In a CNN interview recently, David Byrne opens with a remark how he doesn’t listen to radio much anymore. A certified tastemaker as a solo artist after leading the Talking Heads, it seemed funny from a guy who posts his personal playlist on iTunes as Radio David Byrne. I’m a huge fan, but it was just not what I wanted to hear as I’m finding my best source of new music by listening to radio programs online.
I have always been on the musical hunt for something new and American radio has provided me with the soundtrack for every decade of my life. From WPLJ in the ’70s, to WLIR in the ’80s and WHFS in the ’90s and beyond, I’ve tuned into radio frequencies for inspiration. However, right as WHFS was calling it a day, I heard that a station I loved listening to during trips to LA was accessible online. The music producer Nic Hardcourt’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on KCRW was streaming over the internet with new tunes daily. The novel concept of listening live or on demand anytime meant radio could continue to be my salvation, feeding me upcoming bands with tunes for my own personal playlists. With some decent speakers attached to my laptop, I’ve been in new music heaven ever since. I even have copy of Nic’s book Music Lust signed by him during a New York City appearance a few years back, finally having a name for this attraction.
Although the show’s reigns have been passed to Jason Bentley, it still has the classic radio formula that makes it work. Take a knowledgeable DJ who selects and spins the tunes with background on the bands plus any info on upcoming gigs or releases. I still catch it almost daily or archived online, especially enjoying the live sessions. While this fills my essential need for new tunes, I listen to radio shows found more locally on the dial in the New York City area but also online: Alternative Side on WFUV and Next Music on 107.1 The Peak. I am proud to join the NPR stations as a subscriber in support of these stations to ensure their success. Besides opening doors to unknown acts, I can find the bands listed on station websites plus of course Wikipedia has become an incredibly handy database for every group out there.
A friend’s recommendation is still welcome but a DJ is more opt to play something you haven’t heard before. Older songs take us back to a time and place we can instantly revisit but something new is pure ear candy. David Byrne says he probably doesn’t listen to radio much because he doesn’t have a car — I’ve seen him in NYC a few times, once with his bike sitting outside a restaurant (his favorite mode of transportation). I know he’s a great champion of new music from all over the world but you don’t need a car to listen to the radio. Let the term radio expand to the web and indulge in the many offerings that were once just found along a dial.