Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Podcast v broadcast...radio is the sound salvation, radio is cleanin' up the nation...

Podcasting then. The word on everyone's lips...tick is you're dedicated...you may not be an old fashioned girl but you're gonna get....oops! It's a Costello attack! Switch Elvis off, quick!
What was I saying? Oh yes, podcasting. I was astounded to hear that the Daily Telegraph now has a Podcast Editor. There was a discussion on today's Radio Cafe , dealing with the subject that is currently exercising the BBC more than somewhat, and two things emerged for me:
One is the glaring fact that you can't, at the moment, podcast copyright music. This means that, ludicrously, the much-vaunted Chris Moyles podcast is just Moyles and his posse talking, slagging off listeners etc. No music. Does anyone think this is a Good Thing?
You can get non-copyright music podcasts, mostly demos, some of which are not bad at all. However, the big breakthrough for podcasting has to be the day agreements are struck with the moronic, lumbering, self-serving money-grubbing thickos of the record companies so that we can hear artists we know and love...on demand.
Ah yes, that was the second thing that came out of the Radio Cafe item: a definition of a podcast as "radio with a pause button." And suddenly, if you'll pardon the expression, it all clicked. Podcasting. I've been doing it since I was 16. Or listening to podcasts, at least. Ever since my dad gave me his old Grundig reel-to-reel in 1973.
Hmm...those tapes of Paul Gambaccini, John Peel, Johnny Walker and Radio One In Concert. True, the Grundig was just a little bigger than an iPod (size of large suitcase) but there it was - radio I could listen to anytime I wanted. And I didn't have to buy the records. Hey, what's all this home-taping-is-killing-music guff?
(Can I suggest some t-shirts, by the way, reading as follows: DOWNLOADS - killing the music business...SAVING MUSIC!)
Anyway, the point about my old recordings (soon to be replaced by numerous cassettes of radio shows, many of which I still have, Mr Policeman) is that they were interesting, entertaining, fun...but not radio.
Radio cannot be paused. Radio is not for and at your convenience. Radio is what it is, or ought to be: live, fleeting, impermanent, evanescent. Sure, the BBC do Listen Again on the net, streaming not podcasting, and that's fair enough. But the point is The Moment. What you were doing when you heard THAT RECORD, where you were going, who you were with. The straining to take part in that competition, phoning, texting...the sense of momentary community when the presenter says something that's...that's just right. Or all wrong (phone in, sort him out) Or painfully funny. Or painful. Or tells you a story you have to hear to the end, despite having parked up for too long, being behind with the ironing, having to go get the kids from school. Miss, it...well. Nowadays it's not quite gone. But it's gone for The Moment. And so is the invisible community you're listening to it with - the other people, your fellow listeners.
Radio is what I do, mostly. The way I've tried to explain my vision of it is...as telling stories around a campfire. Or you're round at my house, we're having a few drinks, coffee, I'm hauling records old and new out, playing them, telling you about this, that and the other, the movies I've been to see, books I've read. Nonsense. The dogs. The motorbikes. And who's this with the guitar? Hell, Evan Dando...fancy doing a few songs for us? Us. Not just me and my earphones. US!
Yes, later you can download it. Later you can take it out cycling or running or commuting and listen to it. But that's not radio. That's reliving an experience which happened, live, some other time, and was collective. That's playback. You can listen again to The Moment. But you can't be IN it.
As podcasting gets a grip - and it will - the focus on 'traditional' radio will become ever more about the live nature of the beast, the need for community, the sense of life lived in real time having some kind of objective soundtrack. Out there, to be captured, received. Momentarily.

1 comment:

Tom Morton said...

...and don't think we don't appreciate it!
Absolutely enthusiastic about the Listen Again streaming facility or podcasting the programme (sooner the better). But with facilities such as audioblog (www.audioblog.com) anyone will soon be able to podcast. What then will be the essence of 'radio'? What will enable traditional, of-the-momentbroadcasting to survive? Or will it?