Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Radio Wars

Originally, my last post was meant to be a reaction to Chris Dahlen’s Pitchfork feature, “Minnesota Becomes Eclectic.” But I hit a tangent, and ended up writing about something completely different.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I love to criticize Pitchfork. But secretly, I’m addicted to it, and I read it every day. I can straight-out admit, though, that Chris Dahlen’s well-researched article did an excellent job of chronicling an issue that is having a dramatic effect on the Minnesota music scene. I recommend that you read it, if you haven’t already.

If you’re not from Minnesota, you might not know that MPR’s acquisition of St. Olaf’s 89.3 signal was huge news around here. Even bigger news was MPR’s decision to give the new station, The Current, a hip/eclectic/indie/alternative format. The op/ed pages in our local newspapers have been very entertaining. There have been many essays enthusiastically lauding MPR’s daring move. And then there are the rebuttal essays by Radio K/independent radio loyalists accusing MPR of being the Clear Channel of public radio – saturating the market, and forcing the demise of their “competitors.”

The Current is constantly referred to as the “new” radio station. However, there’s not a lot that’s actually new about it. It’s “borrowing” a format that Radio K pioneered over ten years ago, and even the DJs seem very familiar. Indeed, the music directors of The Current were former Radio K music directors, and the DJs came directly from Radio K or the legendary radio station, Rev 105.

We won’t know The Current’s true impact on the market until the other hip radio stations, like Radio K and KFAI, hold their pledge drives. But one thing is obvious; The Current is immensely popular. People who have listened to corporate radio their whole lives are switching over to The Current (which I think is a very positive thing) – they’re learning that Modest Mouse existed before 2004. Cars everywhere (even in the suburbs) have bumper stickers for The Current. My parents listen to The Current!

The Current has also had a noticeable effect on our local music scene. I’ve noticed a lot of new faces at shows. There’s been a surge of interest in local music. High-profile shows have become packed. Good luck getting into an Olympic Hopefuls show if you arrive after 9:00!

I remain a Radio K loyalist. No other station has ever been so ingrained in our music scene. Radio K has set trends for the entire nation, and has made superstars out of my next-door neighbors. And they’ll always have the freedom to experiment and give challenging music a chance. But I’m not entirely anti-The Current. I think The Current has opened a lot of people’s eyes, and has the potential to do a lot of good for our scene. In my last post, I wrote about the dilemma I face when Radio K shuts down their AM signal for the night, and KFAI plays stuff that I don’t understand. Well, now my problem has been solved. I just switch over to 89.3 and everything is OK.


Blogger solace said...

one of the best, well thought out and fair critiques of KCMP that i've read yet, great job.

while i've never listened to Radio K TOO often to be honest (i moved here from Montana in 1999), anytime i have, or do, i do enjoy it. if they had a solid FM signal i would have listened much much more i guarantee it though, i'm just not a big fan of the lo-fi of AM sadly. not their fault, but still. but i agree, KCMP, while they definitely share some artists, they will always be a safer version of college radio, which is often the case for public radio. Radio K will always have a purpose, and will always have an audience and supporters. i can understand the Radio K/KFAI hardcore fans concern, but i honestly don't think they have a lot to be worried about personally.

i agree, while KCMP is far from perfect, it adds tremendously to the already great music scene here. and as you pointed out, anything that drives people away from corporate (shit) radio, the better.

for me, and many of my friends KCMP is not drawing any of us away from KFAI or Radio K, rather, away from our iPods, our CD and Vinyl collections, etc.

growing up in Montana i've never known what it was like to have good radio, and i have to say it's pretty damn cool. i discovered KEXP, KCRW, and WOXY online the last 4-5 years, and always wondered what it would be like to have a local equivalent of those, and know that we do, it's pretty awesome.

hope you're enjoying yourself at SXSW, i'm gonna try and go next year. i would have this year, but i'm going to Europe for a month in May/June.

5:05 PM


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