Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Low Powered FM, Capitol Hill, and ME
A couple weeks ago I was invited down to Washington DC by my friends Michael and Chhaya from the Future of Music Coalition. I met these kind and passionate folks while I was down in New Orleans last winter for the Artists Activism retreat that I wrote to you guys about a few months ago.
Future of Music Coalition is a national non-profit education, research and advocacy organization that helps musicians get involved in the issues that impact their lives and careers — particularly issues having to do with access to media like radio and the internet. You can check them out here www.futureofmusic.org.
So I went down to Capitol Hill with Michael to take some meetings with representatives of congress and the senate to talk about the importance of the creation of Low Powered FM radio stations across the country. This is a policy they've been trying to get passed through congress for a few years now as the airwaves have been largely monopolized by commercial radio stations (ie, buttrock and britney)
I feel really strongly about the creation of these stations as I feel they really promote the local color of the areas they're in and they support local and independant music. In most commercial stations there is no platform for local, independant or experimental music or specialty shows and with the music business being in such dire straights these days, its important for people to have access to these types of art. It especially helps out touring musicians to be able to promote and spread the word about their shows as they come through your town. When I first started out writing songs and playing shows, my local station 90.5 the Night began playing a couple of my songs on the air and it helped me to grow a fanbase and also gave me the confidence to really pursue a career in music. I want young artists to have these kinds of oppoutunities as well.
I was pretty nervous to go down there and speak (or lobby as they say) as I had never done anything like this before. Capitol Hill has some heavy doors. But I just followed Michael's lead and as we sat down to talk at the individual senate offices I actually felt pretty at ease to talk about the need for these stations. The fact that I live in Asbury Park, NJ and we are going through a major revitalisation made me understand the need for these stations not just as an artist but as a member of my community. If we had a 100 watt station in Asbury people would be able to easily know whats happening around town. All the changes that are being made, the new restaurants and galleries opening up, the happenings, the surf report, the local music revolution thats happening here. This place is finally coming together. Our own radio station would promote a really strong sense of localism and give our residents something to call our own and give everyone a voice.
The first day on the Hill was exhausting but wonderful. The next day I spoke on a panel with some wonderful folks that are really leading the fight to get this policy passed. These people are passionate about their local communities and the voice that these stations give to it. I never thought I'd be able to do anything like this and I'm really glad that FMC invited me to come down and talk. Its nice to know that as a musician I can open dialouges on important issues and not just get up on stage and sing. I can use my voice to help change things for the better and FMC can back me up and give me the advice I need to do it and help open some of those heavy doors.
What do you guys think about Low Powered FM radio?