SXSW is always a big circus, and this year was no different. But, there is also important business to be covered in the actual convention part of SXSW.
Last Friday, I moderated a panel focused on the Alternative radio format. The panel, “Alternative Radio: Balancing the Art of Music Discovery vs. Playing the Hits,” focused on music discovery at two levels.
- First, how do Alternative program directors discover new music in non-traditional terms?
- Second, how do Alternative PDs provide listeners with their own music discovery when listening to their stations?
Panelists included Jeff Morad from WEQX in Albany, Lazlo from KRBZ “96.5 The Buzz” in Kansas City, Lesley James from WWCD “CD102.5” in Columbus, and Mike Kaplan from KYSR “ALT 98.7” in Los Angeles. The Alternative radio PDs on the panel use any and all means possible to find new music, including music blogs, live shows, audience feedback and sources such as the weekly discover list on Spotify. They also pay close attention to what each other is playing. Interestingly, despite their own tactics to find new music, they all say that, “great new music finds me, not the other way around.”
- Mike at ALT 98.7 airs a feature called, “Best Music Discovery EVER…This Week,” which this week highlights a band called All Time Low and their song “Dirty Laundry.” Leslie at CD102.5 airs a similar feature called, “Diamond In the Rough Pick Up of the Week.”
- Specialty shows are another way for these stations to create a music discovery experience with listeners, including “Going Underground,” which Jeff airs on WEQX, “Music Discovery” on ALT 98.7 and “Independent Playground” on WWCD.
- Local music shows are used to play and promote area bands that are gaining traction, such as “Homegrown Buzz” on KRBZ, “Front Stage” on WWCD, KYSR’s “Close to Home” and “EQXposure” on WEQX.
The most intriguing aspect of the panel, and certainly the part that label and artist managers in the room were waiting for, was each PDs pick for “the next big song” on the horizon. Drumroll, please:
- Mike Kaplan, ALT 98.7 Los Angeles: Sir Sly “High”
- Lazlo, 96.5 The Buzz Kansas City : Ron Gallo “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me”
- Jeff Morad, WEQX Albany: Rubblebucket “If U C My Enemies”
- Leslie James, CD102.5 Columbus: Artificial Pleasure “I’ll Make it Worth Your While”
As Hannah Carlan from Secretly Canadian records pointed out in the room, three of these songs are on independent labels and one is unsigned. Now that’s real music discovery!