The way we devour our music has changed over the years with the advances of technology. While most of those changes may be viewed as progress, some of the changes are not for the best.

For instance, those of us above the age of 40 can remember when the music we listened on the radio was not formulaic. The advent of “10 in a row and no talk” wouldn’t happen until the mid-late 1980’s, when corporate bigwigs were under the false impression that listeners wanted to hear the music with zero personality from the disc jockeys.

When I was growing up in the 1970’s, the disc jockey’s personality, in conjunction with the music, was the reason I tuned into any station. They didn’t play “The hits and nothing but he hits”…

No, they played deep cuts from an album. It may not have been a hit on the Billboard charts, but it was damn good music. And they had the personality that made you want to hear more.

Fast-forward to the modern era and turning on the radio to hear the same songs played over and over, ad nauseam. BLAH!

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Photo Credit: Chris Casella

In Columbus, Ohio, there’s one station that has bucked that corporate trend to remain an independent that serves the community. And, they are a HUGE proponent of local music.

CD 102.5 The Alternative Station is keeping that local vibe alive. The driving force behind this is Randy Malloy, CEO/President of WWCD (the last of the independent alternative rock radio stations). My friends, Randy understands like many don’t.

“Radio that I grew up listening to as a kid was ‘hyper-local’,” said Malloy, “because it was the radio station that filtered the information that you got from your area. There wasn’t the internet, there was a national broadcast… it was coming from where I grew up in New York. So, it talked about the towns, the cities and the places that I went to.

“I guess I have an ‘old-school’ mentality that the local radio station, being local to the community, needs to be as radio was wholly invented to be… to serve the community.”

Contrary to what you may think, serving the community is what radio is supposed to be all about. And that means digging deep and going “hyper-local.”

“So, not only do I need to give the traffic and weather, you want to promote the events and things that happen in your backyard. That’s hyper-localization. As a music-intensive format, we don’t do a lot of interviews, we don’t do a lot of talk and we don’t do a lot of sports. The belief that you have to promote from within is paramount to me.”

But where does the music come from and what effect does this have on the local music scene?

“So, that’s where the whole driving factor for localized music comes from. Every band was a local band once. Years ago, I used to use the analogy that Pearl Jam and Nirvana were local bands once. They got played on a radio station and someone said ‘Oh my God! These guys are great!’ And, they became big hits.

“Somebody had to find these guys and give them the opportunity. How do you get experience? Get a job. How do you get a job? Get experience. Okay. You sort of become that Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. Well, how do you break into that, that place? Someone has to open a door and say ‘Here, we’ll give you a shot.’

“So, we’ve kind of had that mental philosophy that (for) local bands, someone has to give them their due. Someone has to allow them, besides their parents and their neighbors when they’re playing in the garage. It’s a certain part of our belief system from forever-ago. We’ve always been big supporters of local music and being hyper-local has been our mantra for the past dozen years or so, because that’s the key to it.”

“Local music starts in the local place where you live. So, we’re promoting the place where we live and promoting local music is a natural thing.”

This is what differentiates CD 102.5 from all the other radio stations that you might find on the dial in Columbus. But the question now becomes one of “where do you find this local music?”

“Music is brought to us, given to us, shown to us and pushed at us. We find music at concerts that we go to, we hear it from someone else or we see it at a local club. It doesn’t matter. It comes from every direction imaginable and in every form possible. Honestly, people bring us music all the time. They promote themselves. We do local showcases so bands will promote themselves and get their friends to come so they can try and win and play in front of a larger audience.”

Photo Credit: Chris Casella
Photo Credit: Chris Casella

Showcases have always been a great way for fans to discover new, local music that they might not know about within the community.

“We do (on average) three showcases a year. Any time we do a big show, we always have an opening act which we try to make a local band. So, if we have a two-day show, we’ll have two (local) bands.

“So, we’ll have a showcase, letting people submit on the air and submit on the internet. Then the audience votes on their Top 10. That narrows it down to the Top 3, and the Top 3 come and perform. The ‘winner’, the one that’s picked by the people there watching then gets to open for a national act.”

Randy Malloy is a fascinating person to take with, and his passion for music is like a badge of honor that permeates the very fabric of his being. At times, talking with him about music takes on an existential quality. He draws you into the web that music weaves, totally enveloping you within its warm embrace.

“We’re always on a mission of discovery as we go,” he continues.

“We’re going to take chances on artists and music that aren’t ‘tested.’ We play stuff that we like. We play music that we think the audience is going to like. The problem is that most radio stations are only going to play what’s ‘tested.’ We know that we’re going to play music that sometimes people don’t know. You have to be open-minded enough to discover new music, as opposed to only liking what you listen to.”

He calls out corporate radio for what it really is and how they treat artists and musicians.

“Today, most of radio is a commodity and they use artists as just that, commodities. If they’re popular, they’re a big seller. It’s like when you go to the supermarket, those bands get the endcaps. So, (corporate radio) is just looking for endcaps. They don’t care about the stuff that’s on the bottom shelf. If it’s not an endcap, they don’t want it.”

You’re preaching to the choir, Randy. Can I get an “Amen?”

“We don’t care. Every band can’t be an endcap. There’s great music out there that may never get to play Madison Square Garden, and they may not last as long as the Rolling Stones or Tom Petty have. But, there’s amazing artists out there that deserve to be discovered, have a loyal following and are just great music.”

And that, my friends, is the crux of the biscuit. They don’t care what anyone else in the industry might think. They are here to serve you, the listener.

Stay tuned for Part Two of my conversation with Randy Malloy…

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