By Chris Mosser
(LSM Aug/Sept 2010/vol. 3 – Issue 5)
It’s been an amazing year. This second year of The Roadhouse show on KVET has really been a radio guy’s dream come true, and I haven’t taken a minute of it for granted. Ask anyone who works in radio (or used to work in radio, which is more common these days) about how the business is of late, and you’ll hear depressing stories about limited creative input, frustration and worry over ratings, uncaring and tyrannical management, quick card-reading over meaningful conversation, and a rapidly-shrinking job market. Complaints based, unfortunately, on pretty solid reality in a lot of cases.
I’ve been working in Texas radio pretty steadily since I graduated from high school in the late ’80s, and have frequently been fortunate to be able to dedicate at least part of my workload to creative programming. In the early ’90s, I worked at KLBJ-FM in Austin, during a true heyday of the local Austin rock scene. Clubs like the Steamboat, Black Cat and Liberty Lunch were going strong, and local players like the Ugly Americans, Pushmonkey, El Flaco, Sought and Sister 7 were treated to lots of airtime, frequently on my watch. We had a playlist, but it wasn’t set in stone, and the jocks were valued for their ability to spice it up. We did tons of concert broadcasts, and I met the woman who would later become my wife in the parking lot of the Austin Music Hall during the warm-up for a concert by another Texas band we gave lots of love to in those day — they were called Pantera. I met Willie Nelson for the first time during a broadcast from the Fourth of July Picnic at Luckenbach. I developed a statewide-syndicated Texas rock show called Texas Shock Syndrome over the next few years, and eventually found my way to country radio at KVET.
Lots of music fans have become cynical about radio, and I can certainly see why. Commercial radio is at the mercy of ratings, and the dominant systems of measuring ratings typically favor stations that are programmed for familiarity, rather than quality. The idea is that the individual listener, including you, is the ultimate expert on what he or she likes. Research has shown that most people will turn away from a radio station that plays a song, even a good song, that is unfamiliar to them, because after all, they already know what they like, and if they don’t know a song, they must not like it. Not surprisingly, that kind of logic has produced an entire generation of utlra-careful, almost timid radio programmers who, by aiming for the casual listeners who frankly make up the majority, can’t help but bore the real, active music fans in the audience to death. In order to find quality new music, such fans are inevitably compelled to switch over to satellite radio or take refuge in their personal mp3 collections.
In a music-centric town like Austin, this seems to me a tragedy, and is a big part of what motivates me in putting together The Roadhouse. The evening slot on a country station in a town like Austin, it turns out, is the perfect refuge for more adventurous programming, aimed at quality and local importance. I refuse to play a song, even a popular song, if it’s not good. I frequently hear comments like “your show sounds like my iPod,” or, “this sounds like satellite radio.” I take both of those as compliments, but would add that The Roadhouse has one thing that neither satellite nor iTunes can provide, and that is a connection to the wonderful local scene of Central Texas. This place is special, and all of us who live here are blessed. The roar of the crowds at our Wednesday night shows at Hill’s Café, the paradise of Whitewater and Gruene, the fun and faith in the future I get from talking with students and music fans from UT and Texas State — all of that gives me faith that there is value in programming radio for quality in Central Texas. I am so proud to be a small part of the magic of this scene, and I thank you for bringing it to glorious life.
My goal with Roadhouse is to pour our proud homeland’s musical soul straight into your cup every night, and brothers and sisters, it runneth over. If you’ve forsaken radio, the door to the Roadhouse is wide open, and I’d love to have you back. I promise you that I’ll do my damnedest to make you stay.