On the Radio: Poaches and Autonomic Requests

Every other week (more or less) I co-host (with Andy Cimino) a radio program called Music Under the Moon. We play a shifting mix of musics centered on a sort of prog/experimental theme but going well out to world musics, pop, jazz, classical with a good dose of spoken word, including a regular poetry reading.

We’ve been hosting this show for a few years now, but it’s based on an earlier iteration that ran for almost ten years in the 70’s and 80’s, with Mark Mills co-hosting. The station is WCUW, a community radio station broadcasting and streaming Worcester, MA.

So given the number of years we’ve been doing the show you might think we’d seen it all, and yet in last weeks show we saw two new interesting phenomenon: listeners submitting requests through Facebook posts that included the requested song as a YouTube video, and the other thing was that the DJ (me) was following various Facebook comment threads and if it was about music finding a tune and playing it with a link to the thread.

Autonomic Requests

So in the first case, having listeners pull their own request, there’s a subtle change in the dynamic of a request. In the old days someone would call in a request and someone would have to go back to the record library and pull something approximate. It took time, and rarely yielded the right thing.

More recently we’ve been pulling requests from YouTube (where practically every song ever is attached to some sort of video). This is certainly easier, but even still requires an action on the part of the DJ.

By fetching their own request, listeners are participating nearly as equals to the DJ. After all the DJs are playing their tunes electronically (well I am anyway), so playing a request is little more than opening an email an hitting “PLAY.” By increasing the number of requests  the show could transmogrify into a crowd-sourced activity, rather like APP XXX, but tied to a broadcast/web cast radio station.

Poached “Requests”

The other scenario, involves keeping a laptop open to Facebook and Twitter for the show and personal pages. When I noticed people talking about music (as so many friends and subscribers do) I’d go grab something off of YouTube and queue it up to play. I would then  post a message in the comment thread saying we’d be playing that live and streaming in a few minutes. I don’t know if anyone tuned it, but they certainly responded.

Both of these models break down wall between the listeners and the DJ, and further blur the boundary between broadcast and streaming. I believe they point at a new programming model that is not entirely crowd sourced, but not entirely programmed by the DJ. It combines immediacy, improvisation and intentionality into a new way of engaging with the art form of radio.

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