Friday, August 12, 2011

Fame Dust: Just Add Radio and Stir

Sure as moonrise, we will get emails and handwritten letters from various parts of our fair state from budding songwriters whose song remains the same:
"I have written a song about West Virginia and I think that your station might like to play it." Then they go on to say, modestly of course, that everyone who has heard it really enjoyed the hell out of it, it looks like a big hit, millions will love it, West Virginians will rally around it, and blah blah blah. Sometimes the subject matter, like the Sago Mine disaster, has a dark turn to it. Still, they promise that it is suitable for the airwaves.

Sometimes their pursuit of this ends with the inclusion of a copy of the song on some unplayable CD. And sometimes it starts with a phone call. That's where the trouble starts for me.

I have tried in the thirteen years of being in the radio biz not to become another jaded asshole who sees his personal failure (in songwriting or whatever) as a means for power over those who might deserve some air time. Music comes first. All those noble and altruistic sounding statements out of the way, there are often good reasons why these songs never make it.

1. The song is awful.
2. The recording was done in a roadside bathroom.
3. "Uncle Bob," a HAM radio operator cum recording engineer, did the recording.
4. Wacky old dudes with out of tune guitars should restrict their music making pleasures to their basement or front porch.
5. No matter my advice, they aren't listening anyway.

This yahoo called me yesterday. Long story short, he wanted to break into Nashville and the music scene. He had written "country songs, rock songs, all kinds of songs." Not wanting to be the a-hole I had promised myself I would not be, I patiently told him the steps I thought he needed merely to be played on our airwaves.

One thing I told him was to listen (what a concept) to the station you are petitioning to play your musicke.
"That's your homework," I insisted.
"I didn't know I had homework or what it was," he answered reasonably.
"But now you know. Listen to my show and the two others I mentioned to see if your song fits their/my format. Every show has a format."

Methought I was getting through and that my pearls of wisdom were dropping unto open shells. Why do I continue with such naivete at my age?

We then went to the website to check out the email address for me and the place where he could email the man who does a show that features more folk-country than mine does. I soon sensed that despite his proclamation that he had an education, that he was having trouble with finding the stuff on the web. I felt like I was dragging a bag of cinder blocks with Mr. Gonna-be-George-Strait.

After fumbling around for what seemed an eternity, I said, "Send the man an email or just send your disc to the address given." I got tired of Mr. Young-and-Hopeful and wished him and thought the matter over.

Not five minutes later, the woman at the front desk calls me. Sweet jumpsuits of Elvis.

"I got a guy on the phone who wants to know if (host of the folk show) works here."
"No, he sends us his show. He is not an employee."
"OK. I'll tell him."

Mr. Can't-Wait-to-Be-Famous either lied about his computer skills (or even owning one) and doesn't wish to be embarrassed (no blame here), but clearly I wasted my time.

As an aside, I have made the following rules for myself:

1. I will no longer entertain listeners' questions that do not directly pertain to the broadcast.
2. I will screen all those who seek to take up my time with their agendas.
3. I will delete emails that begin with a litany of complaints. I will read no further.
4. No more advice to fame seeking cowboys.

In short, I must protect myself and keep my energy focused and positive.

Today, one of these jackels tried to engage me. This man comes in the guise of "colleague" and "listener," but there is a nasty side to him that bothered me so much that two weeks ago, I vowed never to speak to the man again. The line was drawn and it was held.

I am smiling because I am following my own rules.

One I just followed. :0)

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