Death by radio

There are at least 2 stations in the Albany, NY and Manchester VT area that play The Mummers Dance by Loreena McKennitt at least 6 times each, during my 12 shift at work. Dare we say ""overkill"" already? The stations are lousy, but that's besides the point. How many times have you heard a song by someone new that seemed to come out of nowhere, that you couldn't hear enough of, for the first two weeks.


Let's face it, radio in this country is deadly. Every station is formatted to death. To get airplay, your music needs to fit into a certain category. Any category. Doesn't matter if it's the wrong category. (I remember finding an album by Country Joe and the Fish in the ""County"" section in the downtown Woolworth's 30 years ago). So long as the recording company can find an easy way to market it.


College radio is not much better (and anyone who tries using WXPN as an example of a great college station, just doesn't remember them before they went pop). What made fm radio great, was the unique status of each station's voice. That was lost long ago, once the advertising community realized that there was money to be made peddling their wares to a bunch of long-haired freaks. Even the local accents have been lost. Driving through Virginia and North Carolina on vacation, I have a hard time tuning in a southern accent.


The only hope for the future of radio that I can see, is the Internet. With the proper hardware/software, any one of us could set up our own station, broadcasting whatever we wanted. There is already an internet-only, 24 hour, Jimmy Buffet only station, (mmst://, using msnet player) so anything is possible.


If Loreena McKennitt's music is getting heard on some crappy station somewhere, so what if it's a ""remix."" There is so much background noise where I work, that I haven't been able to tell the difference. And besides, Loreena McKennitt may be this years ""one hit wonder,"" fading back into oblivion where only a dedicated few listen.


I was up till 3:00 in the morning last week, hunched over my keyboard, listening to all 7 of Loreena McKennitt's albums that I own, in order of their release. The fact that she is finally getting some commercial breakout is not as important as the fact that each release has shown a growth in artistry. There are very few musicians that have been able to achieve that growth. If there is anyone who will be able to resist the siren's song of commercialism it's Loreena McKennitt


This essay was written on March 4, 1998 as a posting to the Old Ways List, a discussion group devoted to the music of Loreena McKennitt.