These days, there are seemingly endless options for entertainment and information at our fingertips. But how much of it is local or independent? There's the internet, sure, but it's not really designed to serve local communities. That's where good old-fashioned terrestrial radio can fill a crucial void.
Unfortunately, due to massive consolidation in commercial station ownership, much of what you hear on your hometown dial is pretty much what you'd hear anywhere in the country: playlists are narrow and homogenized and even the best indie and local acts have almost no chance of reaching the public airwaves.
In the latest issue of Billboard Magazine, reporter Cortney Harding looks at what LPFM in more communities would mean for artists â€” particularly the independent variety. Harding talked to some of our favorite musicians, including Nicole Atkins, Erin McKeown and Indigo Girls, as well as Representative Mike Doyle, who co-introduced the Local Community Radio Act of 2009 in the House of Representatives. The article also features a couple of choice quotes from FMC's very own Policy Director, Michael Bracy.
"There is a real disparity between people who can access the Web and satellite radio and those who can't," musician Erin McKeown says. "There are also a lot of people who listen to the radio in their cars out of habit, and it's easier for them to flip to a new channel than convert to satellite."
McKeown and others who say they owe their careers to small, noncommercial stations are celebrating a recent victory. On Oct. 15, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, which eases requirements on channel separation between low-power and full-power FM stations, paving the way for more LP FMs to appear on the radio dial. The legislation will now go before the House of Representatives for a full floor vote. . .
"Low-power FM is about creating opportunities and forcing the big broadcasters to compete," FMC's Michael Bracy says. "People have a huge desire for these stations. They want to feel like the radio station they are listening to is part of their community."
Local community support is especially important for indie musicians, who have fought without much success for airplay on commercial stations.
"Obviously, one of the best places for any musician to build their following is on a local level," says Amy Ray of Indigo Girls. "Think about the Athens [Ga.], Seattle or Austin music scenes. The bands from these scenes were served by a bastion of independent resources â€” radio stations, record stores and indie media. It's all tied together. If any of these elements start to fall out of the picture, they are all affected."
You need to be a Billboard subscriber to read the whole article, which is available here. Also of interest is this video of a special conversation between Atkins and Rep. Doyle from the 2009 Future of Music Policy Summit. The two talk about LPFM and all sorts of other stuff (including mashup superstar and Doyle homeboy Girl Talk).
It's looking like a full House vote on LPFM will be happening really soon. This is exciting, as it's the farthest the bill has ever gotten. After it passes in the House, the Senate will consider its own version of the legislation. So we're feeling pretty optimistic.
And be sure to check out FMC's "I Support Community Radio" campaign, which features video testimonials from artists like Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady, Saul Williams, David Harrington of Kronos Quartet, Jon Langford of Mekons and Waco Brothers and more.