In our last departmental feature, we highlighted The News Team and how citizen reporters keep us posted on what’s happening locally and around the world. This time, we are taking a look at the Music Department and the how music gets from the musicians to the station listeners.
Jaybird is the Music Director at Asheville FM. We chatted with him to get a glimpse into how it all works. He says his goal is to make sure that the music that’s received from labels, promoters, and individual artists gets into the hands and ears of our music DJs as efficiently as possible.
“Since the inception ofAsheville FM, the music directors have continued to grow the department by reaching out to labels, promoters, and artists and growing the amount of music that comes in,” says Jaybird. “Because of the great job done by the previous department heads, I came into the chair with an already colossal list of music providers.”
For a while, Jaybird says, there was a core group of four or five key reviewers who added four to eight albums per week. Now, with the increase in enthusiastic volunteers, the gang of reviews has grown. “…All of us could stop and enjoy the music. The goal of all of this is to have fun! Our reviewers do it because they love music, but it’s real easy to get burned out when you’re drinking from the fire hose.”
The fire hose?
That’s what Jaybird calls the music e-mail account. As you can imagine, tons of music comes in. “We get an outlandish amount of music every day and it is like drinking from a fire hose.” Jaybird listens to most of the music that comes in via the mail and electronically. “Having access to this much new music all year round is probably, for me, the best part of the job.”
The music is sent to the genre directors and reviewers, who will write a brief overview of the album, noting the best tracks and any foul language that can’t be played on the air (see a sample here). After that, the accepted music is put in a “new bin” for on-air DJs to use.
But there aren’t rules on who plays what when.
“The goal of the Music Department is to highlight the best music—without regard to genres or styles, says Jaybird. If it’s good, we want to make it available to our DJs to spin. Unlike most radio stations, however, we don’t tell our DJs what to play—it’s entirely in their hands. That’s the beauty of community radio: We trust our DJs to pick what sounds the best to them and hope that it connects with the listeners. It’s why I’ve paraphrase the WFMU mantra: Tune in and listen. If you don’t like what you hear, it’ll probably be completely different ten minutes from now.”
Jaybird has held several different roles since joining Asheville FM as a volunteer in late 2012, including Assistant Music Director, a member of the Programming Committee, Program Director, and Automation Wrangler. He is full of gratitude for all the members of the Music Department—past and present—who have helped shape it into what it is today.
When he first got involved with Asheville FM, Jaybird wanted to get back on air and “subject the listeners” to his own brand of radio (as he puts it). He’d been heavily involved with the campus station at Drew University where he went to college in the ’90s. On April 1, 2013, he launched Uncorrected Personality Traits, which airs on Mondays from 7–10 p.m.
His wife Juliet came on board as a co-host after a few solo shows by Jaybird. “Generally speaking, we play a lot of psychedelic and electronic music, along with occasional snippets and clips from pop culture through the ages,” he says. “We attempt to introduce the listener to as much new music as possible while still remembering the great music that has come before. While we source heavily from trippy and clicky material, no genre or style is off limits.”
After being involved withAsheville FM for as long as he has, Jaybird says that half his waking life is devoted to the station (on top of his 9–5er). He’ll agree that it’s a lot of time, but he’ll quickly add that he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I am involved in the station because I love good radio—and that’s a rarity these days. I am here as Music Director to help make the best and most interesting music available to all of our listeners—through the DJs. I’ve got a great team of Music Department members that continues to grow. It’s a privilege and honor to be part of Asheville FM.”