Thursday, 19 September 2019

RTE Lyric FM: a genius radio station under threat?

Well hello there... my, it's been a long, long time.
How'm I doing? Well, I guess I'm doing fine.

Willie Nelson wrote that song, Funny How Time Slips Away. There are dozens of fine versions. It's a simple, truthful song of enormous quality. Songs like that get better with age. So do some radio stations, when they get the chance to grow into themselves. And so do some people, who blossom over the years. I'll come back to that. I'm working up a podcast series; I'll go into great detail in the next post.

I've used that couplet because I have been quiet of late on this blog. I've been not so much under the weather as comprehensively flattened. It's taken me a while to wrestle myself back upright. So, my apologies if you've been missing any, er, shining thoughts. Now, to the meat of this post...

  Classical Music and the arts on the Radio. Under threat. Again.

Photo: Peter Hopper
I wrapped up a six month consult gig in April this year. The job was to set up the initial library and scheduling database for Bauer Media's new Classical music station, Scala Radio. It was enormous fun; it's work I love to do. What you heard at launch date was pretty much what I had been beavering away on since September 2018.

I would not have got that gig without experience gained twenty years ago with the team at RTE Lyric FM. I worked with them, on and off, for five years from 1998. Now, Scala's project was top secret when I joined. So that made me a good fit, being the only person they could find in the UK with Classical programming chops who wasn't at Radio 3 or Classic FM. I had also worked in New York on the RCS gSelector scheduling engine, and that came in useful too. I wrote the online help there. Since then, of course, it's been much expanded to go with the program's development. And it was a strange thing to look afresh at the work I did in 2009.

Lyric FM 

Of course I didn't know it back in 1998, but the Lyric work opened the Scala door for me. Lyric was the most fun place I ever worked for. There were, and I'm sure there still are, some brilliant, articulate, eloquent broadcasters. The Irish can put their English colleagues to shame with their use of language when so minded. Lyric was bursting with talent and enthusiasm. It's the only music station I worked at where the majority of the staff actually made music. Over its twenty years, Lyric has been garlanded with awards at home and abroad. They run on a shoestring budget. Lyric's funding to awards ratio must be one the most respectable in Europe. But now for the bad news.

A casual remark on an RTE TV show last week suggests that RTE are considering 'cutting' Lyric FM. It's all about costs: RTE are in even deeper financial difficulties than the BBC.

It must have been sickening to learn this information at third hand. There's a part of me that wonders if the mooted decision to 'cut' Lyric FM was helped by geography. Lyric is based in Limerick; Most of RTE in based in Dublin. I know, to my cost, how capital city workers frequently regard work done outside the capital with contempt. In the UK, it happened at Pebble Mill in Birmingham time and time again. In fact, this week, In the Radio Times, John Sergeant bemoaned the fact that sometimes he was forced to travel outside London to do his BBC work. The poor lamb. It must have been frightful. The provinces! I shudder for him.

Time for action?

Be that as it may, the bald fact is that Lyric is under threat. And I encourage you, wherever you are, to sign petitions, tweet and email your support.

Lyric is bold and adventurous. It is also a nursery slope, a training ground and a solid platform for broadcast talent that is out of the ordinary. Lyric champions a wonderful range of music. It is the home for much of RTE's Arts coverage. And it is astonishingly good value. If you haven't done so yet, take a listen here

Here are some links to follow and addresses to contact: both the basic facts and the people who make the decisions. They need to hear from you if you care about adventurous radio.

This link takes you to the facts as reported

Dee Forbes (Director General, RTE)
Richard Bruton (Minister for Communications) 

On Twitter there is a group voicing their opinion: g
o to @RTÉlyricfm 
And use the hashtags: #lyricfmpublicservicebroadcasting #savelyricfm

And sign this petition 

See more radio and broadcasting posts on Radio To Go


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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

BRMB: 45 years ago today, a station came out to play

Sedate? Pah. I was expecting big fun, tidal waves of emotion and mawkish sentiment. Why? Well some of us old originals at BRMB Radio threw a bash last Friday for staff members, to mark the 45th anniversary of the launch date, February 19th 1974. That's today. And the day after Friday's bash...I felt distinctly fragile. 

I'm one of the BRMB originals. They'd hired me the previous November, along with the great John Howard; we were the first jocks on board. John left, quite early, to make his way to Radio 4. I stuck around for twenty years, ten on them on air as, mainly, a rock jock.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

What's The Product? Facebook tricks to consider

I'm not a Facebook fan anymore. But I still check it daily. Others? Some NEED it. Still others USE it - really, really, use it. 

Young users are deserting FacebookI persist, like many grey-hairs: I still want rich, funny, original posts.

I read of milestones and music gigs. I'm in groups for old railways, radio stuff, local history, like that. I'm a nerd, and I don't care.

I use it to announce my milestones, or to plug blog posts like this. If I score a reaction, I get that buzz. Facebook trades on people's neediness; I'm no different. Call me a hypocrite. I still don't care.

Parish-pump Facebook stuff works. But as people shift elsewhere to talk to their pals, Facebook is increasingly about reaching potential punters and markets. Put brutally, we're product. That in itself is interesting.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Have we hit peak Festival? Well, that depends.

If your idea of a Festival is getting hilariously off your face in a stinky mud bath, with hopes of random copping off, your time has probably been and gone. But relax, they don't do that at Moseley anyway...

Do NOT pray for rain. Photo by Alicia Zinn from Pexels
It's been 49 years since Hendrix at Woodstock over there and Dylan at the Isle of White over here: 60s hippy enthusiasm sparking legends and juicy profits. Profits? Woodstock lost an absolute packet because of the rain (there's an ongoing theme here) but they seriously cashed in with the movie and the albums. 

I have it on first-hand authority, by the way, that Woodstock was actually a ghastly ill-conceived and massively overcrowded shit-storm; to which I can add that the Isle of Wight shindig was rather fine, apart from the trek back to the ferry. But since then, things have rather evolved. The big boys moved in.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

That nice radio interview? Upcycle it to video

Platforms for your audio, everywhere

I've had a little play with some new software. I took some audio from a radio show I did a few months ago, and added images and captions. Now I've got a nice video clip. 

The audio is excerpted from a lovely long interview I did with the great guitarist Gordon Giltrap, now based in the West Midlands. The full show is on Brum Radio's listen again page

Gordon tells a terrific story early in the interview; I found myself telling and re-telling it to friends. Gordon tells lots of stories, often in very compelling ways: take in a live show and you'll see what I mean. So I don't want to use too many of them up. But this was an lovely little tale, a nice candidate to embellish. I've put it up in this post, as a YouTube clip, after the jump.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Chris Bowden: new album, rave reviews, a '96 classic reissue, and major hometown gigs. Not bad.

What a difference six months makes - 4,380 little hours...

Half a year ago, I wrapped up a complex two hour documentary, 'The Lost Concert', about alto sax jazz hero Chris Bowden. It's still scoring nice numbers on Brum Radio's listen-again. I built it around an unheard 65 minute live set,  captured by Neil Hillman at the CBSO Centre in 2007. 

Chris's thirty year career has seen amazing highs to go with some desperate lows. He was key to the 90s UK Acid Jazz scene; he helped launch the Heritage Orchestra; he has played with strings of super-influential outfits; he continues to create genre-busting brilliant music.

Now, with a new album, there's been some interesting developments.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Small steps, big success? A new take on crowdfunding

A fledgling Brum publishing house takes a different tack.

Now, a success story. Just under two weeks ago at date of this post, local author JP Watson launched a crowdfunding appeal for his Pound Project. The goal was to hit a modest target, funding printing of a short story and raising funds for a charity that supports new writing. As with many such projects, the more you put in, the sweeter the reward. JP has dreamed up some very attractive options.

Good news: JP met his £500 target in three days flat, and the project is still pulling in funds. Why? because the short story in question comes from the wonderful Paul Murphy, who left us in 2016, having made a huge mark on the cultural life of Birmingham and beyond.

There's lessons to be learned here. I chewed them over with JP last week.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The for-Wards project

40 Wards 10 Districts 10 Composers 40 Community Groups 10 public performances... One person's vision

I'm sitting in Moseley's Maison Mayci with Bobbie-Jane Gardner. Her project, for-Wards, is about to shift up a gear, with tangible (and audible) results. This is an impressive and complex programme which will have generated ten specific works of music, each one inspired and in many ways powered by ten districts in Birmingham.

Bobbie-Jane deserves huge respect for nurturing such a project into life. Long-term, complex projects are always tricky to set up, and it's always tougher than ever to secure enough funding to support the work.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

BRMB Stories: It's half past one in the morning. How are YOU doing?

Don't play 'Misty' on the Late Show. Older readers will get this - or just look it up.

I'm still deep in my archives. Here's another story, ahead of our night of BRMB Radio nostalgia this Thursday 24th at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in King's Heath. More details on that below.

It's the end of the 70s. Punk was pushing Rock dinosaurs out the way; the savviest punk operators (Police, Squeeze, etc.) were already going mainstream. Joining Punk was Two-Tone, straight outta the West Midlands. Coming up on the other flank was Disco. Different strands picked and pulled at what had been solid for ten years. Things were changing. Rock was on the back foot.

Maybe with that in mind, BRMB Radio moved me from evenings to the late shift. Maybe they thought rock was over. Maybe management didn't actually like rock. Maybe they were just sick of me being intense about early Dire Straits. 

Something had to give.

Monday, 14 May 2018

BRMB stories: the night Judas Priest blew up Barbarellas

Priests's last ever gig at Barbarellas: literally a blinder. 

I'm in the mood for stories, ahead of our BRMB night on May 24th. Scroll down for info on that, if you like.

This is a 70s tale of the early years of Judas Priest, and my days as rock jock on the old BRMB Radio.

In 1974, the first album by Judas Priest was released, shortly after BRMB went on air. I flat-out refused to give it airtime. Dug in my heels, very much got on my high horse. Nope, nada. My stance caused some tension with the record company. There were repercussions; I'll come to those in a bit.

Looking back, you have to ask why a rock jock worth his salt would snub a local band that became Heavy Metal standard bearers? Ridiculous, right?

Well, no, not quite. I had my reasons...