UPDATE: WXPN Presents the 14th Annual NON-COMMvention May 14-16, 2014 at World Café Live in Philadelphia
History of the NON-COMM
NON-COMM 2013: STAYING RELEVANT IN A DIGITAL WORLD
By Dave Chaney
(5/20/13) Beautiful Spring weather here on the banks of the Schuylkill River where the 13th Annual NON-COMMvention just wrapped up a two and a half day hang at Philadelphia's WXPN and World Café Live. 30+ bands played morning to late night showcases with attendance up - particularly with radio - according to founder/producer Dan Reed. Whether you were a grizzled veteran of NON-COMM's past or a newbie, there was plenty to take away this year from public radio's favorite convention.
Growing from about a dozen radio stations at its inception when Dan was at WFPK and TripleARadio.com helped launch the conference in Louisville, the NON-COMM has been instrumental in expanding the number of radio stations that have adopted the music format. Public stations continue to increase their amount of music programming. New Triple A KXT Dallas under PD Mark Abuzzahab has vaulted in the ratings to become one of the fastest rising public music stations. KCSN in suburban Los Angeles, programmed by radio and label veteran Sky Daniels, has garnered major press for high profile artist concert benefits and weekend specialty music shows, not to mention the snagging of former KCRW staffer Nic Harcourt for KCSN's wake-up duties. And it is public music radio that is rolling out impressive new facilities, including state-of-the-art performance lounges. Stations like Radio Milwaukee, KVMR Nevada City-Sacramento, KTBG Kansas City, KDHX St. Louis, and WTMD Baltimore have announced multi-million dollar capital campaigns as they firmly invest in the future. Meanwhile, commercial programmers continue to defect to "the light side"; Veteran KFOG San Francisco PD Dave Benson took the GM post at adventurous non-comm WNRN Charlottesville and former WXRV Boston PD Catie Wilbur recently segued to non-comm WUMB Boston.
Have we mentioned the music? Triple A radio has been way out in front of the explosion of modern "bluegrass rock" by groups such as Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers... all launched at this format.
So with all this positive mojo, the NON-COMM was certainly up for tackling the big issues of the day, like the digital music revolution and the breathless pace of new subscription-based online music services.
WXPN GM Roger LaMay hosted the opening session Thursday morning, "Community Engagement: Connecting Artists With Audience." The panel discussed the ways stations can strategize to connect with their local audience beyond radio and how to work with artists to maximize that experience. We learned about the workings of KUTX's curated Austin Music Map, The Current Minneapolis' robust branding as a local music resource, and WXPN's strong community initiatives such as mega local music platform The Key, the annual XPN Music Film Festival, and XPN's "Musicians on Call" where the station brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of hospital patients. Roger stressed the value of stations building significance as local cultural institutions and urged us to leverage our strength and work with people with common goals. Roger put it succinctly, "prioritize and partner". Panelist WYEP Pittsburgh GM Abby Goldstein added, "Authenticity and honesty are important."
Mobile Devices Make Video Hot Again
TheTop22 blogger, consultant, and former VH1 PD Paul Marsalek moderated a panel titled "Can Video Save The Radio Star?" Paul broke it down, from production and affordable quality equipment to the sometimes squishy details of video and podcast rights and how to monetize video (WFUV sold SXSW video sponsorships). NPR Music's Anya Grundman talked about the success of their "Tiny Desk Concerts" and "Field Recordings" and how they're even experimenting with documentaries. KXT's Mark Abuzzahab said, "Think of your video (with station banner prominently displayed) as one big ad for the radio station" and said he "wasn't obsessing over views any more than ratings" but did caution about clutter. KXT Dallas, KEXP Seattle and WNRN Charlottesville all do well by their own YouTube channels but be aware that once that video goes up, your station has little control over YouTube's pop-up ads. Some stations like KXT are blessed with their own video production staffs thanks to sister public TV stations. WFUV New York PD Rita Houston praised her Fordham University video department. Everyone agreed videos that "stand out" and uniquely brand the station are crucial.
A separate concurrent "Community Radio Roundtable" moderated by WMNF Tampa PD Randy Wynne took place during the video session.
Next up on Friday morning was the "NON-COMMversation With Don Was" with Dan Reed. The crowd enjoyed the music biz stories by the veteran producer and current Blue Note Records president, his wild tales of working with Keith Richards and Bob Dylan, among others.
Digital Music Mania
WXPN GM Bruce Warren hosted "The New Art of The Add" in the afternoon, a session that reviewed the usefulness of old school "Going For Adds" dates in this "horse-outta-the-gate" hyper digital music era. Consensus opinion in the room was that the add dates had merit as project guidelines for in-synch proper artist rollout and label "diplomacy". The panel included WNRN PD Dave Benson and introduced us to Kendall Stewart, who just graduated from Emerson College and WERS Boston and has joined WXRV (The River) Boston. With all the multi-platforms and separate moving parts, PD Jim McGuinn of The Current wrestled with the question, "How much should the station Web site be congruent with what goes on the radio?" The session also discussed label hype and leveraging points, music delivery preference (CD barely over digital file because "I can find it easier"), and agreed on the need to work together to break artists for the benefit of the station and, ultimately, the listeners. Bruce reminded us to "build more hits with the records we add" and to "listen to the market".
The final session of the NON-COMM, the annual Music Meeting, was hosted by Sean Coakley and Melanie Shrawder of Songlines in front of the typical rowdy Music Meeting crowd. The audience voted on new advance songs, giving the new Mavis Staples (again produced by Jeff Tweedy) and the new Preservation Hall Jazz Band album (produced by Jim James) a thumbs-up, and the same for the new one by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. The crowd wasn't so sure, however, on the new John Murry (William Faulkner's grandson); Dan Reed called it his favorite album of the year so far. The room dug a new Buddy Miller-produced Wood Brothers song with mostly positive but split reaction to new tracks by Daughn Gibson, Mayer Hawthorne, Camera Obscura, French artist Lou Doillon, JohnnySwim (live!), Kelis, The Unlikely Candidates, and Bell X 1.
NON-COMM live music favorites: Mavis Staples, Kurt Vile (acoustic), Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Phoenix, David Wax Museum, The Lone Bellow, Kopecky Family Band, Laura Mvula, Robert Randolph, Wild Belle, Della Mae, and The Olms, to namecheck but a few. Many of the showcases aired live on WXPN and NPR.
We all have an idea of what it takes to pull off a production like the NON-COMM. And how easy it is for things to go south! Hats off, again to Dan, Roger LaMay, Bruce Warren, Mike Vasillkos, Tess Coffey, Ellen Oplinger, Paul Severin and the professional WXPN crew and the many volunteers for making us all feel so welcome - and for fostering goodwill and creativity at lucky NON-COMMvention number 13!
Watch videos of music showcases from 2013 NON-COMM at TheTop22 and WXPN.
2013 NON-COMM SCHEDULE:
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15
4 – 6:45 p.m. Opening Night Cocktail Party Sponsored by Rounder Records and Nonesuch Records Della Mae and Sam Beam of Iron & Wine
7 – 7:25 p.m. Gabriel Kelley
8:10 – 8:35 p.m. John Murry
9:25 – 9:55 p.m. Kurt Vile & the Violators
10:50 – 11:20 p.m. Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
7:30 – 8:10 p.m. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
8:40 – 9:20 p.m. Tom Tom Club
10:00 – 10 :45 p.m. Phoenix
THURSDAY, MAY 16
10:30 – 11:45 a.m. – Meeting (Upstairs) AAA Non-COMM Community Engagement: The Strategic Difference
12 – 2 p.m. Free At Noon Concert: Mississippi Blues Project – Homemade Jamz Blues Band/Super Chikan
2:15 – 3: 15 p.m. Meetings Breakout Sessions: Can Video Kill The Radio Star? (upstairs); Community Radio Roundtable (WXPN's Curren Conference Room)
3:30 – 4:00 p.m. – Music: Josh Ritter (Upstairs; radio/industry ONLY)
7 – 7:20 p.m. Mt. Moriah
8 – 8:20 p.m. Wild Belle
9:10 – 9:40 p.m. The Last Bison
10:20 – 10:55 p.m. David Wax Museum
11:50 -12:20 a.m. Foxygen
7:25 – 7:55 p.m. Mavis Staples
8:25 – 9:05 p.m. Tom Jones
9:45 – 10:15 p.m. José James
11 – 11:45 a.m. Robert Randolph
Late Night Lounge
12:25 – 12:45 a.m. Jason Isbell
12:50 – 1:10 a.m. Jay Farrar
1:15 – 1:35 a.m. Josh Rouse
FRIDAY, MAY 17
10:30 – 11:45 a.m. – Meeting (Upstairs)- The NON-COMMversation with Don Was
12 – 1:00 p.m. Free At Noon Concert: The Fabulous Thunderbirds/Bobby Long
1:15 – 2:15 p.m. – Meeting (Upstairs) The New Art of the Add
2:30 – 4 p.m. Meeting (Upstairs) The Music Meeting with Sean Coakley of Songlines
7 – 7:25 p.m. Wild Feathers
8:05 – 8:35 p.m. The Lone Bellow
9:15 – 9:45 p.m. Kopecky Family Band
10:35 – 11:05 p.m. Marie Miller
7:30 - 8 p.m. Laura Mvula
8:40 – 9:10 p.m. Free Energy
9:50 – 10:30 p.m. The Olms featuring Pete Yorn
11:10 – 12:00 a.m. The Relatives
TripleARadio.com Archive: 2012
SOLID TURN-OUT FOR WXPN'S 12TH ANNUAL NON-COMM
Consensus: "Local" remains radio's ace
Speaker Bob Lefsetz and NON-COMM founder/producer Dan Reed
(Photo by Sean Coakley)
By KUT Austin MD Jeff McCord
(5/21/12) After last year's detour to nearby Wilmington DE, the NON-COMMvention returned to home base, the world-class facilities of Philadelphia's WXPN/World Café, for the 12th annual gathering of industry professionals.
And optimism was in the air. More stations, promoters and label personnel were in attendance than the previous year, and programmers networked while labels paraded their new acts. Topics like last year's discussion of the potential loss of federal funding to public broadcasting were off the table (though the threat has hardly subsided), and though the economy has been slow to recover, the meeting's atmosphere was largely devoid of doom and gloom. Even Wilmington's previous rain-soaked environs gave way to beautiful Philly weather.
"Think like an app"
After a pre- NON-COMM concert Wednesday night from Grace Potter (who replaced a canceled Paul Weller), Media Mechanics' Paul Marszalek again kicked things off on Thursday morning with "The Digital State of the Union". Paul can always be counted on for sobering statistics, and this year's presentation was no exception. He began with a quote from an army general - "if you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" – and went from there. Exciting new opportunities were discussed, and yet, Marszalek stated he felt the ever-growing array of digital music options had saturated consumers and tilted the pendulum back towards the curated sounds of non-comm stations. He cautioned that the days of huge multipurpose web sites were numbered. Do one thing well, he advised. "Think like an app."
Joseph Arthur and Citizen Cope kicked off the music portion of the event with well-attended noontime sets, followed by what was easily the oddest moment of this years meeting: a strange and rambling interview conducted by Dan Reed (NON-COMM's founder/director and WXPN's music director) with the controversial Bob Lefsetz (of The Lefsetz Letter). Lefsetz set off immediately, and his interview quickly became more of a monologue. His acerbic and highly confrontational tone did not do much to help him get his point across.
Two musician interviews hosted by World Café's David Dye followed, the first with a taciturn Joe Jackson (though his Ellington tribute sounded interesting), the second with a more open Dr. John, which featured a film of the Doctor escorting Dye through the less traveled parts of the Big Easy (including the very modest graves of greats like Buddy Bolden). Dr. John held forth in his languid way of speaking, almost lounging in his chair. On his recent collaboration with Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), he offered this nugget: "If you ain't open minded, you can't reach for somethin'."
The War on Drugs
Thursday night's music lineup was solid, the best of the two nights of music, from the animated rock of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman and his band Father John Misty, to the quietly enchanting return of Beth Orton. Soul singer Lee Fields scorched the stage, while former schoolteacher JD McPherson showed what has led to his runaway success. Polica got people's feet moving. But the best music of the night was the expansive pop of Philly native sons The War on Drugs, whose almost-spoken narratives were delivered over driving and glorious guitar sonics. They just might have played the most original set of the event.
"Widening Your Circle of Influence/Local, Local, Local"
Already bleary but happy attendees (including the former night's bedraggled karaoke contestants) made their way back to WXPN for Friday's kickoff, a panel moderated by XPN PD Bruce Warren titled "Widening Your Circle of Influence". Warren assembled a team to discuss where radio turns to find the person to give them the answer they want when it comes to delivering artist talent. Gone are the days of one label person holding the reins, and a diverse cast discussed the many choices available, from management to publicity to contacting the artists directly. Essentially the panel all emphasized the same thing: be flexible, and don't approach things with a since of entitlement. An engaging John Wesley Harding might have summed it up best with this statement: "You'd be surprised who will play with you if you're not a twat."
The packed lunchtime session, live on XPN, was star-laden. Up first, a visibly sleepy Willie Nelson, who still was effortlessly Willie but let his son Lukas command most of the attention. After that, Brandi Carlile held the rapt focus of her fans, while Norah Jones stylishly displayed her new band and songs co-written with Danger Mouse.
"Competition, Partners or Both"
The two scheduled afternoon sessions, "Competition, Partners or Both" and "Local, Local, Local" were rolled into one session featuring Anya Grundman from NPR Music, PRX's John Barth and WTMD GM Steve Yasko. As expected, it was difficult to cover so much ground, so they emphasized the former topic. The panel each discussed their ongoing projects and spoke of the ways they collaborate. Or don't. Audience interaction helped pull in the local angle, which everyone agreed was the one way to make you stand out.
Another interview subject who has been no stranger to controversy, John Mayer, was up next, interviewed by David Dye.
On the music front that night there were a couple of last-minute cancelations (Dry the River and Rebecca Ferguson – Megan Reilly took her place) but there was still a lot to choose from, including Diego Garcia, rave-up soul from JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, energetic 70s bombast from Zeus, and an otherworldly performance by the Walkmen.
The traditional music meeting kicked off Saturday morning, hosted, as always, by Songlines' Sean Coakley, and featured a wide array of upcoming new releases:
Royal Teeth "Wild"
The Tallest Man On Earth "1904"
Rodney Crowell (w/ Norah Jones) "If The Law Don’t Want You" (from a winning collaboration of songs he wrote with Mary Karr)
Joss Stone "While You're Looking Out Looking For Sugar"
Ben Gibbard (w/ Aimee Mann) "Bigger Than Love"
The Heavy "What Makes a Good Man"
Passenger "Let Her Go"
Marc Scibilia "How Bad We Need Each Other"
Field Report "Fergus Falls"
Husky "History's Door"
Wanderlust "Lou Reed"
Coakley enjoyed the wildly divergent opinions on almost every song, a testament to the generational divides between programmers (and listeners) in our format.
A Saturday afternoon outdoor concert broadcast live on XPN followed (Rufus Wainwright headlined, the other acts were Dex Romweber, Sons of Fathers, Elle King and Nick Waterhouse). The show was situated in a park just across the road from XPN, where families spread out blankets on grass that was until very recently the home of an unsightly parking lot.
And then, it was done. By late afternoon, we all were on our way back to our jobs, happy to have shared each other's company and a lot of great ideas and music.
Congrats to the WXPN team of Dan Reed, David Dye, Bruce Warren, Roger LaMay and Mike Vasilikos. They showed us all a good time once again.
TripleARadio.com Archive: 2011
11TH ANNUAL NON-COMMVENTION CLOSES IN WILMINGTON
Event unveils second WXPN/World Café Live venue in remodeled movie palace
World Café Live Wilmington-style, in the historic Queen Theater
By Dave Chaney
(5/23/11) Over 60 Triple A radio music stations along with labels, managers, indie music promoters and media marketing-types made the trek over the weekend to The 11th Annual NON-COMMvention Thursday through Saturday, May 19-21, at a brand new location this year, in Wilmington, Delaware. The annual WXPN Philadelphia-sponsored event celebrated the grand opening of the second regional World Café Live, Live at the Queen, in a beautifully renovated historic old movie house that is the centerpiece of downtown Wilmington's cultural urban renewal plans.
Considering budgets in this economy, the non-comm radio community was well represented with multiple attendees from NPR and WFUV New York, of course Philly's 'XPN, WTMD Baltimore, KCMP/The Current Minneapolis, WYEP Pittsburgh, WFPK Louisville, WJCU Cleveland, WCBE Columbus, WYMS/Radio Milwaukee, WRUR Rochester, WNRN Charlottesville, KUT Austin, KXCI Tucson and Maine Public Radio, among plenty of others. Commercial WRLT Nashville and WCNR Charlottesville were also there.
Ya Got An App For That?
The conference featured three days of networking, live music showcases - shared with enthusiastic WXPN listeners - and daytime business panels: Media Mechanics consultant Paul Marsalek's opening session on multimedia platforms and social media - with assist from KCMP/The Current PD Jim McGuinn, WFHB Bloomington PD Jim Manion's community radio breakout, WFUV MD Rita Houston's panel on artist interview technique, WXPN PD Bruce Warren's session on old school label war stories, and WXPN GM Roger LaMay's discussion on music and public radio funding. Other highlight's included NON-COMMvention founder/producer Dan Reed's keynote interview with artist/label manager and radio station owner Cliff Burnstein and World Café host David Dye's chat with Robbie Robertson. Guest panelists Greg Kot and Jim Derogatis of the popular syndicated rock/talk public radio show Sound Opinions lit up the joint with non-stop zingers ("Rick Rubin ruined Adele!") at their first NON-COMM Music Meeting.
THE MUSIC MEETING (*songs listed in order of appearance not ranking)
1. Blind Pilot "We Are the Tide"
2. The Jayhawks "She Walks In So Many Ways"
3. Motopony "King of Diamonds"
4. Bon Iver "Calgary"
5. The Bewitched Hands "Happy With You"
6. Gillian Welch "Scarlet Town"
7. Gary Clark Jr. "Bright Lights"
8. Vetiver "Wonder Why"
9. Theophilus London "Wine and Chocolates"
10. The Heavenly States "Berlin Wall"
11. Dionne Bromfield "Yeah Right"
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. "Simple Girl"
Ladies and Gentlemen...
On the World Café Live upstairs and downstairs stages: The Blind Boys of Alabama, Keb' Mo', Raphael Saadiq, Givers, The Civil Wars, Cave Singers, New Sweden, Ben Harper, Justin Townes Earle, Thurston Moore, Matt Nathanson, Rebecca Pidgeon, Todd Snider, The Head and the Heart, Sean Rowe, The White Buffalo, Dylan LeBlanc, Bright Eyes, The Jayhawks, Junip, Over The Rhine, Sarah Jarosz, James McCartney, the Sam Roberts Band, G. Love and John Popper and The Duskray Troubadours. Radio programmer consensus on exceptional performances swirled around Raphael Saadiq, Givers, The Head And The Heart, Bright Eyes, Junip, Sam Roberts Band and The Civil Wars!
No problem with the new venue. The organization of the 'XPN staff and volunteers seemed flawless. (Even if Raphael Saadiq did almost blow it and show up at the wrong World Cafe Live!) Congrats to Roger LaMay, Dan Reed, Bruce Warren, Tess Coffey, Ellen Oplinger, Paul Severin and Hal Real and his crew on a super job. Roger announced that next year's 12th Annual NON-COMM will return to Philadelphia.
While many but definitely not all commercial Triple A and Alternative radio stations struggle to remain relevant in this fast-moving multimedia era, often burdened by stagnated corporate playlists and clunky spot-sets, non-comm Triple A is live, local and "commercial-free"... and apparently on a roll. Arbitron reports that the total shares of 11 top non-commercial Triple A stations measured by PPM have risen 30 percent since October. All the while, non-comm has become the near-exclusive radio home of the steady rising Indie Rock genre, now celebrating mainstream success with bands like Arcade Fire (Grammy Album of the Year!), Mumford & Sons, The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes.
TripleARadio.com Archive: 2010
WXPN PHILADELPHIA HOSTS 10TH ANNUAL "NON-COMM": A DECADE OF STEADY GROWTH FOR TRIPLE A
By Dave Chaney
THE RISE OF NON-COMMERCIAL TRIPLE A
(6/8/10) You've come a long way, baby. It seems like it was just yesterday when Dan Reed was getting good-natured grief for repeat bookings of some local band called My Morning Jacket at a fledgling little eclectic gathering of non-commercial music stations in Louisville. The Alternative format was fading. Non-commercial radio stations were flipping their jazz, classical, and news formats to Triple A in increasing numbers. Fast forward to 2010 and a whole new blogosphere. You know the success story of MMJ, Dan is entrenched on top market 'XPN as OM/MD, and his NON-COMMvention - now better known simply as "the NON-COMM" - celebrates ten years of nurturing and networking community music radio with its burgeoning modern platforms. While the economy has been an obvious challenge in recent years, the convention – like the format overall – continues to prosper.
Particularly in comparison to our commercial radio counterparts, who've recently witnessed a nasty convergence of recession corporate downsizing coupled with competition from the internet and digital revolution. Once quality stations reduced to Pandora with station liners. Glorified jukeboxes with no local content. Not that there aren't well-branded commercial Triple A's still around that are adventurous and community-oriented. There most definitely are. WXRT, WRXP, KFOG, WXRV, KBCO, WRLT, KPIG, WNCS, WRNR, KBAC, WRSI, WMMM, WCNR, WEHM, and WMVY, to name a few.
It is non-comm though that has truly emerged as the new player for most of the country in the past decade for contemporary music radio and indie rock, becoming a serious contender in key markets like Philadelphia (WXPN), New York (WFUV), Los Angeles (KCRW), Boston (WUMB), Minneapolis (KCMP The Current), Milwaukee (WYMS Radio Milwaukee), Seattle (KEXP), Pittsburgh (WYEP), Baltimore (WTMD), Cleveland (WJCU), Salt Lake City (KRCL), Austin (KUT), Tucson (KXCI), Cincinnati (WNKU), Akron-Canton (WAPS), Kansas City (KTBG), Columbus (WCBE), and Asheville (WNCW), among others - and new this year, Dallas (KXT) and L.A.'s San Fernando Valley (KCSN).
Veteran programmer and Concord Music Group Sr. Director/National Promotion Dave Einstein told proqb, a publication of this year's media sponsor FMBQ, that "the non-commercial end of the dial has grown in audience and impact. This convention has grown due to Dan Reed's passion to have a convention that dealt with the issues of the non-commercial broadcasting community. It's like a family gathering."
A measure of the success of the NON-COMMvention last weekend (June 3-5) has to be that even in this tough economy with limited resources, programmers traveled from as far as Kauai, Hawaii (KKCR)! It was good to see KXT Dallas Music Coordinator/AM host Gini Mascorro make it to her first NON-COMM. Some commercial AAA programmers attended as well, including KFOG San Francisco APD/MD Kelly Ransford, PD Ira Gordon of KBAC Santa Fe and KMTN Jackson WY PD/MD Mark "Fish" Fishman. Kudos to Atlantic Records' Brian Corona who won the much-hallowed "NON-COMM 1st Annual Best Mustache" award, which with any luck, will not remain a tradition! Runner-up? Of course, WNTI Hackettstown NJ PD/MD Spider Glenn! 2010 NON-COMMvention Photos by Songlines Music
The music showcases were solid and frequently funky on the stages of 'XPN and World Café Live: The Constellations, Amy Correia, the legendary Judy Collins, Retribution Gospel Choir, Alberta Cross, Gaslight Anthem, Philly's own Dr. Dog, The Secret Sisters, Bobby Long, Minus The Bear, Carolina Chocolate drops, Martin Sexton, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, The Rescues, Gin Wigmore, Nathaniel Rateliff, Cyndi Lauper, The Mynabirds, Ike Reilly, Robert Francis, John Legend & The Roots (local heroes rocked the house down!), Mayer Hawthorne, Trombone Shorty, Graham Parker, The National, and the late pleasant surprise addition of Chrissie Hynde's new side project JP, Chrissie & The Fairground Boys!
The conference opened Thursday morning with a "One-On-One with Sub Pop Records' Jon Ponemon and Dan Reed," followed by a Q&A with the innovative label founder.
The following meeting was the "Public Radio Listeners' Media Habits & Usage in 2010 – The PRPD Tech Survey II," where Fred Jacob's polling confirms that people do indeed go where they know, leaving Pandora as the only clear winner so far in internet radio. The survey revealed that satellite radio has apparently peaked - stats have it trending downward. One takeaway from the meeting was that stations need to make it obvious for people to listen online. "Make the 'Listen Here' button easy to find." And regularly give your listeners video and special content on the station site.
Friday's first meeting was titled, "Add Date, What Add Date?" moderated by WXPN AGM/PD Bruce Warren, who has helped coordinate meetings at the NON-COMM nearly since its inception. The meeting was a follow-up on a similar theme discussed last year as the constant availability of digital music available online renders "Add Dates" silly. The general consensus (at least from radio!) was that the listings can still serve a basic "guidepost" but are not especially relevant any longer.
In Friday afternoon's "Going Social With Your Fans," moderated by Bruce, the importance and value of maintaining continuous communication with listeners - and potential listeners – via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter was underscored and dissected. NPR Music's Bob Boilen said, "With social media you give people a chance to tell their story and then spread their story comments as content (on your site)." Panelist KCMP/The Current Minneapolis PD Jim McGuinn summed it up well, "Further the engagement by deepening the relationship with your listener through social media." The social networking meeting ran concurrent with a "Community Radio Roundtable," moderated by WFHB Bloomington PD/MD Jim Manion. The group covered topics unique to "block formatted" music/info community radio stations that play a substantial amount of AAA and Americana roots programming.
The "Music Meeting" wrapped up the conference on Saturday. Together with WXPN listeners, the lively conference crowd sounded off on new tracks debuted by host Sean Coakley of Songlines. WNTI's Spider commented afterwards, "The new blood in the format and their opinions (at the Music Meeting) with their fresh ears and eagerness to be involved seem to keep the grizzled veterans from becoming jaded."
'10 NON-COMM Music Meeting:
THE WEEPIES "I Was Made for Sunny Days" (Nettwerk)
PONDEROSA "Old Gin Road" (New West)
JUNIP "Always" (Mute)
RA RA RIOT "Boy" (Barsuk)
LOS LOBOS "Burn It Down" (Shout! Factory)
JESCA HOOP "Four Dreams" (Vanguard)
BEN GLOVER "Monument Green" (Mr. Jones Productions)
LOST IN THE TREES "Song For a Painter" (Anti)
SAHARA SMITH "The Real Thing" (Playing in Traffic/RED)
ROBERT PLANT "Angel Dance" (Rounder)
MOBY "Gone to Sleep" (Mute)
HEART "Hey You" (Legacy)
TRIBUTE TO MIKE
In summarizing the event, I have to mention the late Mike Lyons, who spent years doing just that for us here at TripleARadio.com. His role at NON-COMM in relentlessly supporting and mentoring broadcasters was big. As Dan Reed eulogized in the official NON-COMM Program, "Mike was a genuinely nice guy, a very kind individual who really cared about this format and the people in it." We miss 'em. Mike more than got it when it came to understanding the shifts and trends. Turns out his forecasts in his regular media column The Forest were spot on.
Just before the '08 NON-COMM, his last before he passed away last summer from cancer, Mike wrote "The only stations that still provide a music service that's still compelling are stations like AAA. And the non-commercial AAA stations that will convene in Philadelphia later this month are way ahead of the curve, because they have a format constructed without the old five-minute ad clusters that are the true death of music radio today. It's hard for boomers like me to stay tuned to a station through another spot cluster. I'm rarely convinced that there is something worthwhile on the other side of it. Generations X and Y don't even consider it. They're gone."
And Mike was always impressed with the WXPN management triumvirate of LaMay, Warren and Reed. Which has since expanded to include AMD Mike Vasilikos, the young and talented former PD of WTMD Baltimore who arrived at 'XPN almost two years ago and has been a perfect fit.
"THE BEST ONE YET"
So, congrats to Dan and Bruce on the wrap of number ten! A milestone. The hang was casual, informative, and incidentally the most affordable (low registration with campus housing) of any convention (hello Boulder?!). By the close of the convention Saturday afternoon, few could disagree with Dan's proclamation that "this NON-COMM has been the best one yet." We owe our thanks to the hardworking WXPN and World Café Live staffs, management and volunteers for hosting the three-day affair without a hitch. And let's not forget Stacy Owen and the WFPK Louisville crew who originally produced and hosted the NON-COMMvention in its early years. They laid the groundwork for the coolest radio convention ever. May the show go on. See ya next year for #11! ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
History of the NON-COMM
WXPN Philadelphia OM/MD Dan Reed is founder and producer of the annual NON-COMMvention, launched in Louisville (see below) in 2001 when Dan was at WFPK. TripleARadio.com co-sponsored the NON-COMM with WFPK from 2002-2007. The late TripleARadio.com columnist Mike Lyons gave the annual State Of The Format address. In 2008, the event moved permanently to Philadelphia and WXPN, excepting a one-off 2011 NON-COMM in Wilmington hosted by a new second World Café Live venue. The gathering has grown to become the premier annual conference for North America's non-commercial Triple A radio. Originally created as an alternative to the annual commercial Triple A radio convention in Boulder, the NON-COMM now hosts numerous adventurous commercial Triple A stations as well. The focus of the NON-COMMvention is on networking, informative panels, and cutting-edge music showcases.
LOUISVILLE, THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
By the late Mike Lyons, TripleARadio.com Contributing Editor/The Forest
"Hold this" asked singer-songwriter Tift Merritt.
"As you wish," I suavely replied, witnessing the lightning search for a capo in her purse. Which I was now holding.
I had been simply walking around the riverboat Dixie Belle on the Ohio River at the second NON-COMMvention when Tift and I ran into one another in a small room near the bow of the Belle.
Tift was to perform for the programmers on the boat and was rapidly trying to get herself prepared when she ran into me.
After I helped her dig the capo out of her purse, she thanked me graciously and then knocked out a terrific 20-minute set.
Her first ever performance done while bobbing up and down on a boat in the water. She nailed it.
That was how I spent my first two hours in Louisville.
Two hours just wasn't enough for Gerry Weston and Dan Reed however. Especially at a radio convention.
Dan was the PD of WFPK. Gerry was the head of the Public Radio Partnership, a homegrown Louisville operation that ran the three non-commercial FM's in the city.
WFPL-FM was the NPR/All-News station.
WUOL was your classical station.
And WFPK was one of the best non-commercial AAA stations in the country.
But when the radio programming and trade conventions were held - the non-comm's were only slated perhaps a single two-hour panel discussion at best.
It was almost as though the increasingly successful and booming non-commercial portion of the radio business was an afterthought.
It was. To the old guard and the old habits of the radio business.
So, in 2001, Gerry and Dan established the NON-COMMvention in Louisville, to be held every May. Triplearadio.com would come on board as a co-sponsor immediately.
This would be an opportunity not only for the music programmers to see and hear work by new and established artists, it would enable people to exchange stories about their funding, equipment, legal matters and trends in the field of non-commercial broadcasting.
And it didn't have to be crammed into two hours on the last day of the Boulder AAA Summit.
The first NON-COMM in 2001 attracted just over 100 folks. It then increased dramatically during the next five years until it peaked at over 600 when the convention took place in Philadelphia in 2005. By then Dan Reed had become the MD/APD of AAA non-comm leader WXPN, the home of the successful syndicated AAA program "The World Cafe".
Now, the NON-COMMvention will move permanently to Philadelphia starting in May 2008.
Before we go - let me gather some memories of my annual trips to Louisville:
"I'M SORRY BUT WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP!!!"
Those were the words of, then newcomer, Norah Jones when the registration for the convention was, unfortunately one year, set up in the bar of the Seelbach Hotel concurrent with her debut performance on the Seelbach bar stage.
My god, you know how loud radio and record people can become, especially when reuniting for the first time in a year for many. Jones' soft, contemplative ballads simply weren't in sync with that social roar.
But after letting off her young steam, she dazzled the crowd.
And made me a fan of hers forever.
The most charming rush of a performance came the next year when Glenn Tilbrook of the Squeeze simply went unhinged while performing his solo songs and tunes from the Squeeze catalog while dancing joyously, guitar in hand, the spirit just flowing out. Pulling mussels from a shell, sure, but Tilbrook pulled us up and down 4th Street that afternoon across from the Brown Hotel delivering one of the best, unexpected surprises I ever experienced at a convention.
Then there were the revelations. Unknowns who impressed immediately. From Tift Merritt to Mindy Smith to Nellie McKay to this year's "who is that?" girl, Ingrid Michaelson.
Oh, and then there was Keller Williams, who opened with Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" this year, Patti Smith, T-Bone Burnett and Patty Griffin's little poocher scrambling into my hotel room.
Woof. I've had a great time with the talent in Louisville.
On the other, business, side of the coin, the news was remarkable.
After starting slowly, more and more general managers were showing up, talking capitol campaigns and new underwriting sources. This year, it was the new Internet Royalty rates, which may yield more good news for non-comm radio soon.
Weston and Reed had been on the right track. Listening to non-commercial radio in America doubled between 1994 and 2004. Fund-drives started to become shorter and more effective every year. Rotations tightened, tempo became more important and by 2004, led by the major market signals at WXPN in Philadelphia, WYEP in Pittsburgh and WFUV in New York City, AAA Non-commercial radio stations had developed a more flowing daily music presentation, away from traditional block-programming.
Also by 2004, commercial AAA programmers were showing up in droves to the NON-COMMvention!
One reason was that by the fourth convention in Louisville, non-commercial radio was the only part of the radio industry showing growth.
Ratings were up. Fund-raising was up. New facilities were being constructed. Non-commercial AAA was playing terrific music and sincerely COMMUNICATING with a well-to-do, previously under-served audience. Baby-boomers with money and musical memories and an open mind for new artists and sounds. And it was the only radio format gaining listeners (other than Spanish).
Now, the NON-COMMvention will be moving permanently to Philadelphia.
But we must all treasure the memories of Louisville and the people who worked so hard to make this AAA convention such a success.
Stacy Owen, Mindy Fulner, Billy Hardison and the entire Public Radio Partnership staff have always been gracious, polite and, most importantly, good at producing a convention. One with nothing but radio announcers and musicians! I'm amazed we didn't burn down either the Seelbach or the Brown.
For Dan Reed, he so enjoyed his life in Kentucky that he gave his, once, hometown several more years of his idea and never, ever forgot who to thank. I thank him for giving me a chance to see Churchill Downs, The Louisville Slugger factory, Hunter Thompson's boyhood home and the bridge from which Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) threw his 1960 Olympic gold medal into the Ohio river.
For Gerry Weston, one of the most talented managers in radio, I suspect we will be seeing him at a new major market location next year (if not sooner).
For six out of the last seven years, the AAA non-comm community has been meeting at the corner of 4th and Broadway in Louisville, what the city historians call "The Magic Corner".
Now, it's Philly's time to pull a rabbit out of the hat.