5 Questions: Answers from Charles McEnerney, Host + Producer for Well-Rounded Radio and Founder of Musicians for Music 2.0
Q) Tell us a little bit about your IR station. What initially inspired you to start it?
A) I started Well-Rounded Radio (really a podcast, but I named it before podcasting started!) because I grew up in Queens, New York City listening to a lot of really great disc jockeys like Vin Scelsa on commercial and college radio who used to do fantastic interviews. But as the years went by and radio changed all over the country, I felt like the only place I was hearing music interviews was on NPR and some syndicated shows. And as much as I love NPR, I felt their in-depth music interviews were with people that were somewhat predictable. I like to be surprised by music and I wanted to do a series where what was coming at you would be a little more unexpected.
In 2000, I had this long conversation with Marion Seymour, a pioneering DJ on KZAM in Seattle in the 70s and 80s about that era of free-form radio programming. That conversation inspired me to stop complaining about the lack of this kind of programming and just create it myself. It was the kind of show I wanted to hear. It was very punk rock with the do-it-yourself spirit.
Since 2002, Well-Rounded Radio has been a monthly audio podcast where I interview artists from every genre and music industry thought leaders. To date I’ve interviewed more than 80 musicians and business pioneers. I have listeners around the world and it’s allowed me to meet and talk with people I never would have met otherwise.
Q) Why do you believe new media resources (i.e. blogs, podcasts, internet radio stations) have become so popular? How have they been beneficial to artists? How have they been detrimental?
A) There’s a level of authenticity and humanity to them that is lacking in mainstream media. Blogs, podcasts, and Internet radio often feels a little rough around the edges, but I think that gives it a feeling of the human touch that most mainstream media doesn’t have: they’ve polished all the imperfection out of it. Plus, in podcasts, I’m finding a level of depth that TV or radio just never gets near. I keep turning off the TV or radio and listening to something online instead and I know I’m not alone.
There’s also the truth that all this niche content suits our individual passions and so rather than trying to find what we care about on TV, radio, magazines, or newspapers, it’s a quick Google search or a referral from a friend.
This is great for musical artists in that the audiences are finding them through tastemakers like mp3 blogs, podcasts, and other tools and technologies, but the downside is that musicians are now having to work even more channels to get noticed. Of course, it’s easier to do research on which blogs or podcasts might be interested in their music, but you do have to dedicate serious time to search, collect, and implement all this data. More than ever, you have to use your time wisely and think strategically.
Q) Media 2.0 has changed the way artists communicate with fans. Where do you envision online communication going next? Any thoughts on what Media “3.0” will look like?
A) As we move through this era of information overload, I think the word for the future is simplicity. People will want and need more help in determining what or who are trusted sources for everything from political commentary to recommendations on where to have dinner. Some outlets will rise in the rankings and gain credibility where they had none, so as an artist I would be looking at which of these outlets can have the most impact for spreading the word.
I used to trust the critics in The Village Voice, Musician magazine, Rolling Stone, Matter, The Bob, etc., but now it’s all about finding your tribe, as Seth Godin says…
Q) What does an artist have to do to get your attention? Are their specific characteristics that you look for?
A) I listen to a lot of what I receive, but as a one-man operation, I can’t get to it all. I’m afraid I now understand why music critics give each album ten seconds to see if they want to hear more!
I always have my eyes and ears out for music that sounds like something I’ve never heard before. Musicians are always going to be influenced by music before them, but I love it when an artist or act combines 3 or 4 different ideas to come up with something new and fresh. If I go back through my own library for the artists that I love most, that is exactly what all of them did. Ultimately, it sounds like it’s all their own sound.
In addition to the full-length interviews, I also tweet about music I’m liking via my Twitter account http://twitter.com/wellroundedradi and you can find a string of these if you search on the hastag #wellroundedradio .
Q) What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your podcast?
A) I’ve always had a voracious appetite for music and have long balked when people say, “there’s no good music these days…” There’s always been good music, but for a long time you just had to know where to look or listen. Now, it’s easier than ever before to find and hear it, but we have the opposite scenario of there being too much to hear.
I was one of those people who always loved making mix tapes for friends, turning people onto new music that I felt was not going to get on their radar otherwise. With Well-Rounded Radio, I’m basically trying to do the same thing, while giving listeners a robust, in-depth audio interview that is like the equivalent of reading a long feature article in Vanity Fair or Mojo Magazine.
I hope that listeners of Well-Rounded Radio discover someone they would never have heard about otherwise and that the interviews take them someplace that goes beyond the short-attention span nature of our current society. People often suggest I make the shows shorter, but I want to give people that in-depth experience and make you understand more about the music and everything that goes into the end result.
The beauty of podcasting is that you listen for as long as it makes sense to you. If you put on an episode of Well-Rounded Radio, you may find yourself engaged and listening to one interview for an hour, but you always have the stop button, too.
Ultimately, I hope listeners buy more music, go out and see more music, and make it a bigger piece of their lives! Music has always had a tremendous impact on my life and I hope this new era brings more diversity and quality projects to many more ears than mainstream media has done over the last thirty years.
– Answers from Charles McEnerney, Host + Producer for Well-Rounded Radio and Founder of Musicians for Music 2.0