Dodson interview for QRD
The first time I met Will was at a Foetus show. Scotty Irving introduced me to him & the first thing Will said was "I'm a huge fan of your label." But it ends up he's not just a fan of Silber, he's also probably the most disciplined hard working music geek you'll ever meet. He ran WQFS in Greensboro & after graduating went to rural Kentucky to start a revolution at WMMT. [follow up info: Will Dodson eventually decided to head back to Greesnboro to pursue his Ph.D., but he hopes to get back into radio soon.]
QRD – How did you find out about Whitesburg, Kentucky & how was it a different experience at WMMT than WQFS?
Will – After graduating from Guilford College, I heard about WMMT by simple happenstance. I was looking for work, and WMMT happened to be part of an arts organization which hired me to work in their communications department. WMMT was a lot different in that, as a volunteer, I had to work under the radar of the established way of doing things. I had a lot of freedom, but at times had to be sneaky. At WQFS I had absolute authority, though I still relied on volunteer help, which is rarely reliable.
QRD – How has Youth Bored been a success & failure in Whitesburg & how/where will it continue?
As for how and where it will continue, the name is likely retired (since I never liked it). But I was Youth Bored, so I figure wherever I go I can do it and it will be fairly successful. After building something like that in a town of 1200, anywhere else is a piece of cake.
QRD – How exactly did Youth Bored get you involved with Britney Spears & N-Sync?
Will – Backstreet Boys, actually. Youth Bored had nothing to do with that.....I happened to know a young lady who worked at Jive Records, and she gave me the line on getting a Britney moment, simple as that. And Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys – who's originally from Kentucky – set up an environmental charity in the state, and invited Appalshop (the arts/activism organization I worked for; WMMT is one arm of it) to be one of his consultants. I was the rep, so I got to hang out with him. Nice guy, surprisingly. Good listener. Anyway, he brought me out for a BB concert and I got to sit right next to the stage with the VIP's. It was pretty sweet.
QRD – When you left WQFS there were plans for WQFS to start a label, what went wrong & will you eventually try to start a label again?
Will – I started too late, meaning we really got moving on the idea during my last semester. I secured the money, two acts (Clang Quartet and I forget the other), cover art, masters, local distribution, everything. But by the time we had everything ready to send to the pressers, May came around and I graduated. I had to leave everything with my successors, who dropped the ball in such a phenomenal way that I'm still trying to sort it out. The lesson here, as in most things that go wrong, is to do it yourself. My goal at this point is to work with similarly self-motivated people, rather than to try to motivate friends and acquaintances. I also think I would rather work with a label that's already started. I'd like to be able to give someone my energy to help them realize their vision for once. I'm tired of being solo all the time in my projects.
QRD – What do you think the job of a good music director is?
Will – A good music director fosters strong relationships with as many labels and promotion companies as they can handle, listens to as much music as they can, honestly reviews the music not just to their own taste but to the tastes of their DJs and listenership, and keeps the stacks and charts current. A good music director needs to have vision beyond his or her own taste. The station should constantly be progressive.
QRD – What did you initially think you could accomplish as music director that having obtained the position became obviously impossible?
Will – I thought I could listen to every album, I thought I could totally eradicate theft, I thought that I could prevent Top 40 Alternative music from charting, and I thought that I could get 100% great DJs.
QRD – How much did you let your personal taste in music effect your station's music?
Will – Not that much. The stuff I liked the best I tried to push more, tell DJs about it, give it extra spins on my shows, etc. The stuff I didn't like I would review and put into rotation but I wouldn't push too hard. After awhile I did start to refuse to put in Top 40 Alternative (no Static-X, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, etc.).
QRD – How have streaming online radio stations effected the purpose & competition of independent radio?QRD – What are some things bands/labels can do to get on the fast track into rotation & to eliminate themselves from getting into rotation?
Will – I think they've enhanced possibilities. WMMT simultaneously broadcasts normally and streamed over the internet. We increased our audience and donor base. I got e-mails from online listeners in France, Sweden, and California. As for competition, I've never been in a position where I felt competition, so I don't really know. WMMT is the only free-form public radio station in our region, and WQFS was (at the time I was there) so much better than the other college stations that we didn't even think about it.
Will – Being pushy eliminates, trying to bribe eliminates, and really bad music eliminates. If your band's shtick is to emulate the Insane Clown Posse, there's nothing you can do to make me play it.
I think in most cases, if you're sending me a good album that I won't be familiar with, a heads-up e-mail followed by a phone call works best. Try and catch me early in my office hours so I won't be tired of talking on the phone. A descriptive one-sheet is very helpful. FCC warning labels, where applicable, are helpful. Innovative promo materials (like, say, Silber Records chewing gum, temp tattoos) are always a plus, but not essential.
QRD – Did you read the charts of other stations & if so how did they effect your charts?
Will – Very rarely. I would occasionally glance at them to see if other stations were getting good CDs that we weren't, for example. Other than that, I mostly snickered at other people's charts, because we were so much better.
QRD – Did you solicit labels for servicing or just generally stick with who found you?
Will – Because I was solo, I stuck with who found me. After about a year, pretty much everyone had found me. I did solicit certain labels that I liked, such as Alternative Tentacles, Metropolis, Invisible, labels that I was really into as a kid. Other than that, though, they'll find you after awhile.
QRD – Did you listen to & review the majority of records you received yourself?
Will – I listened to every one, and reviewed most of them, believe it or not.
Will – Once you get to know DJs, you can get a fairly good idea of who will steal, who will borrow, etc. I make surprise visits to shows during shift changes, check the rotations before a show starts and after it ends. Having a regular presence cut it down quite a bit. It got to the point where we only lost the "big" names after awhile, so when we'd get a "big" CD (like Beck or something), I'd burn it and put a CD-R in the rotation.
QRD – How were WMMT & WQFS differently involved in the local music scenes?
Will – WMMT WAS the local music scene. With me and some of the Youth Bored kids as DJs, we had a monopoly on underground music culture. Youth Bored was across the street, so we were an axis of progressiveness. WQFS didn't have a monopoly, but we were good. We sponsored festivals with tons of local and touring bands, produced theater pieces, and tried to work regularly with record stores to cross-promote. We weren't always as successful as we could have been, but we had a pretty decent impact, I think.
QRD – With your experience in radio, are you jaded or hopeful for the music industry?
Will – I don't really think about the majors, they're just not on my radar screen. I'm hopeful that the independents will benefit in the age of file sharing, but we'll just have to see. As Clear Channel gets bigger (I hear they're working on an "indie radio" subsection), community and college radio gets smaller, and the internet may become more and more our refuge. But, as always, the kids who want to find good music will find it somehow.
QRD – Since leaving WMMT, what do you plan to do with your interest in music in the future, will your radio show Man & His Symbols continue?
Will – Arbus can only benefit from me being closer to my main collaborator....the two albums we have made thus far were produced in two days. That is, the electronic parts were made over the course of a few months, but lyrics, live instruments, noises, and vocals were recorded in one or two takes each, one day per each album. Given that, what we've done is pretty good, really. But I want to make good music, music that I'm proud of. So being away from radio will give me the chance to focus on making music, rather than listening to it all the time. I'd like to work with labels that I have established relationships with, work with them more directly. Man & His Symbols may continue, though, if I end up near a community/college station that will have me.....we shall see.
QRD – What were the best & worst parts of being a music director?
Will – The best parts were getting exposed to new good music and labels, getting to meet and become friends with musicians and label folks, schmoozing at conferences. The worst parts were being overwhelmed with bad and mediocre music, always being under pressure to get spins for as much good stuff as possible, spending hours every Sunday doing charts, talking on the phone with rude and/or obnoxious folks.
QRD – How did you manage to sell 1000 cd's of your band Arbus?
Will – It took some time, but I would just go to concerts where my friends were playing around the region and run their merch tables. I'd set up Arbus merch right next to it and sell a few every time. There was a permanent Arbus table at Youth Bored, and the fact that I was a visible character in the community helped sell the stuff to the kiddies. I didn't sell very many on the internet, surprisingly. I did a little, but mostly it was just setting up merch next to other band's merch and talking to people. I guess in retrospect that's kind of rude, as you may take away sales from the band who's actually playing, but.....salesmanship is salesmanship, I guess.
QRD – Anything else?
Will – Silber rocks in '04!