NEWS FROM THE WOODS
By Bob Ketchum
Originally Published March 5, 2010
"The HiTek Redneck Radio Show Is On The Air"
Several months ago I received a "friend request" on Facebook from a Wayne Willams, who discovered we had several music friends in common. I usually use my MySpace page for musician contacts, and prefer to use my Facebook account for friends and family. However, in this particular case I added him and we started a chain of messages relating to our mutual involvement in the entertainment industry. Wayne happens to own the Little Rock Entertainment Agency as well as operates Arkansas Internet Radio, an internet broadcasting facility catering to Arkansas musicians and songwriters. I was intrigued by his mission statement about playing ONLY Arkansas talent. Our email replies got more involved in the discussion of how to attract more national attention to Arkansas songwriters.
When Wayne discovered I was once a DJ he asked me if I missed doing radio. I replied that I was missing "the old days", and that the main thing I missed was the celebrity DJ 60's and 70's, before automation crowded out the "air personality". I missed the days when the DJ could actually play whatever he wanted and wasn't bound to a playlist dictated by a national poll or the Bill Gavin tip sheet. Back then a DJ could "break" a new record into their market, regardless if it was being played anywhere else in the nation. That's how regional breakouts got the attention of the national broadcasters which would then expose it to the national market. By the time I left Fort Smith, personality radio was all but dead, and the only time I ever got into radio again was a brief one-year stint with Ray Miller on KKTZ in Mountain Home when we did the "Ray and Bob or Bob and Ray Radio Show"
I lamented to Wayne how I had been recording original songs by Arkansas musicians and bands here in Mountain Home since about 1973. He asked me how many songs I thought I had in my library. I did a little research and discovered that I had about 500 songs recorded by 45 artists, bands, and songwriters. He was impressed and asked if any of it had been heard. I replied "No" and he was amazed at all this material which was still largely unheard of. He asked me to submit a handful of songs via email in MP3 format and I complied. A few days later I got email from him stating how professional it all sounded and how good the songs themselves were. I said "Yeah, I know. It's really a bummer no one will ever hear this stuff", and he said he would at least give those songs some airtime. I told him I appreciated it and after another week he once again emailed and asked for more original material. He told me that he got positive feedback on the songs on their chat page located on his website.
I was assembling another group of songs to send to him and had an epiphany. On an impulse I went on Facebook and started up a chat with him online. I proposed to send him a one hour commercial free radio show each week, complete with voiceovers. Actually, to tell the truth I was a bit reluctant on several levels, not the least which was that the show might appear to be one giant commercial for Cedar Crest Studio, and I knew at least one of his good clients was a recording studio in Little Rock. Still, I forged ahead as the prospect of not only doing a radio show but getting this music out to be heard by an audience thrilled me. I was a bit surprised when I got back a message almost immediately: "Go For It!"
The first thing I did was dig out some of my old radio bits and DJ promos from years gone by. If I could, I wanted to present a little something more than just an endless string of unknown songs to my audience. I wanted it to appear to be as close to a "real" live radio show as possible. To that end I incorporated a few of my old one-liners with some quick comedy bits. I opened up the very first program with a crazy bit designed to grab everyone's attention. I wrote out a few notes and made sure each and every song got an introduction so my audience would know who it was and what the name of the song was. As for the name of the show I chose to stick with the crazy moniker I chose years ago, The "HiTek Redneck". I wanted my audience to know that the entire premise of the show would be some serious music with a slightly zany approach to entertainment. Not wanting to appear presumptuous and too self-serving, I figured if I could poke fun at myself my audience might go along with it. Besides, it truly fit my old persona of the radio DJ from the 60's and 70's. I used to get into trouble more than once during my show when I would go a little bit over the line, but I knew my audience and liked to keep shaking them up just to keep their interest in the program. I wanted that same "off kilter" edge to my internet broadcast as well.
Show #1 played on the first day of February. To capitalize on the interactive potential of the Internet I let everyone know during the broadcast that I was monitoring the chat room of the AIR website as well as their Facebook page. That way, listeners could ask questions or comment on the playlist. It is a distinct advantage over conventional broadcasting because it's so easy to log on and see what the buzz is. Listeners can make comments back and forth discussing the merits or weaknesses in the music. As the producer of this music I got a real time assessment of my work and what people thought of it. The hour flew by, and with each new song I got a string of comments online. From the listener's perspective it was exactly like a live broadcast, complete with a direct line to the DJ. I was surprised at the complete lack of spam, flamers, and hecklers. Without a single exception, every person logging in either had constructive things to say or made some other kind of positive feedback on the songs and bands. Some of the artists featured on the broadcast were also logged in and a constant dialog of music was being discussed behind the scenes as the show played on. I could tell by glancing at the guest room window how many people were monitoring the chat room. Many of them were "lurking" and did not make a lot of comments while the dialog was between me and some musician chatting about a particular song. Most of it was telling stories and anecdotes about a particular session, which I am sure the lurkers found entertaining and amusing.
The AIR Facebook page was busy as well but not as lively, as the chat room conversation was immediate and completely interactive in real time. With Facebook, a comment was added to their wall and either Wayne or I would respond. He chose not to add too much of himself to the chat room, and preferred for me to hog the room during my broadcast. It worked out very well. For me, the experience was exhilarating. Being able to chat with listeners was a real advantage over the old days of broadcasting. Of course it helped that I had pre-recorded the show as I would have been too busy lining up the next song to spend much time BSing with the listeners. In the old days I would have to lay the phone down during an announcement or song intro and I was limited to two phone lines. In a chat room everyone in "on" and can add comments as fast as the computer can update the window. Technology can be marvelous! The first shows playlist included 12 songs. I tried to mix up the genres a bit with rock (Hamilton/Lambert), jazz (Whiplash Gumbo), blues (Randy Burden Band), reggae (Big Big Freak), and a country cut (Jess McEntire). I spent a lot of time picking the right songs to segue so the music would flow naturally and not be an abrupt change from one track to the next. When I got to the end of a section I came back round to rock again, and so forth. As it happened I played drums on many of those songs, but since I neglected to talk much about that, the audience never knew one cut from the next. To THEM, it was refreshing new material no one had ever heard before. And the fact that it was all from Arkansas artists made it all that much sweeter. Show #1 was a rousing success and Wayne spent no time emailing me with the results of his database. I was amazed to learn that of ALL the listeners logging into the stream, 92% of them listened to the ENTIRE HOUR! Hardly anyone left once they logged on. That was fantastic news! That means "my" bands got a ton of exposure in one single broadcast. I was completely hooked, and Wayne heaped such praise on the show I could hardly wait to produce the next show.
I got to work immediately, and began putting together Show #2. I used music from artists that did not make it to Show #1. I also dug up a little comedy gag or two, and wrote up some copy to promote the new set of songs. It took me less than an hour to produce the next one-hour show. Ah, the advantages of a digital interface! After rendering the show as an MP3 file I uploaded it to Wayne's server. In a message telling me that he had received it okay, he dropped another bombshell on me. He had created a tool bar for Arkansas Internet Radio (although a musician, he's a geek at heart), and when downloaded and installed on my browser, it featured not only a Google search window but an AIR music player right on the bar. By left-clicking on the player I got a menu including my first show! I was stunned! This meant that if anyone missed the original one hour broadcast on Sunday night - if they installed the tool bar they could listen to the stream any time it was convenient to them. This means for each week following my broadcast, the show would be available at any time. He also requested that I write up a paragraph to promo the show, and he pasted the promo text all over the Internet. I found one on my own MySpace page in the "comments" section. He was really promoting my show.
It wasn't until after I ran the second show that I realized he had more surprises in store for me. While working on Show #3 I went to the tool bar and what to my eyes did appear but a custom menu dropped down and now I had my choice of streaming BOTH shows. He didn't take down Show #1 !!! When I asked about it he said as my shows accumulated, each and every show would be available for streaming to the public through the tool bar. The metal image of a years worth of hour long broadcasts containing my entire library of Cedar Crest music made my heart race! I was FINALLY getting some exposure for all my musician friends. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I immediately made up a mailing list of every musician that played on any of these songs in the library and that I had an email address for. Starting with Show #3 I began to send out a single email to the list containing the next show's playlist. That way they could see when their music cut would be scheduled to be broadcast and make plans to log into the chat room if they desired. In addition, if I have any music clips or video clips of a featured artist on the Internet I always add that into my song intro's or outro's. If they have a website I include that as occasionally. I don't want to clutter up the announcing and try to keep my gabbing to a minimum as it is the music that should be the star of the show. I adhere to the KISS theory (Keep It Simple Stupid) and can always include a band's website or MySpace page on the Facebook wall or in the AIR chat room.
On Show #4 I have included an interview with Ron Miller, talking about his career and involvement on the OMC project. This interview served as the intro to "If You Can't Beat 'Em", the title track of the album. I plan to start including more interviews with artists and songwriters in future shows, and will add in an occasional studio jam session, of which I have many great instrumental jam tracks I'd like to share. In the past couple of weeks I have also been getting email for other Arkansas bands wanting to know how they can have their music featured on the HiTek Redneck Radio Show. I hadn't even considered that. My reply is that I intend to fulfill my initial mission statement to expose the studios music library to the public first and foremost, and THEN I will consider salting in cuts not recorded at Cedar Crest. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, which won't be for a few months at the least. I have a lot more music to go before I start worrying about repeating songs. I am so grateful this opportunity came up and very surprised the show has taken off so well from the start. It makes me feel like I am finally getting to share my two loves….. The love of broadcasting and the love of this wonderful original music that I have been a part of. Thanks for listening, Arkansas! No, wait! This is the Internet.. There are no boundaries here….. The entire world can listen. Wow. Hello, World!
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