The people behind the fledgling (or soon to be fledgling) Maine Radio Project are sure hoping radio has a future as a medium.
Or, at least radio done right. Because in a world where music fans can discover new bands through Pandora, catch music videos on YouTube or grab single tracks from iTunes, radio could certainly be an afterthought.
Consider this: When was the last time you listened to the radio?
Maybe radio done right can change that.
“I don’t think it was ever conceived as a specific counter to commercial radio,” Jessica Lipton told the Signal over e-mail. “There was a noticeable gap between what is heard on the radio versus the music being heard in the venues around town. This station was conceived to fill that gap.”
Lipton, artistic director of the Sylvia Kania Gallery, is at the core of a small group of musicians and artists launching the Maine Radio Project this fall. As conceived the Maine Radio Project would be online radio, with music and other programming all from locals.
It’s grass roots, so much so that the project had an open house at Bayside Bowl on July 18 to help round up music. Artists were invited to come by to learn more about the project as well as offer up their services or their music.
Ideally once the project stocks up on music and allies they can begin programming a station, one that would feature your local favorites like Zack Jones, Confusatron, Phantom Buffalo, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and more.
But Lipton said they want to go beyond the “just press play” mentality of radio and have unique shows and programs that highlight poets and playwrights as much as musicians. Lipton said she’s also open to collaborating with other groups, such as the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
“This station is envisioned with free form programming that allows for gallery reports, artist talks, philosophical debates, and any other kind of programming in between,” she said.
The idea for the project sprung like so many do around Maine, through observations, a few conversations and e-mails. The Maine Radio Project soon grew to encompass Lipton and others like Will Ethridge of Eternal Otter Records, Marc and Gina Bartholomew of Acadia Recording and musicians like Jay Basiner of the band This Way.
Maine is not without other independent (and online) radio outlets, including WMPG, based out of the University of Southern Maine in Portland, WRBC at Bates College in Lewiston, Milled Pavement Radio and WERU in Blue Hill.
But Basiner said it’s the reach and reliability — to play local music — that will make the Maine Radio Project different.
As an independent, online station, the project would be beholden to no one but artists and listeners, he said.
Looking big picture, Basiner said the benefit of an Internet radio station is that it would give bands an international reach outside of Maine.
Of course the biggest hurdle the project faces is getting people to find them and listen.
“It’s gonna take a bit of retraining people to tune into a broadcast rather than shuffle through their iPods,” Basiner said.
Even though there are more options to discover music than ever, just being heard remains one of the most important things for bands, Lipton said. And with people being more careful how they spend their music dollars, offering a free way to hear bands is critical, she said.
In the short term the Maine Radio Project will tape some programs at Acadia Studios (also home to the recently launched Acadia Sessions) while they look for a permanent space. At the moment they’re still on the hunt for more local music as well as pitches for show ideas and hosts.
“The basic idea is that the Maine Radio Project is for us and by us as members of the creative community,” Lipton said. “And this is one more way to show the world what a great place Portland is to live.”