Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Triple A Radio- Radio For Music People

I am very fortunate to live in Baltimore and have an incredible radio station to listen to. WTMD is an amazing station that plays a wide variety of music. It focuses on an eclectic mix of music that totally boggles the mind and pleases the ears. It has very knowledgeable disc jockeys who are passionate and educated about many styles of music. To top it all off, it is commercial free and broadcasts 24/7.

The format WTMD plays is known as Triple A which stands for Adult Album Alternative. It is a wonderful format that will play everything from new current indie rock to a heritage artist to blues to soul. That is what you may hear in just one hour on WTMD! I had the pleasure of sitting down with Scott Mullins who is the Program Director at TMD. He told me that Triple A is a descendent of free form radio which was very popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s with stations like the legendary WHFS. The free form and progressive radio of this era had disc jockeys playing whatever pleased them. Many did not have a play list and they played whatever music struck them at that moment. You might hear Frank Sinatra followed by a deep cut from Steppenwolf. All of this was a reaction to the spirit of the times and a rebellion against Top 40 and Pop radio with very tight play lists.

In the 80’s this free form radio had all but died out due to having to pay bills through commercial advertising as dictated by a few companies like Clear Channel. They bought up a ton of radio stations, many in the same city or market once deregulation was legalized by Congress. Radio formats became tighter and it was harder for new bands and music to break in to get radio play. Triple A radio stations started around this time which made it possible for people who really love new, interesting, and intelligent music to be exposed to new bands. It gave bands some insight into the local music scene and helped them build an audience. REM and the Counting Crows are bands that come to mind that early Triple A stations helped build an audience for.

While currently many Triple A stations are commercial, there are some great stations that are Public Radio Stations. WXPN, WYEP, WFPK, KCRW, and WFUV are some of the best known ones. Scott said that many of the non commercial stations have much more open play lists than the commercial stations. He said that they are not beholden to sponsors and have the freedom to play a wide variety of music. There are many variations of non commercial Triple A stations. Most will customize to their local communities needs. Therefore a station like WFUV out of NYC will focus more on folk music while WXPN focuses on a more diverse musical universe. WXPN also produces one of the most successful syndicated national programs called the World Cafe. These stations are the only formats playing local bands in a meaningful way. WTMD plays the locals right with the national acts and also has a program Baltimore Unsigned that interviews local bands every week. Here is a short video produced by Maryland Public Television about Baltimore Unsigned.

Scott said that a song in heavy rotation at WTMD will get played about 15 times a week while a Top 40 station might spin a song up to 50 times a week. You can see which station you will get more of a musical variety.

For those of you who are reading this and are jealous of a WTMD, I have great news for you. In this age of technology you can stream most of these stations on your computer. Many of these stations also offer an app for a smart phone. I know that WTMD offers one for free, so even when I leave Baltimore, WTMD is still with me. I encourage you to download this app and become a member of the station. You can click here to get to the home page of WTMD. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see links for the free mobile apps. This way you will always have great music to listen to no matter where you are. Who needs satellite radio when you can have a WTMD right at your fingers? WTMD’s slogan is “Radio for Music People.” They can easily be your music station also. Tell them Fletcher sent you.

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