Non-COMMvention Offers Encouraging State Of The Industry

June 3, 2009  |  1:45pm
Each year at the end of May, as Philly starts to heat up, representatives from non-commerical radio all over North America gather to celebrate the best of what's next (Hey, what a great idea!) in music and to discuss the state of the industry. This year was no different. Last weekend, WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania's member-supported radio station, hosted the 9th annual Non-COMMvention. Leaders from Triple-A (Adult Album Alternative) radio stations and labels, musicians and listeners gathered for a series of panel discussions, live performances and time well spent with old friends.

The conference was peppered with shows by The Delta Spirit, the Derek Trucks Band, Rhett Miller, The Avett Brothers, Pete Yorn, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and Citizen Cope, amongst many others. Energy was high, and stand-out performances reminded those in attendance why non-comm radio exists: to put exceptional musicans like these on the radar. "The Avetts are just totally poised to break wide open," WXPN's assistant GM of Programming Bruce Warren tells Paste. "They’re such entertaining musicians and they’ve got a new album coming which is just fantastic that will build on their already impressive body of work. Black Joe and his band were ridiculously fun and just killed it. Pete’s band was fantastic - he’s been off the radar for a while, however with a terrific new album on the way, he was psyched to be here and put on a great show." (Check out recordings of each set, now available online.)

Given today's ever-changing media terrain, it comes as no surprise that the conference largely dealt with questions about new technology. Breakout sessions about iPhone apps and music blogs followed a panel on Twitter and Facebook. And while stations are having to make constant adjustments to keep apace with these new marketing tools, a panel discussion with Moby, Citizen Cope and Sean Hoots of Hoots & Hellmouth confirmed that non-comm radio still holds an important role in this time of industry transition. Warren explains, "The bottom line is that non-comm is still the radio that matters a lot to artists and to listeners."

After the most difficult fiscal year for commercial radio since the dawn of the medium, member-supported stations like WXPN are maintaining a relatively stable flow of support from listeners (though major underwriters haven't been able to offer as much support as usual). "Even in the context of a dwindling economy, non-comm stations are best leveraged to continue to build passionate and loyal communities around music and artists," Warren says.

To find Triple-A radio in your area, check out these conference attendees:

Fordham's WFUV
Minnesota Public Radio's The Current
Bloomington, Indiana's WFHB
Akron, Ohio's WAPS
Towson University's WTMD
Pittsburg's WYEP
Boston's WERS

But don't fret if you can't find a station near you. Most of the site listed above stream live as well.

Related links:
Triple-A Radio on Non-COMM
YouTube: Pete Yorn at Non-COMM
YouTube: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears at Non-COMM

Got a news tip for Paste? E-mail news@pastemagazine.com.

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