Monday, July 09, 2007

What's the Point???

Julie called me a couple of Wednesdays ago telling me to listen to the Point to try and win us some Bob Dylan tickets. The Point used to be known simply as 96.7 WNCS when I was a kid growing up in central VT. Back then, late 80’s early 90’s, they were truly an original station and an island of great programming amidst the classic rock and hair metal culture of Orange County and the greater Barre area. It was on NCS that I discovered Elvis Costello, the Clash (outside of “Should I Stay or Should I Go”), Talking Heads, and all sorts of other great music. It can be said that their unique mix of semi-formatted music and huge library pioneered the Format now known as Adult Album Alternative. So yeah, I was once a fan.

Then in the mid nineties things started toi go downhill. The station was sold to a small regional outfit, certainly no Clear Channel, but changes soon began. First was the frequency change to 104.7, still out of Montpelier. Then the change to a branded station, The Point. This was a real bad sign of things to come, because once a unique station begins branding itself it’s obvious that the programming is going to be tweaked towards ‘focus groups’ and demographics. They picked up another frequency, then another, and now have four or five. Now the advertisers began controlling things. The music library began to shrink, long time DJ’s started to leave, and they were becoming a caricature of themselves, another ‘The River’ or ‘Alice’.

I’d say it was a couple of years ago that the latest shakeup really came. It was suddenly obvious that their playlist, now with a library of maybe 1000 songs, was being tweaked to reflect their aging demographic towards more safe and familiar stuff- lots of Eagles, Springsteen, and simple stuff like Bonnie Raitt and Indigo Girls. And of these they played the same three songs or so. Then their last original DJ, the morning guy, was canned and the clichéd morning show two-man banter bullshit was added. With this show came more of the canned, formatted contests and features repeated ad nauseum in keeping with the Branding concept. One feature was the “Nine at Nine” where at nine AM they would play nine songs from the same year. A year or so ago I was tuned in and 1977 came up. Great year for music. They played some safe stuff from the Police and Elvis Costello, then came the most offensive thing I had heard on the station to date: Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”. “HOT BLOODED!?! YOU’VE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!” I remember shouting at the radio. I haven’t turned that crap on since.

So I’m listening to “Ticket Window Wednesday” (notice the Branding) and they’re giving away a bunch of stuff today, usually to caller six or whatever. Well they come on with the Scratchy 45 contest where they play a snippet of a song and you have to ID it. The tickets weren’t anything I was interested in (passes to the lift at a local mountain/bike trail deal), but when they played the track, the music collector in me had to call in because I knew that most of the listeners wouldn’t be able to ID Rockpile’s “If Sugar Was as Sweet as You Honey”. So I won the little game and the DJ’s did their thing of playing the caller back over the air, something the old station never did because they were about the music, not some novelty crap. Then they played the track and I sung along, thinking that maybe the playlist was picking up a bit. A few minutes later they do their ‘nine at nine’ thing again, this time for 1984. Great year for music. They played Some Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, and then I was again slapped by their offensive crap: The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane”. This bullshit is everything that this station was once up against, and the reason why they were so great in providing an alternative to it. I don’t mind hearing it on a classic rock station, but this is a total insult to any music lover. The Point, you suck my nuts.

So the Saturday after my little experience with the Point’s suckness I’m going through Montpelier with Alice after a grocery run and see a sign for a Yard Sale listing cd’s and such. I stop by and it’s a frickin’ Goldmine, probably 1000 cd’s for sale, lot’s og great stuff. I picked up 20 or so for $25, mostly radio promos but some still sealed legit copies. Spoon, My Morning Jacket, Built To Spill, Front 242, Penelope Houston, Hammell on Trial, Mudhoney, Ani Difranco, Belle and Sebastian, Drums and Tuba, and this is just the stuff I picked up. So someone at the sale asks the proprietor if he’s in the music business and he replies that he has been for 15 years and has been music director at The Point for the past six, “So if you don’t like the music, I’m the guy to talk to.” “What the hell were you playing the Scorpions for the other day?” I asked. He then blamed it on the two-man morning doofus team, saying that they like to play that stuff on their nine at nine thing to show the diversity of the music in that year, and said he himself cringed when he heard it. Hey buddy- you’re the music director. Every track in the library is your responsibility, and that station is so formatted that every track that is played is directly approved by you. Don’t give me that horseshit blaming the DJ’s. If we want to hear the ‘other’ music that came out in a certain year, we can listen to an ‘other’ station. Your station sucks because you let it suck. I used less and nicer words to him, but I hope I got the meaning across. Doesn’t matter to him anyway, I’m outside his ‘demographic’ I suppose since I actually like to find unique music and spend my money on it so that I have plenty in the car and don’t have to listen to his crap.

What makes this matter worse, I thought on the way home, was the whole yard sale aspect of it. Here was a guy in the ‘music business’ (actually advertising business) selling the promo albums he received from labels and breaking artists hoping to get airplay on his station. He was clearly profiting from selling his gifts (unethically, and probably illegally) albeit at really cheap prices. The artists were getting screwed by having their goods sold for nothing, but moreso because they lost the chance to get airplay and further increase legitimate sales. Particularly bad in that regard was the 1993 Penelope Houston album I picked up; this woman is an amazing musician and deserves much more exposure than she gets. Were the Point (or WNCS back then) to put her in rotation while they were still a relevant and even groundbreaking station, she may have been picked up by other station that were copying the AAA format, and we would have her instead of Tori Amos as a Legacy Artist. I was getting screwed because this idiot was selling off the best music given to him rather than playing it on his station, thus depriving myself and other true music lovers of a good ‘venue’ to discover stuff. So now I have a stack of cd’s that are ethically questionable on many accounts. Did I contribute to this crap by buying them? Probably, in a sense, but I’m not going to lose too much sleep over it. I spend a lot of money on music, including other releases from the artists I picked up, and arguably support the real players of the industry (the musicians) more than many listeners out there.

One final note….As I was briefly impressed by the station playing that Rockpile track a few days ago, I still thought that they might keep some good stuff buried deep intheir library. So what cd was this moron selling at his little yard sale? Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure. I guess they wrung just a little coolness out of that one before hanging it out to dry with all the other good music they could be playing instead of another spin of Tears for Fucking Fears.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What's "indie" mean?

A great post from the Audio Asylum forums:


In Reply to: RE: What's "Indie" BTW? <486010.html> posted by
Feanor on July 07, 2007 at 13:49:11

Indie is just short for independent which in simplest terms just
means you have no affiliation with a major label.

However the meaning goes deeper now. Back in the 70's depression
when all US indie labels died (and most major ones too) everything
changed. Pop music, as in the "pop" scene, started it's death spiral
because majors no longer had indie labels feeding them talent. (like
the guy in the camper in the movie "The Wonders")

It used to be majors just wanted the #1 song, they didn't care who
it was because they knew some other act would come along next week,
next month, and next year. But when indie labels stopped feeding
them acts, and they couldn't find them on their own (because they
never did) they started trying to manufacture "stars". Instead of
selling 50 thousand copies of 20 different albums, they now sell a
million of just one.

The indie scene revived itself in the UK in the 80's and was
referred to as alternative, and many bands from it became known here
(Human League, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Modern English etc etc..)
however by the early 90's most of these UK indie labels tanked also.
The majors then stepped in and started offering what they called
"alternative" (which would be bands like smashing pumkins or green
day) only there was nothing alternative about it. They were marketed
just like anything else the majors touched and you didn't find out
about new, upcoming bands.

The majors thought they killed Indie but it found a home on the web
in the mid late 90's. Most of the best stuff right now comes from
scandinavia, but it exists everywhere and these are kids motivated
by the UK bands of the 80's and as a result they all sing in
english. You NEVER hear about any of them, but I see the music
getting used on TV commercials all the time. The song playing in the
Geico commercial with the caveman going thru the airport terminal is
Röyksopp and features vocals by Erlend Oye from Kings of
Convenience, whos music has also been used in AT&T ads. Target used
a Concretes song for their jingle once, Postal Service songs have
been used in car commercials, and some wireless companies new ad is
using an Architecture In Helsinki song for example.

So if we were to extrapolate back, indie is essentially old
fashioned "pop" music. Get Dick Clark, spin the cut and let the kids
dance. In other words, music for people who like music. The stuff
that makes brains go dead and puts smiles on faces."

From Peter Gunn,