My name is Robin Valk, and I run Radio To Go.
Because I'm older than the hills, there's really quite a lot to read through on this page. If you want to jump to right now and see my current radio work, go to the blog's Radio page.
If you want to check out some recent voice work, I have samples here.
This blog started life in 2007 as a set of musings on radio. At the end of 2011, I expanded the scope of the blog to cover the UK's West Midlands music and music business as well, and this has proved increasingly popular.
I have worked in music and music radio and, more recently, software and digital media, for (gulp) over half a century.
While at University I helped launch University Radio York in 1968. After graduation, I was offered a job by WPHD-FM in Buffalo, in upstate New York, USA, who felt they could use an English accent on their Progressive Rock FM format. There were very few English broadcasters in the US at the time, and English music of the period, especially Rock, was much more important and relevant to a US youth audience than it is now. I stayed at WPHD for just over a year, during which time the station went to number 1 in the Buffalo market.
Returning to the UK, I joined the new Independent Radio sector, moving to BRMB Radio in Birmingham, again as a Rock DJ, doing my first show on launch night. My DJ stint meant I covered music developments throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s: classic rock, punk rock, Birmingham Heavy Metal, the 2-Tone movement, the great Midlands Reggae bands, and the growth of corporate rock and international megastars in the 80s and 90s.
I did shows for BRMB in all specialist and mainstream formats, and interviewed just about everybody there was to interview. Under my direction, BRMB embarked on a series of recording sessions of local bands, and this helped kick-start the careers of artists like UB40 and Ruby Turner, who got their first airplay on my shows, as did all the 2-Tone bands. There was also close involvement with the CBSO, as, by the 80s, I was also presenting Classical shows. At the end of my time at BRMB, I was Head of Music for two stations, Group Head of Research for all stations in the Midland Radio Group, and an acknowledged Selector expert.
Capital Radio bought the group in 1993, leading to a wholesale loss of jobs. So I formed the Radio To Go partnership (now simply Radio To Go), and started a consultancy. This took me to Bulgaria (FM-plus, Sofia) Scotland (Scot FM, where I set up the database and implemented the very early Master Control), and Sweden (Selector training for the P4 network of local stations).
Back home in Birmingham, I was fantastically lucky to be asked to produce the Radio 2 Overnight shows, 25% of R2's total output, from the old Pebble Mill studios. I stayed for five years. This involved setting up the BBC's first all-digital library and playout system, and quadrupling the overnight listening figures.
When the Radio 2 Overnight shows returned to London, I took on training and database development for RTE Lyric FM, the Limerick-based national Classical Music and Arts station, starting in 1998. This overlapped with more consult work for Swedish Radio, work with a number of European stations, Program Director duties at Riviera Radio in Monte Carlo, and, from late 1999, a ten year stint with RCS, makers of Selector, working from Birmingham, but visiting their White Plains New York head office every three months, writing online help for Selector 15 and, later, GSelector, and producing training videos for RCS products.
While at RCS, I continued UK consult work, retraining the entire programming staff of the UTV regional network of stations in 2007/8, followed by Amazing Radio in Newcastle and the then Coast 106 in Southampton from 2008 to 2010. More recent members of my consult portfolio were the Classical and Folk channels of Magyar Radio, Budapest, Hungary, and Bauer Media outlets Clyde 1 and Forth 1 in Scotland. The total number of station consult clients from 1993 to now is well over 60, across all formats and a range of scheduling and playout systems.
All this has helped make me a pretty experienced Music Radio programmer, with extensive format and market experience. To this I can also bring deep scheduling systems knowledge with global market leader RCS Selector / Master Control and the widely used PSquared AutoTrack Pro / Myriad. I beta-tested Autotrack Pro version 4, and authored a new online help document for PSquared. I'm also a fan of very low-cost scheduling and streaming packages such as Station Playlist, which have significantly lowered the barriers for a host of new, mainly online, operators.
I produced a one-hour documentary, Handsworth Evolution, in 2010 for Birmingham Music Heritage. This was transmitted on several West Midlands stations, and in 2013, aired on PBS Radio in the USA. In 2015, the documentary was picked up by Radio New Zealand for broadcast.
More recent productions include In The Treehouse, and Steve Gibbons in the Studio, and 360 at the Elephant House, to be found on the Radio page on this site, along with more recent work. I am a big supporter of local music talent in my region, and I still believe that local music and local radio can be extremely good for each other.
In 2009-2010, I worked on a music archive programme for the British Library, which sought to capture and document the best new British online music. The first experimental website, the Pilot Project, launched in November 2010. Sadly, funds to take the project further have not been forthcoming.
Radio To Go ebooks launched in 2014, with 'Survivors': 14 portraits of long-standing Midlands musicians, drawn for and updated from posts in this blog. More ebooks are in the pipeline.
I continue to present and produce, with rare Live DJ sorties. For two years since its launch, I produced a string of shows: Live recordings, interviews and in-studio conversations with music, all with local musicians, to air on the excellent internet station Brum Radio. I also set up the programming for non-live hours for the station, working from a fiercely and proudly local music library, built with the enthusiastic help of our area's brilliant musicians.
At the end of 2017 going in to 2018, I also produced two full length documentaries, one on Jazz player Chris Bowden, and the other on folk veteran Gordon Giltrap. Again, these can be found on the Radio page.
Other areas include interview/Q and A sessions (Ranking Roger, Mike Heron, and Catherine O'Flynn, among others) at Moseley Folk Festival.
All my shows are currently available from this blog page. Or feel free to visit the Brum Radio MixCloud page, and search under Robin Valk. There's a lot of interesting (but very Brum-specific) content in there.
In April 2019, I wrapped up a consult contract for Bauer Media, setting up the scheduling database and systems for their new Classical Station, Scala Radio. Scala launched on March 4th. It's the second Classical Station I've had the pleasure to work for, after RTE Lyric FM, building and coding up a large and very complex music database.
My latest project, the Lives in Music podcast, launched on October 6 2019. This now runs to two ten-part series, published weekly, covering musicians and music people who have spent 40 years or more in their field. This means great stories and some very interesting perspectives. Series 3 will follow in Summer 2020, although the Coronavirus lockdown has made dace to face interviews impossible.
My latest Radio project is, again, Classical. I've just wrapped some intensive database work for Radio Classic in Finland, setting up a basic scheduling engine system in GSelector, and cleaning their source database.
Future plans include further documentaries, more live interview sessions, and Series 3 of Lives in Music.
I am based in Birmingham, a great city with a terrific music scene. It's a brilliant place from which to run a national and international client roster. I speak rudimentary German and fluent French.
What a cracking Blog Robin. I'm not from Birmingham, so all I know about BRMB is largely down to Jasper Carrott jokes in the 70's. However, I do know what a great Musical Heritage that Birmingham has and of your reputation.
Well done on a fascinating two parter on BRMB about Steve Broughton (Lunt). I'm sure not too many people knew of what he went on to after City Boy. Those that do, probably only knew about his Cyndi Lauper stint.
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