Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Dave Carlock - A Day In The Life
SAYING NO TO RADIO CONSULTANTS WITH ZACK EAST'S FREE REIGN
Originally Posted: 08-31-2012 4:40 PM
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I know exactly “why” radio should exist. As a kid, I listened to music radio while alone in my room writing or working on my homework--it was a huge presence in my public school years. It gave me sounds and ideas from somewhere out there that were unlike the world I knew, made the world bigger and stoked my imagination without the visual input of television. I learned the joy of the theater of the mind largely due to my radio listenership. I'm a fan of the medium as it once was. In the womb-y cage of childhood, radio introduced me to disc jockeys who could pop in anytime day or night with the flick of a power switch, keeping me company.

Good music radio could accomplish this because it had a personality, to the credit of the disc jockeys themselves and the wisdom of the management who enabled, chose and encouraged them. WLS–AM, the 50,000 watt, Class A Chicago station, allowed their jocks to have daily entertainment segments such as Larry Lujack's ‘Animal Stories' or John “Records” Landecker's ‘Boogie Check'. These programs brought elements from classic radio drama and comedy into the music radio age with great effect and built up loyal listener followings.

Fast forwarding to my adult life, I found that everything about radio changed. The dawn of personal computing allowed software programs to automate programming to the point that the personality of music radio became nearly extinct, certainly in smaller markets. Hand picked playlists became a thing of lore. Successful music radio personalities were sequestered to talk radio and removed from music radio's balance sheet as the bean counters of the industry cut cost.

Unfortunately, the station owners neglected to realize that while lots of money *could* be made broadcasting music, anything to do with music can't *only* be about making lots of money or it eventually fails. Suddenly “radio” became just a thing that I had in my car that tried to sell me something. Radio had sold its soul: you could hear it and you could feel it, if you could feel anything coming from it at all. At that point, music radio was no longer a creative or enriching participant in my life.

In the “Market Zero” of Southwest Michigan, there seems to be a resurgence, a faint blip of actual lifeforce in music radio. In addition to WVBH, I found another source of hope borne over the summer in a one hour Saturday night broadcast on The Coast 98.3 called ‘Free Reign with Zack East'. East's philosophy is to break the very mold he helps forge daily as the station's Program Director. With the wise support of his station's upper management, ‘Free Reign with Zack East' got the greenlight to become his weekly broadcasted mixtape.

East's show is comprised of a combination of Alternative, Modern Rock, Adult Album Alternative, Indie, and New Wave formats from the last 20 years, all hand picked by East without the aid of outside consultants, who in my mind have contributed heavily to the formaldehyde stench that wafts around the radio dial. ‘Free Reign' is both a breath of fresh air and a great step in the right direction, particularly in smaller markets. Nearly two months into its weekly broadcast life, ‘Free Reign' has played artists that are largely absent in the standard US radio experience such as Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, The Church, MGMT, and The Smiths. Not the normal broadcast playlist in markets under 75,000, that's for certain.

Catching up with Zack over a chance meeting in the Arts District, he excitedly talked about his new digs and explained his love for the up and coming arts community, largely due to the feeling of inclusiveness he gets when he's there. I couldn't help but hear a parallel between Zack's newest creation and his life in our conversation.

To me, designing a new radio show that challenges the staid playlist limitations and ideas plaguing smaller communities while infusing an ear-opening musical inclusiveness clearly mirrors what he's done with his recent move as well. I asked him if he'd made that connection.

“Interesting…”, he replied pensively. Most definitely.

I love watching a friend spread their wings. Check out ‘Free Reign With Zack East' on Saturdays at 10pm on 98.3 FM in Southwest Michigan or via live stream at 983thecoast.com

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Dave Carlock
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