Checking Back on Amazing Radio

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songbirdA while back, I wrote about a new user-driven radio experiment going on in the UK called Amazing Radio. On their website, they describe themselves thusly: “You decide what gets on the air, not some geezer in a suit. Select new music from amazingtunes.com, give artists a fair deal – you are in control.” The three points displayed prominently on the website are Ethical for Artists, Controlled By Fans, and On-Air and On-Line.

Fans use the Internet to create playlists from the array of unsigned bands in the Amazing radio roster. The more fans pick a particular band, the better chance of hearing it on the air over the DAB station. It’s a very interesting approach. In social media terms, the actual radio station itself becomes the equivalent of Digg’s front page, all content promoted in rank by the ratings and rankings of the userbase. It is a truly democratic and brilliant application of social media strategies to the broadcast world.In addition, 70% of revenue generated by the downloading of their songs rather than the slim percentages of a standard record label deal.

The Guardian UK brings us a review of the current offerings and a bit about the way the format will evolve:

Gradually over the next couple of weeks, the station’s going to evolve into genre-specific evening shows, but hopefully the daytime schedule will remain much as it is now – a liberal mix of everything. It’s been good to spend a couple of days listening to nothing but music I’ve never heard before, even though a lot of it sounds vaguely familiar (like other unsigned music sites you search through Amazing Tunes by entering the names of major label acts like Radiohead or Coldplay and end up with a bunch of bands influenced by them; in some cases “influenced” actually means “sounds just like them except rubbish”). But among the Fratelli-alikes (could there be a lower musical life form?) and Johnny Borrell wannabes (yes, there could) there’s a surprising amount of genuinely promising new artists like Beccy Owen, Little Comets and Torpedo Pilots, alongside a few acts you might already know like X Factor’s Laura White and Dodgy – Birmingham’s answer to Blur, circa 1993.

I think this is a strategy that bears watching. While I do not in any way want to see the end of DJs and announcers, I do think that in the modern world there is room in the spectrum for this sort of innovation. It will be interesting to see how it does over time.

One final note, when Amazing took over the station, it had been broadcasting nothing but birdsongs for months while its fate was under discussion. In a nod to the small but vibrant group of fans, including personal favorite satirst Terry Pratchett, they have instituted a late night show in which the birdsongs return. (In the meantime Birdsong Radio has gone online.)

Unsigned bands+birdsong+democratic playlist development= ??

It will be a kick watching that equation get solved!

Photo courtesy of Birdfreak.com, used under its Creative Commons license

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