS eventually got bought by a larger company (Clearchannel?) that decided they could make more money switching to a completely different format. But the traditional ‘HFS format did work and it did make money.

    Maybe WNRN will stick around and stay afloat. I hope so. Nothing wrong with having a bunch of different options to choose from. Personally, I’ll be listening to WCNR on those occasions when I have the car stereo on something other than news or CDs.

    Man, it is so nice to finally get old enough that my demographic is seen as financially worth catering to.

  • I like The Corner’s mix of music. Yeah, they play the corporate hit artists like Fray, Amy Winehouse or Dave Matthews but they also will play other stuff. I think they air some things that are left off other alternative stations in Richmond or DC, such as Jesus And Mary Chain, Bright Eyes, and The Smiths. They seem to sound like the old WHFS but then again WHFS went off the air so maybe that’s a bad thing. I listen to WNRN too and they are good, but mostly I like The Corner better. I have never really listened to 91.1 WTJU but I don’t know when a show I would like is on, and I am more mainstream that their listeners probably would be. I don’t really listen to jazz or I don’t think that station is supposed to be for fans of The Clash or Bright Eyes, it is more indie than that. Also I used to do college radio in Lawrence, Kansas so I know a little about the radio business. Their company Saga only has about 60 stations or something, it is not like they are as big as Clear Channel. I gave up on radio because it does not pay very much and people always have to move around.

  • Yeah, they play the corporate hit artists like Fray, Amy Winehouse or Dave Matthews but they also will play other stuff

    Dave Matthews Band may well wish they were a “corporate hit artist” — it’s been six years since they had a a song that might be termed a “hit.”

  • Jack hit the nail right on the head regarding what made ‘HFS a great station. And that’s what I really hoped WNRN was going to be like: WTJU, but minus the often mumbling DJs, and with a greater mix-up of music (versus blocks of musical genres). As the station has aged though, the song selections are becoming increasingly generic and blah. They could make it more exciting, and I have no idea what’s stopping them from doing so.

    I wish there were enough music freaks in Cville to support the station of my dreams, but if a large market like DC can’t support it, then we wouldn’t stand a chance.

    One thing I do like about WCNR is that it’s more interactive in its feel– the Last Letter Game being a prime example. The DJs sound friendly and they don’t play Staind.

    Here is an article on WHFS for those who might be wondering what the fuss is about.

  • Well, it’s been six years since they had a hit on the radio … as far as a touring live act, I believe they’re still raking it in.

    Mark H-

    Not to be a snob, but did you really just use Bright Eyes in the same sentance as the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Smiths, and The Clash? Didn’t all those bands break up around the time that that whiner from Bright Eyes was born? In my mind they’re from drastically different categories and contexts, regardless of your views on the aesthetic quality of any of those bands…

  • James, I was just trying to name some new bands with my older all time favorites. For instance a couple other more recent groups I like a lot include Arcade Fire, Mutemath, Queens Of The Stone AGe, Mika, etc. I don’t know if I have heard these groups on The Corner or not but those are my favorite more recent acts I’ve discovered. Yeah, I see your point about overall style.

    But I do like Bright Eyes, I am surprised that you don’t it seems like Bright Eyes has gotten to be a pretty big deal. Also I personally dislike emo bands such as My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy but I think Bright Eyes are not like that stuff.

  • Have you tried WTJU? Not only do they have a Grateful Dead show that has been on the air forever (Sunshine Daydream, at noon on Saturdays)

    I find listening to Sunshine Daydream a bit painful. The host stumbles so much and lacks any enthusiasm. I wonder if he likes The Dead when the only thing he can say about an awesome Scarlet>Fire is that it’s 22 minutes long.

    Marc Smith, the host of The Dead show on NRN, is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the music he plays.

  • I loved HFS – definitely cut my rock and roll teeth on WHFS in its golden age (the 70s). Cerphe, Damien, Weasel, Hall, all of them. It’s worth noting that the deeper they went toward the alternative, the harder it was for them to make any money- – a primary reason why WHFS is now an internet-only station. They certainly had plenty of listeners – sold out HFStivals prove that…kind of. 50,000 kids at RFK is pretty impressive, but the listeners they drew in the late 80s and 90s were not much of a target demographic, and demographics pays the bills. That’s why the frequency formerly known as WHFS now broadcasts exclusively Spanish-language programming.

    When NRN first started, I thought of them as a WHFS without the golden years. And it may or may not be true, but several people have told me that they do have mandated or semi-mandated playlists. I’d like to think not, for no self-respecting DJ would allow some music director to suggest if not tell them what to play (sorry everybody at Saga and Clear Channel, but this does mean you, I’m afraid).

  • Big Al,

    Yeah, it’s true that WNRN has semi-mandated playlists – or rather playlist-like rules – at least from my experience in the late-’90s. From what I’ve heard, it used to be that you could play anything on WNRN – any song, any album, whenever. A lot like WTJU actually. That changed at some point, though I don’t know exactly when. Basically, things changed twofold. First, every album got marked up so you could only play certain permitted songs – and only within certain times. If a song was not a popular single, it could be played only once every eight days. Sort of a “no-repeat workday” taken to the max.

    Second, there were a bunch of different “blocks” (can’t remember the exact terminology) within an hour, and these blocks would dictate how you could choose songs. The most frequent blocks required you to draw a card from a file box of singles. And these weren’t all solid singles, and they definitely got overplayed (ironic in relation to the eight-day rule with respect to non-singles). I recall that Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock came up a whole bunch, but that was the era, I guess. Other blocks allowed you to choose another series of less-popular singles, while others allowed you to choose whatever you wanted. It worked out so the DJ had free reign over about a quarter of the playlist.

    Anyhow, I’ve gone on way too long, but the thing that really turned me off about NRN was that, even though it wasn’t a corporate station, its playlist rules were just about as strict as one. You had to play crappy, over-played singles, and you definitely could expect a 4 AM call from Mike if you flubbed anything. WNRN started off with a great mission, but something happened along the way.

  • Jeannine – First, a disclosure: until I moved, I was on the Jazz and Blues staff at TJU. I’m amazed that you don’t get the impression that the hosts of Sunshine Daydream aren’t passionate about the music. I say “hostS because there are several. WTJU takes their mission as a community station seriously – unlike WNRN, none of the DJs are paid for anything (except in the rare cases when the general manager or development guy need to sit in at the last minute), and they work very hard to involve as many members of the community as possible. Some DJs are smoother than others, some are more experienced, and even a few actually have “trade” voices. However, all of the ones I’ve met are overwhelmingly passionate about the music they play, and I’d stack their expertise up against anybody’s. One of the hosts of Sunshine Daydream has been collecting shows forever and has a 300GB hard drive with nothing but Dead and associated shows. He probably knows more about the Dead than anybody I’ve ever met, and he can (and often does) talk Dead all day long. But not on the air. The other hosts are equally as enthusiastic – in fact, it probably takes at least 3 or 4 hours just to put together a 2 hour show- maybe a little less for the Dead show since a 2 hour show requires about 8 or 10 songs!

    The ethic at WTJU is to talk as little as possible and keep the focus on the music, not the host. Make no mistake – there are some extremely talented on-air people there. Robin Tomlin does a Soul show on Mondays and he’s a hoot. He’s preceded by “El Gordito” who also drips personality. And of course Professor Bebop is in may people’s opinion the most talented on-air personality in Charlottesville history.

    When I’d do a 2 hour show, my goal was to play 100 minutes of music out of the 120 minutes of air time. After you deduct 4 minutes of station promos and 4 minutes of public service announcements, that leaves 12 minutes out of 2 hours to talk about the music and remind people what station they’re listening to. The TJU staff would much rather play the music than talk about it, and they firmly believe that the listeners tune in for the music.

    During the 6 years I volunteered on the air at WTJU, nobody there ever told me what to play – the only rules are to work within reason within the overall genre of the time slot, work within the FCC obscenity and paperwork guidelines and make sure to get in all of your PSAs.

    I have no idea who you heard that lacked enthusiasm in your eyes (ears?), but if they lacked enthusiasm they probably wouldn’t be there. Especially for a Noon Saturday show – to host that show would pretty much kill most of your Saturday. You’d have to want to be there.

  • AK,

    That certainly explains what I’ve been hearing on NRN…

    I think some structure is necessary, and I’d even dare say that quite a lot has improved on NRN. For example, acoustic sunrise used to be rather unlistenable; it was as if someone had confused the genre with adult contemporary. Now it’s a pretty good show.

    All that said, there were some really great things about the old NRN that have been lost along the way. Mike would really benefit the station if he really spend some time to recapture what some of those things were (like cutting out more of the popular singles, and giving DJs more choice again.)

  • AK – i did a few sub slots in the very early days of NRN. it definitely wasn’t a free-for-all when it came to what you could play, but there was quite a bit of leeway for the DJ. i don’t remember all the categories, but you had songs that were mandated by the “card box”, usually current hits/singles that you’d hear on any other station. there was at least one of those per 15 minute block. then you had “classic alternative”, stuff like old replacements, sonic youth, that sort of thing. then there was the “optional” which was completely at the DJ’s discretion. i once played “bring the noise” by anthrax/public enemy coming off a tori amos song. guess Mike wasn’t listening that day :) anyhoo, all the cards and CDs had lines where you’d write the time and date of the last play. i think you weren’t allowed to play current stuff within 8 hours of the last time it spun (since there were about 50 cards in there, it pretty much took care of itself). other stuff, like optionals, were longer (3 days, maybe?). i always thought it was a pretty good system. you still got to hear eclectic stuff based on DJ preference, but you also got to hear the current MTV fare (nirvana, pearl jam, etc.).

    as for the blocks, i think it was 3-5 songs per 15 minutes. you did a station ID at the top of the hour an underwriter spot, underwriter at 15 minutes, time/weather and UW at 30 minutes, then another UW at 45 minutes past the hour. you also had to list off the songs you played in the previous 15 minutes, which i always flubbed. and i once played an extended 10 minute version of some song so i could go drop a deuce. that’s probably why i never got my own show :)

  • You’d have to want to be there.

    I know…you could say the same about hosting the GD show on NRN, a station with DJs who clearly aren’t “down” with The Dead, that airs from 9 AM – noon on Saturdays!

    I liked The Dead show on NRN so much that I got to know the hosts (now there’s just one host). The bins and bins of shows I’ve collected over the years (much more than 300 gigs…I have a 500 gig external on my desk of my recent acquisitions) were offered up to add to the catalogue…though Marc doesn’t need much help since collection is pretty extensive as well.

    I’ll admit that I haven’t given Sunshine Daydream much of my time since I got turned off by whatever host was in charge when I first got here.

    He probably knows more about the Dead than anybody I’ve ever met

    If I ever get to one of those blogger meet ups, perhaps you’ll be able to edit this statement. :)

  • Sounds like a plan! But you’d better watch out – it sounds like Rhino may have all those shows in their sights before long. (oops – wrong thread)

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