Friday, January 13, 2012

Concrete Blonde "Crystal Blue Persuasion"

For the next couple of days, I thought it would be fun to write about a few tunes for a game I'd like to call:

"This is what it means if you hear that song on mvyradio."

There are a handful of songs, that, if I hear them on the station, I can tell you exactly what is going on behind the scenes . . .

People ask the question, "Is the mvyradio stream the same stuff as the broadcast?"

And the answer is basically, Yes. Anything the DJ says on the broadcast, you hear on the webstream. Any song that's played on the broadcast, gets played on the webstream too.

The only bit of content this isn't on the stream, is the commercial breaks.

The original reason for this, was a legal issue.

All radio stations pay licensing fees for the copyrighted content they air. That means fees to music publishers. It means fees to the Associated Press for our national news. Those fees are determined by the size of our audience. Fees in the Cape Cod market are much lower than a big urban area, like Boston or New York.

Voice-over actors are Union. And when a Voice-over actor appears in a radio commercial, their pay scale is adjusted based on the size of the market(s) the spot will play in (as well as how frequently it plays).

So when we first started streaming the station, the commercials went onto the web. But the Voice-over actors' Union realized that suddenly their spots were playing to much larger potential markets. They deserved higher pay.

New commercials for big advertisers like Ford and Dunkin' Donuts started sending their spots with bold letter caveats, warning radio stations that these spots could not be played on the web.

What to do?

Our engineer set up a system, so that every time the DJ threw it to commercial, the web listeners would hear another song.

As a programmer, this presented a problem for Barbara (who was Program Director at the time). These "insertion songs" could not be scheduled. They were fired at random, from an iTunes-like playlist. You never knew what would play during a commercial break.

That meant, you couldn't put any artists on the Insertion list, who were on the regular playlist. Otherwise, you'd risk playing Paul Simon on the broadcast, followed by a randomly selected Paul Simon insertion song.

Barbara and I went about identifying artists who only had a song or two in our library, that would be okay to move off the broadcast, to online-only.

So there is a whole body of songs that haven't been on the broadcast for years, that our online listeners hear regularly.

It's a great system, though it does drive both the listeners and the DJs a little nuts, when someone calls up and says, "What was that last song, the one before The Decemberists?" and you realized that right before the Decemberists, there was a commercial break. The insertion songs play at random, with no record of what played when, so there is no way to know for sure.

But if after all these years, I do have a pretty good sense of what songs are on that list, and can often guess, if given a lyric or some other detail.

And if a person writes in and asks, "Who did that version of 'Crystal Blue Persuasion'?" I know exactly how they were listening to mvyradio.

Hear the song on Youtube.

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