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New Media Evangelism

Years ago, I started a podcast that was more of a rant show than anything else. I considered it both a test to work out any production bugs in my audio setup prior to podcasting ‘Outcast,’ and as a way to blow off steam during a time when awareness was being raised about how entertainment had become less about the audience and more about the money.

I still have a draft somewhere of what my last episode was going to be (no, not my official last episode before fading out), and sadly, it was going to be about reversing the barrel of so-called ‘New Media’ onto ourselves. That is, I was planning a massive call-out on people who liked to ‘raise awareness.’ You’ve seen these people around, waving signs and shouting slogans at gatherings and demonstrations. Hell, the majority of these ‘Occupy [insert city here]’ is just that: displays aimed at raising awareness that there’s something wrong.

Now, I’m all for that. Red flags, whistle-blowing, and pointing out when something is bullshit is never a bad thing, especially when not doing something about the issue can affect any number of people. I guess that kind of philosophy comes from my working in my company’s Health & Safety group. At the end of the day, we all want to go home safely, knowing we did our jobs properly and that no one died on our watch.

But there’s another side to raising awareness. Like the other half of a golf swing, there’s a need for a follow-through, and this is where so many people fail miserably. Sure, anyone can sit at a computer, or stand at a podium with a bullhorn and spew out line after line of what’s pissing them off; that’s what free speech is all about. It’s easy to whip people up into a frenzy of anger and/or contempt…but what then? You’ve just succeeded in generating a metric butt-load of energy, but now what? You’ve pulled the proverbial hammer back…what now?

This was the core of the episode I was working on. I’d been listening to people like Jelo Biafra and Adam Curry at the time, and was growing more and more frustrated at their ability to stand there and bitch about things, but seemed to have no real solution in mind for what was pissing them off. To be fair, maybe they don’t have a solution and they’re looking to inspire someone to do something, but at the time I was just wanting the lot of them to just shut up. I got sick of listening to their constant complaining about how the world sucks and that we’re all heading for the giant corporate nation model of society.

So, what’s caused me to dredge this up again? What’s gotten me to the point where I’m actually putting text to screen on this subject? Three words: Pacific Coast Hellway

The team of Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff and Mike Yusi (From UC Radio) have once again taken to the airwaves to make us laugh, cry, swear, and in some cases ponder…which is what happened on their last episode. See, both Mike & Mark are passionate about music, and have watched as the music industry became more about the industry than it did about the music. On the last PCH, they talked about how today’s music had become ‘disposable.’ That is, many bands don’t care about an entire album anymore, but only in pushing out a couple of hit singles upon which they can rest their laurels. Hey, so long as the money comes in from one or two songs, why do any more?

There was some talk about how there are no more iconic bands anymore, save a precious few, and that without more present-day icons, that spark of inspiration that created most of today’s bands is fast going out. Maybe they’re right. I don’t listen to a lot of radio these days, so I’m not even sure what’s ‘hip’ and ‘hot’ in terms of music. What few snippets I catch though basically screams that mainstream music is on the express lane to Suckville.

I was about to chalk up the PCH episode to another one of those ‘so what are you going to do about it?’ shows that I was planning to take aim at on my own podcast. But then this morning on the way to work, while listening to the latest UC Radio, I had a revelation. Shows like UC Radio are doing something about it…they’re playing music.

I think the age of the mega rock star is fast fading. Having grown up in that age, I’ll be sorry to see it go, but given just what the large record labels out there have done to music, maybe this age has come and gone. We’re in minute 17 of the age, and instead of a quiet admission and exit, the age of the rock star is clinging desperately to what it used to be, only to find that their music no longer matters. In some cases it never did.

If listening to UC Radio has given me one thing, it’s exposure to bands whose music is infinitely better than most of the shit you hear on the radio. I was never a fan of ‘Indy’ music, but after so many years of listening, I’ve come to realize that despite what you might think, there are a lot of musical gems out there that aren’t getting the air play they deserve because of how the ‘industry’ works. The giants of the music world are looking more at their bottom lines, as any business needs to…but when your decisions can mean a gain or loss in the millions of dollars, then I can understand their not wanting to take any risks or rock the boat too much.

This is bad news for independent bands, so it’s up to shows like UC Radio and Saturday Morning Poke to get that music out there. If anything, we need more shows featuring more genres to help spread the word. I really think what’s keeping some bands from becoming icons in the music world is simple exposure. You can’t influence the next generation if no one hears you.

We’re in an age now where anyone with a microphone, a computer, and an Internet connection can have their voice heard around the world. Some may roll their eyes at the thought of podcasts and podcasters, but I honestly believe that keeping the spirit of music alive lies with us. If the industry leaders are working on a safe, enclosed model of what makes them the most money, then it’s up to people like us to become the ad agency. If you want to lose faith in the record companies, that’s fine…just don’t lose faith in the bands. If you like someone’s music, tell someone. Blog about it, podcast it (if you’re able). Know someone with a radio stream? Let them know about it. Know a DJ or two in SecondLife? Shoot them a note about it. The only way a band will get noticed if they can reach as large an audience as possible.

Damn…this almost makes me want to get back into the ranting podcast game again…

Chris Hvidsten

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