For the creators and for the fans, active listeners or passive listeners, music has the power to move us all incredibly deeply. Sometimes we’re right here- in the moment and sometimes we’re floating in a sea of sounds- we blissfully lose ourselves for a tiny while.
And sometimes we’re both- Here and There.
The latest release My Names A, Your Names Zed from El Grey is exactly that.
If you’re already a fan of El Grey you’ll come to expect haunting, stunning and breathtaking vocal performances as standard. You’ll also expect crunchy beats mixed with a wash of synths and gentle acoustic guitars. You’ll also be aware that her music is deeply personal to her and each song is a little piece of her soul, committed to record.
Take all that you already know about El Grey and put a little twist on it. You won’t find this track anything like her previous release El Grey, but you will find her distinctive, trademark vocals affirming her ardent passion right here. Glistening synthy motifs bounce over and back a sound world of luscious piano playing and looped, reverberant vocals. Instantly you’re taken by the hand of El Grey herself into the infinite cosmos. If you haven’t gotten goosebumps multiple times within the first 60 seconds then you’re not ready for the journey she wishes to bring you on.
Hypnotic yet deeply grounding, her chanting vocal pulls you right into the centre. Looped over and over with additional harmonies, her voice guides the way- “Grab a coat, find a home”. While the chant gives way to a choir of swirly, angelic vocal expressions, we’re lifted further into the heavens, soaring high, looking for Home.
The mood changes somewhat after this point. You’ll hear a male voice enter- another new sound for El Grey. You’ll know that there’s something very special going on here- something very deep and very personal. In absolute contrast to what we’ve been listening to, she sings in her native tongue- and it works brilliantly. Switching languages in one song is a new and brave move for El Grey for she has something personal to say-revealing another dimension of herself and affirming her spirituality though her music.
For me the most poignant lyric comes in around the 7-minute mark- “It’s just one heartbeat away from you” with echoes of “one” bouncing around, underpinning it. The music producer in me loves that line. The sentiment in me loves it too. It’s a line I’d hang on to for dear life.
This recording is 100% live and one take only. There was no pre-production. There was no doctoring this up in post-production either. The barest moments of extraneous sounds pop in and out here and there but these are not faults. Such sounds tickle my imagination and for me, they add to the soundscape. The piece in its entirety has a completely natural feel and I’m certain the musicians lost themselves in this performances-lost themselves to find a little something on the way back.
You could use a multitude of words to describe this track (atmospheric, holy, meditative, serene, gripping, stunning, special…) and you could find a multitude of situations to enjoy it in – at home with a candle, on a long, night-drive home, walking around a busy city- for it’s completely immersive and completely El Grey.
Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, Na Tonnta.
Introducing Na Tonnta (L-R as above): Daniel ‘Hearthrob’ Whelan, Ellie ‘Ellington’ J McGinley, Sinéad ‘Brings her own teabags’ O’Malley, Ciara ‘I♥ Beoga’ Moley and Fiachra ‘Figgy’ Meek. The group met while studying Music in DkIT together and bonded through their love of traditional Irish music, popular music, tea, biscuits and cakes!
My journey with Na Tonnta began in September 2014. I was searching for a musically-new band to introduce to the recording studio and collaborate with for my final music production project at DkIT, resulting in three songs- one being the core and most-polished production.
I knew I wanted to carry forward my love for traditional Irish music while bringing it into a contemporary production and I also knew Na Tonnta were a hard-working, creative and driven group from my Facebook stalking since they formed in October 2013!
Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 ToVigo, accompanied by accordion player, Ciara. I sat, mesmerised by the performance- the beautiful tone of the B flat whistle, the rhythm of the tune, the sombre accordion, gently accompanying the haunting tune. The hairs on my arms stood and I knew instantly that this was a tune I wanted to be a part of. I could already hear our studio recording in my mind’s ear!
What happened next lifted my spirits even further. There was a lyrical idea. In fact, there was more than just an idea- there was a theme, a mood, an atmosphere and a poem! A vintage book was produced- a little blue book with yellow pages, about to be tossed out from a local school library where Sinéad worked. For some reason unknown to me, Sinéad opened the book and there was a beautiful poem at the beginning. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice Cashel is an old book intended for secondary school children but the poem simply titled Leaca Bán, found at the begnning of the book, is a literary work of beauty. It was suggested that Ellie fit the tune to the words- amazingly, it worked like a dream. Ellie suddenly started singing the poem and it was just right.
By Christmas a humble demo which consisted of a vocal, fiddle, tin whistle and accordion was recorded and then my audio fun began. What I already had was a beautiful tune which was deeply Irish and could hold up on its own with such a small ensemble- how about adding drums? Synthesisers? Guitars? More vocals? How big could we go?! How big did I dare?!
Well, here’s the final production. Listen for yourself.
I’m so excited! Yesterday I received my Platinum edition of Soundtracks of my Life, the latest release from legendary metal vocalist Blaze Bayley and I have just opened the package… like the 299 other (lucky) diehard Blaze fans, my reaction is “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!” \m/
The package includes the book Blaze himself wrote with the help of his wife Eline about his journey from the beginning of his Wolfsbane days, his Iron Maiden adventures, right up to his most recent solo release in 2013, the double disc album itself, a fridge magnet, a badge and a certificate.
The book is autographed by Blaze and includes my own name in gold ink as well as the album booklet and certificate. My own name is also printed on the first page of the Special Thanks section in the album booklet!
As a longtime fan of Blaze Bayley, this is just amazingly awesome!!!
My younger sister introduced me to Blaze’s solo music which is kind of ironic- I introduced her to Iron Maiden by happy accident when I loaned her my walkman (yes, walkman) with Brave New World on tape inside one day for the school bus journey home (she came home that day a die-hard Iron Maiden fan!).
So a couple of years later she was playing Blaze’s Tenth Dimension album in her bedroom when I was having a chat with her. “Stealing Time” came on and I was hooked. I borrowed the C.D and that was it! I adored it. From start to finish, a superb album.
In 2004 a special gig was announced, we heard it through word of mouth from a metal fanatic friend in England I think. Blaze was coming to play in the Village, Dublin. I personally couldn’t believe Blaze Bayley was going to play such a small venue. Myself, Arlene (my sister) and her friend headed up for a ridiculously early time, hoping we’d get to meet Blaze himself before the gig. We waited and waited and waited… All day we sat outside the Village (we were the only ones!) and eventually we were invited inside! There he was, larger than life, Blaze Bayley himself with a huge smile. I remember my sister giving him a lollypop because she thought it would be cute and he laughed. He was so nice! He signed everything we gave him, (one of the items he signed for me was my Virtual XI Iron Maiden album booklet-my favourite Maiden album!) joked around with us and posed for photos with us. We were on an absolute high and couldn’t wait for the show…
The show itself was amazing. Blaze gave such a performance, his multi-national band was amazing, the songs were brilliant, the sound was perfect, we had so much fun!!! I came home with a setlist, a drumstick and a guitar plec. I also came home with a sore neck and without my voice!! I remembering meeting Italian guitarist Luca Princiotta after the show and talking with him, I also remember him giving me a kiss on my face, he was so very lovely! 🙂 That entire day was so special to us all and my sister and I remember it with the fondest of memories.
Fast forward to 2010… Blaze was coming back to Dublin! This time we heard through Facebook. Fibbers on Parnell St. There was a meet and greet before the show and I was so excited and nervous to meet Blaze again. He wouldn’t talk at all to anyone (I assumed it was to save his voice for the show) but I sat beside him, said “welcome back to Dublin!” and he grabbed me and gave me the biggest, squeeziest hug I ever got in my life!!! That night he signed my Tenth Dimension album booklet.
The following show was unbelievably energetic and I fondly remember it starting off with the unmistakeable sound of Blaze Bayley himself shouting from the back “Get out of my focking way!!! Let’s get this focking show started! Come on!!!” as he pushed his way through the crowd. His big Birmingham accent filled the room and we all laughed and made way for the mighty Blaze! What a show it was! Again we were up the front and this time almost too close! I remember being able to hug Blaze while he sang, drenched in sweat! Haha, so brilliant! His band line up had changed but these players were brilliant as well. We all had a brilliant night. What a gig.
Blaze has become very Internet savvy in the last few years, he’s always posting on Facebook, usually he posts brilliant photos of himself in various places in Europe, making the same heavy metal face! He’s constantly gigging and recording. It’s amazing to see his international fan base on Facebook, everyone seems to have the same love for this brilliant, larger than life performer.
I’m sure we all love him for the same reasons- his fantastic lyrics and songs, his amazing energy he delivers in his performances and the time and love he gives back to his fans.
Soundtracks of my Life is not only the perfect thank you to all his fans, it’s the perfect way to celebrate Blaze’s 30 years in the music industry. “Thank you all so much for your support over the years and making it possible to live my dream.” -Blaze Bayley.
An awesome heavy metal album. Soundtracks of my Life is out October 31st. Make it your business to own a copy of it.
It’s that busy time of the semester again! The time where time itself is running out and the assignments are piled high! Recording projects are wrapping up and are in the final mix stages, essays are full speed ahead and how I wish there were more hours in each day!
Tonight I finished tracking my Music Production Project for semester 4. I haven’t blogged about the production process like I did last semester, so apologies for that! This semester FLEW, I think the Erasmus trip to Norway accelerated that, where does time go when you’re having fun, eh?!
I have been working on one of my own songs for this semesters’ production project. It is a song I started working on over Christmas, inspired by Electronic/Dance music I had been listening to a lot (and still am- I’m also currently enjoying various Dubstep tracks while walking, the Sound City album while driving and Evanescence while running!). I have been writing New Age/Chilled Electronic for a few years now as I really have been enjoying creating music “in The Box”. Logic Pro 9 is my little getaway place!
While I was in Norway I continued working on the piece of music, structuring and shaping the sounds and taking deep inspiration from the emotions and experiences of the Erasmus Programme and the natural beauty of the cold, snowy, sunny, fjord and mountain landscape. The programme was very intense emotionally as I struggled with homesickness for my friends, college, home and family, I felt slightly lost at times as workshops made me close my eyes, look inside myself and think about sound, light and creativity in new ways.
When I came home I had a draft mix of synths, beats and ambient nature recordings, which I was very happy with. There were only 2 lines of lyrics, which I tracked at home “Close your eyes/What can you see?”. I listened to my mix on the lovely Genelecs in the college studio just for fun and it was suggested that I make the the music into a song, go write lyrics and melodies and think about bringing the song to a whole new level, record acoustic drums and other instruments! Make it my production project! I was skeptical at first as I was rather attached to this piece of music (music for thinking to- as I saw it as), which I composed entirely by myself.
Enter Keith Caffrey. If you have been following my blog, you’ll already know that Keith is like the other musical half of me! He is my songwriting partner and close friend, the music I’ve written with Keith through the years has always had deep, personal meaning and a creative enjoyment I never experienced before. I sent Keith the draft mix and emotional ideas I would love to communicate through lyrics (closing of the eyes, looking inside myself and being more aware of myself yet still feeling slightly lost).
Very quickly the music turned into the song. Keith came down to my bedroom studio and we tracked the entire vocal idea. The lyrics were so deep, personal and emotional, Keith understood perfectly what I had been feeling (as spiritually close friends, there are few who understand me so well!). It was also as if Keith KNEW we had only been studying the art of vocal expression in college, he felt the song should have lots of aspirate on-sets and releases, creaks and shakes.
With minor structure adjustments and a guide vocal done (and a huge migration into Pro Tools 10!), the song was ready for addition instrumentation. I’m not going into the nitty-gritty details of my sessions but I recorded drums in session 1, harp, piano and electric guitar in session 2 and female vocals in session 3.
During my time in Norway I made lots of new friends and valuable contacts, Fiona McErlane being one of them. We met in the airport and sat next to each other on the plane from Dublin to London and hit it off straight away with giggles over drinks! I heard her singing in the music performance workshops in Norway and was blown away by her pure, crystal clear, angelic voice. I knew back then I wanted to work with her in the future but didn’t know for what project!
I asked her to sing on the project and play a little bit of traditional harp. She was excited about the song and the inspiration of the music and lyrics (she was actually present when I made the recording of the fjord shore in Norway).
So tonight was our final recording session, we tracked lots of vocals and had a very productive session. I was so happy with her performance, she gave it 110% emotionally and technically, she jumped right in with suggestions and gave it her all. I was also happy that I got to finally track using the Distressor compressor (gentle 2:1 ratio) and got to try out the Rode K2 valve mic, it sounded sweet!
Our session was the first official night time recording session in DkIT 6pm-9pm. Yes! Finally! A night time recording session!!! I’m a big fan of working in the evenings/nights (last semesters’ Monday 9am-12pm were not to my liking!). Energies are high, vocals are warm, people tend to be more relaxed in the evenings I find! So please, for next semester, more night time sessions please!
I better go to bed, it is 12:30am now and tomorrow is a new day of vocal editing! I will of course share the song “Close Your Eyes” when it’s mixed. Special thanks to Keith Caffrey, Fiona McErlane, Craig Sullivan, Gavin Clarke for their creative input and help and to my friends for their support!
I’ll leave you with this fun snap from tonights session!
I logged into my SoundCloud account this evening to find my stream plastered in “Here’s the Drop” graphics on waveforms [insert mega-surprised vinyl rip here!]. Like every other SoundCloud user right now, I’m totally baffled!
And it’s not just on other users waveforms, there’s plenty of these ugly graphics on my own tracks!
A quick scan through forums and Twitter, users are noticing and there’s mixed feelings. Some believe it’s an early April Fool’s joke SoundCloud is playing on their users and find it funny… some feel like their creative work has been defiled and are furious… there’s plenty of talk about a possible hack and of course, there’s uproar that a term normally associated with Dubstep music is getting plastered on metal, rock, live recordings, video game music, etc!
At first glance I thought it was a clever new gimmick SoundCloud were testing, the arrows seemingly did point to spikes in waveforms but after closer inspection I did realise it was all completely random.
Personally I believe SoundCloud has been hacked this weekend. Did anyone else notice on Facebook that their newsfeed activity was completely random? My newsfeed was chocablock with bizarre memes and what not. Of course, this has all disappeared from their App page now.
I tend to take SoundCloud a bit seriously, I use it every day and I prefer it to other social media music platforms (MySpace is dead! Reverbnation never appealed to me as much as I tried! Twitmusic doesn’t cut it either) and I take pride in my profile. For me SoundCloud is the cleanest, easiest and most efficient means of putting my music out there and keeping track of my stats!
Maybe it’s all one big marketing move to get us talking about SoundCloud? 😉
I hope it’s not an early April Fool’s joke, would SoundCloud really do that to us? 😉 (but maybe the fact it’s premature is part of the joke?!)
UPDATE: It’s called the Dropometer and it SEEMS to be a gimmick! read about it here (I just hope we can remove it from our tunes cos not everyone uploads Dubstep to Soundcloud… though I still think it’s an April Fool’s joke, haha!) : SoundCloud » Debuting Today: The Dropometer.
After a lovely reading week which turned out to be a brilliant balance of study, work, play AND industry experience (see recent post where I described my day recording location audio on a film set!), I’m all set and raring to start back to college (part 2 of semester 1) in the morning!
I’ve spent the last 6 weeks preparing for my music production project and tomorrow morning we go into the recording studio to start tracking! It’s an early start and I hope to record cajon, a guide vocal and acoustic guitars. I’ve chosen to realise a new Shock Sorrow song called “December”, myself and Keith Caffrey composed during the summer.
I’m very excited to have my classmate and good friend Shane Taaffe play cajon and new friend, bass master Ciarán O’Brien play double bass on this recording! I’ve never recorded both instruments before and I’m very excited! Keith Caffrey will of course be singing lead vocal, playing guitar parts (yes, a solo!) and a secret percussion instrument! 😉 I will of course be playing a small bit of guitar and maybe piano if I’m lucky, my regular studio partner Shauna Kearney will be assisting me (I can’t imagine being in studio without her actually!).
My mind is racing from the sheer excitement of this project and I’m getting ideas all over the place! “Oooh wouldn’t it sound great if I did this!” and “I’d love to slip in a little harmony there!”, it’s so easy to get carried away! The main point of this recording is to capture the sounds as accurately as possible, get the sounds right at the source! “I’ll fix it in the mix” attitude is bye-bye, out the window! There are of course plenty of other criteria to check, good production, instrumentation, record with hardware compression (mmmm Avalon baby) etc!
My primary aim is to record a polished studio version of this song that includes a full band of musicians but with a stripped back approach.
I aim to not only meet the instrumental requirements of this project brief but also extend beyond that by capturing one or two additional instruments and vocals, creating a sonically interesting and more varied recording.
I also aim to create a pleasant and relaxed working environment and enjoy a successful recording process.
I will post a blog tomorrow night about how the session went!
In other news I got to play an Irish harp tonight! I had such fun! Shane Taaffe is one seriously gifted musician, I already knew he is very talented with a guitar, cajon, voice, anything musical he puts his hands to, but I never got to hear him play Irish harp before now. Wow! I could have listened to him all night! Such beautiful music he played. I’m a big Irish trad fan from my fiddle days and lately my influences have been creeping back into my solo material. He played beautiful Turlough O’Carolan tunes, airs, reels and even treated me to “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica), I pretty much just melted into the floor by then!
So! Expect a future recording featuring Shane Taaffe on the harp! I would dearly love to compose a traditional piece myself and record it. This will happen!
Off to pack my school bag and equipment bag for tomorrow, where’s that list I penned up? 🙂
Electronic media broadcasting plays a humble yet imperative role in the music industry: simply bringing music to the masses.
The aim of this blog post is to research and discuss one aspect of music technology of particular personal interest. I have chosen to look deeper into the media side of the music world and discuss one technological aspect of electronic media broadcasting- radio in its analog and digital format, in context of its impact on the music listening consumer and ultimately, the recorded music industry.
Firstly the development of music radio from pirate to Internet and digital broadcasting is explained. This blog also discusses the impact of traditional radio play on record sales, investigating the symbiotic relationship between the two industries. Finally, the subject of the impact of the iPod/MP3 player on the radio industry is raised and discussed.
Introduction; The Beginnings Of Electronic Broadcasting and the Fathers Of Radio.
Electronic broadcasting began in 1881 with telephone broadcasting as a result of the invention of the Théâtrophone (“Theatre Phone”) system. French electrical innovator Clément Ader invented the telephone-based distribution system, which transmitted live opera and theatre performances in stereo over telephone lines to subscribers located more than two miles away.
It developed into a system, which not only played music but also news bulletins and entertainment and was widely popular in Paris until 1932, when the théâtrophone officially succumbed to the rising popularity of radio transmissions and the phonograph.
A similar telephone-distributed audio system called the Electrophone was popular in London from 1895 until 1926. According to an article by British Telephones online (2010), the service was provided in the listener’s home at £5 a year. Alternatively listeners could pay via a coin-in-the-slot machine. Because the electrophone was technically complex with its hard-wired system, radio was called “The Wireless” for many years.
Although no man alone can claim the title of the founding father of radio, it is generally accepted that Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi, Alex Armstrong, Lee deForest, Reginald Fessenden, Edwin Armstrong contributed to the invention and development of radio.
While the theatre telephone communications were popular, radio frequency energy was born as a result of experiments being carried out by Nikola Tesla. Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi built a wireless system capable of transmitting long distance signals and in 1901, the first successful transatlantic communication was conducted.
Fundamental improvements enabling clearer and stronger transmission quality were made slowly to this early radio technology. These included Ernst Alexanderson’s high frequency alternator and Lee deForest’s three-element vacuum tube, called the Audion, which amplified signals and generated oscillations.
On Christmas Eve 1906 Reginald Fessenden made the first AM radio broadcast where he made a short speech and played the first music ever heard on communication equipment. Ships at sea heard a rendition of “O Holy Night” which he played on his violin and a reading from the Bible.
With good quality, wireless long-distance transmission now invented, the radio was ready for commercial broadcasting.
The Development of British Music Radio
The Golden Age of Radio (1920’s to 1950’s)
In the beginning of commercial and public radio, AM (amplitude modulation) broadcasting was the first means of delivering sound on a radio signal.
Independent commercial company, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company,) began its licensed radio services in 1922 and this new way of delivering news bulletins and music was exciting and revolutionary at the time. Andrew explains online that:
In 1920, the idea of plucking a voice or music out of the air from hundreds or even thousands of miles away had a magical quality that is difficult for us to imagine given the technological advances since then. . .Never had anything caught the imagination of the science-oriented youth the way AM/FM radio did. Recently we saw the same type of enthusiasm take hold with the proliferation of personal computers and the Internet. Back then AM/FM radio was just as radical to most people as the computer may have been to the older generation recently. (Andrew, 2012)
Radio became popular quickly and programming became very important. Scottish engineer John Reith became Managing Director of the BBC in 1923 and he proposed the BBC’s mission must be “to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain” (BBC, 2012).
On December 31st 1926 the BBC’s license expired and the company was replaced with a public authority, becoming the British Broadcasting Corporation with the granting of its first 10 year Royal Charter. The BBC continued to broadcast talks, varieties and concerts but it was not allowed transmit news bulletins until after 7pm (after the newspapers of the day had been sold), in an effort to save newspaper sales.
During the 1930’s no other broadcasting organization was licensed in the UK but the BBC did face serious competition from the IBC (International Broadcasting Company) who bought blocks of airtime from radio stations based in mainland Europe. These stations followed the American format of broadcasting which was much more focused on entertainment and commercialism than the BBC.
All of the stations except for Radio Luxembourg, were muted during World War Two and the BBC had to adapt its programming to suit the situation. News bulletins about the war and debates were given priority and classical music was broadcast in the evenings. Anne Frank commented in her diary of the effect of radio music on her when in hiding:
There was a beautiful Mozart concert on the radio from six to seven-fifteen; I especially enjoyed the Kleine Nachtmusik. I can hardly bear to listen to in the kitchen, since beautiful music stirs me to the very depths of my soul. (Frank, 1944 p. 250)
In 1964 rebellion broke out in the radio industry. The BBC held a monopoly on the industry and was not threatened by any competition; therefore it aired whatever it felt appropriate. In doing this it didn’t provide for one particularly important sector of the music loving public – teenagers. One type of music it didn’t playlist was the new, exciting and radical sounds of rock-and-roll. British veteran DJ Johnnie Walker recalls the effect of rock-and-roll on him as a teenager in his autobiography:
The fantastic noise pumping out into the night air showed me a way to break from conformity. It almost hypnotized me with its promises of freedom and self-expression. And I wasn’t the only one. The seed of sixties’ revolution were being sowed right here, through the eager ears and into the minds of young people, with music as the driving force. (Walker, 2007 p. 16)
The only station within the BBC network that provided some popular music was the Light Programme and it aired contemporary music show “Pick of the Pops” only once a week. It’s important to mention here that the Light Programme was the first station to broadcast using FM (frequency modulation) in 1955 and that this new method of broadcasting offered higher sound quality.
Because the demand for rock-and-roll was so great, businessmen set up radio stations in old, converted boats, docked just outside of Britain’s territorial waters (to escape prosecution). These rebel stations made profits from advertising and were hugely popular. Two famous examples are Radio Caroline and Radio London. Interestingly, Radio Caroline was established by Irish entrepreneur, Ronan O’Rahilly in Dundalk’s Greenore port. Caroline played music all day and therefore was a huge hit in both England and Ireland.
Although the pirate stations continued to survive until the nineties, privately owned radio stations obtained licenses to broadcast in the seventies and the number of these commercial stations increased with every decade. The BBC took note of listener’s demands for popular music and adapted their programming to cater for their audience.
FM became the dominant broadcasting method because of its high fidelity and great signal strength, AM broadcasting took a back seat, typically being used for talk and news programming.
The Internet has more recently become an important means of transmitting audio. Internet radio shows are streamed and these are also known as webcasts. These streaming webcasts are like traditional radio because they cannot be paused or replayed and should not be confused with podcasts which are downloaded. Internet shows are usually available to listen to from anywhere in the world.
The very first Internet broadcast took place in 1994 and the first legalized American Internet radio station was created by Edward Lyman which broadcast live on Sonicwave.com 24 hours a day. The sound quality compared to that of AM radio.
The success of Sonicwave.com attracted investment and media attention in the late nineties and Internet radio became very popular. According to an article online, Yahoo! Bought Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion in 1999 (Searls, 2002).
Internet broadcasting is closely linked with traditional radio stations these days, broadcasting their shows in real time via their website and using social media websites to keep in touch with listeners. I recently interviewed local DJ Andy Clarke of LMFM Radio and asked him about the place of social media in today’s radio industry.
I think you’d be stupid not to use the likes of Facebook and Twitter social media now. It used to be, all those years ago, you’d ring the local station and you’d get your request on, you’d get your name on the radio. The texts came along and free texts which is quite handy. But now, I see it myself, you wouldn’t get as many texts as everyone’s now on Facebook . . . it’s instant though which is very, very, very, very good. You can stick up what you’re thinking, you can nearly pre-plan what you’re going to talk about in the next I suppose talk break or link. So if I was thinking “Aw, I’m hungry, what’s good to eat?” I can nearly stick that up on Facebook, it doesn’t go on air, get peoples opinions and then you could air the good comments out of that . . . it’s a lazy prep service for you in a way, but it’s very good to interact with the listeners. . . It’s an extra dimension. (Caffrey, 2012).
Digital audio broadcasting (DAB) is the future of radio broadcasting. It is a new technology and is mainly used in Europe at this point in time. The UK embraced this technology and over 50 BBC services were made available in this format in 2001.
DAB can offer more stations with better reception quality to its listeners that live well within its coverage area and it is more cost efficient than FM. On the flipside, DAB uses digital signal processing which causes an overall delay. This means DAB radios are not in time with live events and can cause a confusing mixture of sound if a user is listening to a broadcast using a combination of analog and digital radios in their house.
Andy Clarke shared his view on DAB in Ireland during my recent interview with him:
I suppose digital in Ireland hasn’t kicked off just yet and it probably won’t do for another year, if not longer. The UK has kicked off and they really are pushing it over there. In Ireland, they did try to do it a couple of years ago and some of the local stations went for it as a trial basis but then, it didn’t seem to be doing anything for them. People aren’t ready yet for digital radio and we still have analog in cars. Very few, well a lot of people would have digital sets, I have a digital set at home but I’m into the scene so, I suppose it’s an interest but a lot of people have yet to buy and it’s going to cost them money to do so, you know. (Caffrey, 2012)
In a world already hooked on the Internet, the digital platform is ideal for the next generation of radio consumption.
The Symbiotic Relationship
In the 1920’s the popularity of radio initially had a negative effect on the music industry, crippling record sales and putting companies out of business. Morton (2000) explains on page 26:
Record companies welcomed the subsequent transfer of electrical technology from radio and motion pictures to the phonograph industry, but hated the effect these two new forms of entertainment had on the record business. Radio was the biggest threat. On the eve of broadcasting’s debut, between 1914 and 1921, record sales had doubled, largely because of sales of popular music. With the inauguration of network radio in the middle 1920s, the market for popular recordings collapsed, resulting in a number of companies leaving the field or changing ownership. (Morton, 2000)
Because record companies wouldn’t allow the broadcasting of pre-recorded material, musicians were brought in to radio stations and performed music live. Radio stations spent huge amounts of money in an effort to better the production of the original record.
This wasn’t the only reason records were not played much on the radio during this time. The BBC employed its own orchestra and these musicians were part of the Musician’s Union who imposed a ‘needle-time restriction’, decreasing the number of minutes recorded music was allowed air weekly. This sustained the need for live musicians providing them with better job security.
It was in the 1930’s that the relationship between recorded music and radio began to improve, this was due to improvements in radio technology, such as devices that acted as gramophones and radios, but more so because the rise of the disc jockey. DJ’s would introduce the song they were playing and give information about the artist and record. Radio stations had to keep a huge supply of records to keep up with the popular artists and this in itself helped keep record sales steady.
Playing the records on air gave free advertising and promotion to artists and record labels and this in turn generated listenership loyalty for the station. Because of this symbiotic relationship, radio stations did not have to pay royalties to artists when their music was played on the air.
When record companies noticed radio play influencing sales, they struck up illegal deals with radio stations and DJ’s called payolas. These illegal deals involved the record company paying for repeated play of the music they wished to sell. The more time a song was repeated on the radio, the more popular it became and the more records it sold.
In his study on the symbiotic relation of the two industries, Stan Liebowitz (2004) argues that this means of practice benefited the promoted artists and took sales away from others.
Why Do People Listen to the Radio?
Radio provides a more personal, intimate and thought provoking experience to the individual than other media outlets. Television combines audio with visual, feeding imagery directly to our minds, so we merely just absorb what the director wants us to absorb. Radio just provides the audio and leaves the imagery making to us, whether a DJ is interviewing a band, plugging a concert, describing the weather, reading the news or talking about the current state of affairs in our daily lives. Radio travels with us easily, we can listen on the move, driving a car, going for a run, even cleaning the house. We can listen and still carry out our lives tasks, whereas when we watch television, we have to give it our 100% undivided attention or risk crashing the car, running onto the wrong side of the road or knocking over that expensive vase!
The relationship the listener has with radio is unlike that with any other media. Radio is almost like a friend. It can be there burbling in the background when you are busy and wherever you are busy but when you get those rare moments alone when you can ease your shoulders just a bit, radio softly turns up its volume inside you and your mind can be transported elsewhere for a few moments while carrying on with your life. (Penwald, 2012)
There are two different types of listening when it comes down to the music consumer tuning in the radio to their favorite station. The first type is listening for pleasure, where the music fan listens in purely for enjoyment, having confidence in their station of choice that will play music they enjoy. According to his paper in 2004:
The fact that individuals spend, on average, almost three hours per day listening to the radio would seem to imply that there is in fact a rather important consumption element in radio listening. (Liebowitz, 2004)
This may be viewed as being harmful to the recorded industry because in this case, radio replaces or substitutes the need for buying the original recording. Why would the casual music fan pay hard-earned cash for a full-length album, when the two or possibly three songs they enjoy most on that particular album are available on the air for free listening?
The second type is listening for purchase, where the music fan listens in to discover new music to add to their personal record collection. Liebowitz calls this the exposure effect and states:
Note that the exposure effect doesn’t necessarily have an impact different than the substitution effect. Learning more about a product prior to purchase may allow consumers to derive great utility from any single purchase. At any given price, however, they may purchase fewer units because they become quickly satisfied. Producers, therefore, may discover that their revenues fall when consumers can better sample the products. (Liebowitz, 2004, p 97)
Obtaining updated and reliable figures to provide evidence for the effect of radio on the music industry in the UK has proven difficult and expensive so I will use Liebowitz’s graph from his paper to demonstrate record sales in US dollars for the first half of the 20th century as seen below.
Is the iPod Killing the Radio?
We’ve seen in my previous paragraphs that music and radio have a positive symbiotic relationship but a new development in music technology is said to threaten the radio industry-the iPod/MP3 player.
Most of us own one of these devices and use it on a daily basis. It’s the control element of the iPod that threatens the radio business- ordinary people can choose the media they wish to consume in a handy, pocket-sized device. Advertisements can be blitzed and undesirable songs can be skipped. This idea of user control must have radio corporates shaking in their boots.
The latest iPod Nano includes a built-in FM receiver which allows the user to pause, and rewind live radio- great for FM and commercial radio but what about DAB? This attribute is a big disadvantage and works against the next chapter of radio history instead of with it. After all, FM radio is expected to be removed by 2015, leaving DAB as the main means of radio consumption.
It’s not easy to tell whether radio has a positive or negative impact on the record industry due to lack of statistics and research. Despite the initial decline in record sales in the 1930’s, record sales have gone strength to strength since. The music industry is currently threatened by a bigger force; illegal file sharing, but this has little to do with the subject at hand.
The future looks bright for radio and music. Radio has ever been the unseen companion to the music listener and with the world consuming social media websites on a daily basis, discussing their favorite music, digital is the obvious path for radio to turn to next. As long as the radio continues to generate positive messages to the public and interact, there is no reason why either industry should be threatened by the digital format.
Liebowitz, S. J, (2004). Record Sales in 1983 Dollars The Elusive Symbiosis: The Impact Of Radio On The Record Industry, EBook PP [online] available: http://www.serci.org/docs/liebowitz.pdf p. 105, illus
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet Books.
Morton, D. (2002). Off the Record: The Technology and Culture of Sound Recording in America. New Jersey: Rugters University Press.
Ala-Fossi, M., Lax, S., O’Neill, B., Jauert, P., Shaw, H. (2008). The Future of Radio is Still Digital-But Which One? Expert Perspectives and Future Scenarios for Radio Media in 2015. Journal of Radio and Audio Media. 15:1, p. 4-25.
Liebowitz, S. J, (2004). Record Sales in 1983 Dollars The Elusive Symbiosis: The Impact Of Radio On The Record Industry, EBook PP [online] available: http://www.serci.org/docs/liebowitz.pdf p. 105, illus.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet Books.
Meisel J, B., Sullivan, T, S. (2002). The Impact of the Internet on the Law and Economics of the Music Industry, Vol. 4 Iss: 2 pp. 16 – 22, Illinois, Department of Economics and Finace, Southern Illinois University, Illimois, USA.