Technology is making it so people aren’t stuck listening to Steve Miller on the radio. So how come community radio stations are still very far in the shadow of monopolistic “modern rock” stations? —Bryant Liggett, Durango, Colo.
The Internet complements community radio, but at the same time, it unintentionally replaces it. An online station doesn’t need to apply for a license, doesn’t worry about the language used by on-air talent, and for the most part, has no pay-to-play. There are few (if any) commercials, and if a broadcaster is not beholden to a sponsor, it’s free to play whatever it wants. The downside: little to no revenue. Money is scarce for advertising, holiday concerts, and logo-festooned Hummers parked outside of arenas. That might explain the shadow you mention: Money buys visibility.
The Internet allows for 358 stations of neo-Saharan Goa trance for the cost of one FM license. And meanwhile, commercial stations have begun to play “safe” noncommercial music (like mine) under the guise of “the Edge” or some similarly branded entity. Community radio still exists for the community at hand; but these days, what are the boundaries of the community?
Farewell, fine readers. This is the final installment of “Ask Bob.” I hope you’ve enjoyed the columns; it’s been great fun. Stay tuned to bobmould.com for further musings and mutterings. Good night, and good luck.