“I had no song in my repertoire for commercial radio anyway.”- Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume 1
The 12th annual Non-COMMvention, an AAA (Adult Album Alternative) Music Industry Convention, is back in Philadelphia at the World Cafe Live and Penn Park. It starts with two free concerts/live webcasts on Wednesday, May 16th—The Key Studio Sessions Live With Graham Alexander/Find Vienna and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals—then opens up to already sold out shows on Thursday, May 17th and Friday, May 18th, and ends with a Free At Noon lineup on Saturday, May 19th.
It’s the feast of radio fests with live music from Citizen Cope, Beth Orton, The War on Drugs, Willie Nelson, Brandi Carlile, Norah Jones, Diego Garcia, Rufus Wainwright, and many more. Check out the full schedule here.
In the midst of the snap-crackle-pop of a day in the life of one of the busiest men in radio, Dan Reed, the founder of Non-COMM, as well as Operations Manager and Music Director for WXPN, took some time to chat with me on the phone.
TSI: How would you describe Non-COMM to someone who has no idea about Non-COMM? Is there a distinguishing factor between the meaning of “Non-COMM” and “Indie”?
Reed: Non-COMM is a convention for people in radio and music with a rock-based format. The distinguishing factor for non-comm in radio is the status as a station—there are no commercials.
TSI: What’s your least favorite thing about planning and producing Non-COMM?
Reed: The planning and producing.
TSI: Is there a huge divide between commercial and non-commercial radio? Is the divide getting bigger?
Reed: Well, there are alternative stations, sports, classical, jazz—on both commercial and non-commercial radio. There are non-commercial news stations like NPR. Yea, there’s a big divide. There’s so much competition from handhelds and Spotify and all the other “fy’s” out there. It’s important to build a local audience. If you’re a cookie-cutter station with no variety, your days are numbered.
TSI: Would playing more live music and streaming live shows attract more interest?
Reed: That depends on who’s playing live and if the fans want to hear live versions—it’s a fan-based expectation.
TSI: What advice would you give to new people in music and radio?
Reed: You better be a plumber or be able to fix things. The industry is much different than when I first started. There aren’t that many gaps in radio—very few opportunities and not many radio jobs—you have to be committed to it and be willing to spend all your time and energy on it. I’m glad there are still college radio stations and that people can still have fun with it. Even in these tough economic times, XPN can survive the storm because we have a great brand and great listeners and supporters.
TSI: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen since you started in radio?
Reed: Compared to last year and previous years (’08, ’09, ’10), Non-COMM attendance is way up—this year we’re seeing the most people we’ve had in Philly. Last year was iffy—though not enough that we wouldn’t have it anymore. The biggest change is not just radio, it’s the record business—2001 was a lot different than it is today—with all the iPods, iPhones, and online streaming.
TSI: Anything you’d like to add?