Music Director interview with Andrea-Jane Cornell of CKUT
Iíve been friends with Andrea-Jane at CKUT for a few years now because of Silber Records. Sheís into the kind of weird music that makes what Iím into look normal. CKUT is the real deal in Montreal.
QRD Ė Why did you want the position of music director & why do you think you got it over all the other applicants?
Andrea-Jane Ė Like most jobs, I kind of
fell into this one - in the right place at the right time, I guess.
Our stationís music director position is split in two. The official
job positions are music programming coordinator & music resources coordinator;
I occupy the later position - which means I am the stationís link to the
music industry. I go after promo copies of new releases & re-issues,
do tracking, & take care of the stationís library, as well as do some
technical trainings for new station volunteers, & am (as almost all
staff are) a part of our collective management.
QRD Ė What do you think the job of a good music director is?
Andrea-Jane Ė First & foremost, striving to make the best resources available & accessible for all programmers at the station while being on top of whatís brewing in the local & global music communities. This means that Iím always trying to make contacts & form relationships & partnerships with people in the music industry who are putting out innovative releases that fit with our programming or step it up a notch. Striving to work with people who understand & support the work that we do at CKUT because not all campus community stations cater to the same audience, especially in a city the size of Montreal.
QRD Ė What did you initially think you could accomplish as music director that having obtained the position became obviously impossible?
Andrea-Jane Ė There is still a lot of stuff on my to do list that keeps on growing, but there isnít anything that I feel to be impossible. I didnít come into this position with delusions of grandeur.
QRD Ė How much do you let your personal taste in music effect your stationís music?
Andrea-Jane Ė I would say that if my personal tastes were a great influence on what is & is not made available for play at CKUT, the shelves would be empty. I am a finicky listener with an open mind, & an ear thatís tickled by a multitude of genres that must have decent production, even if itís a home job done on a 4 track & submitted on cassette. I listen to what I think may be interesting, based on the label, the band members, instruments used, word of mouth, & as much as I donít want to admit it... packaging. I rarely read one sheets, except for laughs, cause when it all comes down to it, everyone out there is presented as the freshest sound in their genre thatís gonna scream up the college charts. When I come across releases that I dislike, I take a look at our programming grid & see if anyone would play the release; if only one program would play it, I give it to the programmer. If I really donít know what to think, I give it to someone else for a second opinion - a volunteer, a programmer, the other music director. The stationís music selection is not about my likes & dislikes; itís about the programmers & their showsí mandates, as well as the stationís mandate. There is a whole lot of stuff that we make available that I am not into, but you gotta give the bands a chance & see if anyone fancies them.
QRD Ė How have streaming online radio stations affected the purpose & competition for your station?
Andrea-Jane Ė For the time being we have online streaming since 1997 (this could change if the Canadian government adopts new copyright laws that would tax us on this). We also archive up to 8 weeks of each of our 130+ shows on our website, so other online radio stations donít really have such an effect on us, as far as we know, or care for that matter! We are not really in competition with anyone, we have no demographic to target, no national ads to peddle, no one to please but the communities that are tuning in to us because they canít handle the non stop sell-a-thon that commercial radio has become. Our purpose has been the same since we started in 1987, which is to provide an essential service to those in the Montreal community whose needs are not met by mainstream commercial radio. CKUT functions not only as an alternative to the status quo, but as a viable community resource that serves as a training ground for the community & student populations, & in doing so, provides an essential educational & informational service to the greater Montreal community.
QRD Ė What are some things bands/labels can do to get on the fast track into rotation & to eliminate themselves from getting into rotation?
Andrea-Jane Ė Simply put, if you want to
be put into rotation ASAP, put out solid releases. Labels like Digitalis
Industries, Kranky, Atavistic, Clean Feed, Blocks Recordings, Soul Jazz,
Constellation, Gnomosong, Smithsonian Folkways, Arc, Aum Fidelity, Alien8recordings,
Studio1/Heartbeat, Load, le son666 (I could kiss ass here & say Silber,
but you know how I feel); I could go on & on.... These label
know what works & what does not, they send out their own promos, or
work with promo companies that are mom & pop shops & deal with
select artists/labels. These are the envelopes that make me happy,
because we are in a partnership, we understand each otherís needs, itís
so beautiful Iím tearing up. These labels donít call me every week
to see if their releases are going to chart, some never contact me at all
- they know that their music will do well at or station, because they are
putting out quality product.
QRD Ė Do you read the charts of other stations & if so how do they affect your charts?
Andrea-Jane Ė I read a few stationís charts, they have no influence what so ever on CKUTís charts, I usually peruse the other stationís charts to see what records they may be getting that we are not. Our charts are seriously based on actual airplay. Gavin Bryars at number one for 2 weeks in a row is the real deal yo! Our programmers rule!!
QRD Ė Do you solicit labels for servicing or just generally stick with who finds you?
Andrea-Jane Ė There are some labels that need to be badgered every now & then but are really generous, some labels that never get back to me which is a shame, because when I approach a label for station promos itís because a programmer has asked me to, or because itís a stellar release that we would love to promote & expose our audience to. We have been around since 1987, so most of the releases just find their way to our door. I generally have to actively pursue the experimental music labels, jazz, reggae, & labels form overseas.
QRD Ė Do you like to deal directly with labels or do you prefer to deal with some sort of radio promotional team about what is going into the station library & rotation?
Andrea-Jane Ė I much prefer dealing with labels directly, itís more personal, I like to know who Iím dealing with & I like the labels to know what we are all about. Unfortunately many donít care to do this or donít have the staff to do it, so they go through the promo teams/companies. The promotion teams are usually working so many records & they end up just looking at numbers or points off CMJ, itís not really about the music.
QRD Ė Whatís the longest time you feel comfortable keeping a record in rotation?
Andrea-Jane Ė I am not sure whatís being asked here, are you talking new releases and adds (which we donít do, cause weíre free form)? What we do is put all new releases in the on air studio for 3 months so that they are readily accessible to the programmers, & then they go into the library, where they continue to get played, so.... I guess you could say that we have some records that get played regularly that date back to the early 80ís when we were a cable station (91.7 on cable).
QRD Ė Do you listen to & review the majority of records you receive yourself?
Andrea-Jane Ė I listen to about 1/3 of what comes in, music department volunteers do the rest (we get about 150-200 CDís a week & in the fall we get 250-300 a week). If I listened to more I would lose my ability to listen to music outside of the work place, there is only so much that one person can listen to before their critical ear gets jaded or euphoric.
QRD Ė How much control do you let individual DJís have over what they play & how do they deal with requests?
Andrea-Jane Ė DJís reign over their own musical universes on CKUTís airwaves. Free-form radio is still alive in small pockets of the campus/community world.
QRD Ė Whatís the importance of specialty shows at your station?
Andrea-Jane Ė Iím not sure what youíre
asking here? I think that jazz is considered a specialty show?
& we have 4 stellar jazz shows, one that romps through the avant-jazz/experimental
realms, the other two are pretty traditional. & then there is
one that is a collective show, where many hosts take turns programming,
which results in a very diverse collective. & then, a dozen other
shows play jazz as well, because many shows have open formats - so they
can play ANYTHING!!!
QRD Ė How is your station involved in the local music scene?
Andrea-Jane Ė Well, we have a lot of contacts in the local music scene & several of our current & past programmers are superstar DJís, producers, musicians, label owners/employees. We currently have an artist in residence program where a producer/musician gets the Tuesday 2 to 5 slot for a month, the show is called The Montreal Sessions & during the course of each show the host must perform or diffuse one of their original compositions/projects, & they have to have a local musician or band in for a live performance. We do remote broadcasts of bands where we set up at the venue & broadcast the concert live on the air. One of our hip-hop shows has the rap hour half hour where people can call in & freestyle along to a live DJ mix; itís a really popular segment. We do a whole lot of co-presentations where we run ads for local events for a ridiculously cheap rate. & then a lot of shows have live guests in for in studio performances & interviews - folk musicians, steel bands, noise makers, reverberators, 11 piece bands, keytar players, weíve had Ďem all! We do a lot of interviews to promo upcoming shows. Plus, I mean, we are in Montreal, where you canít cross the street without running into a musician, so weíre really luck to have such a great diverse local music scene that just keeps on growing.
QRD Ė With your experience in radio, are you jaded or hopeful for the music industry?
Andrea-Jane Ė I am both a little jaded & hopeful. I hope the giant conglomerate labels crumble.
QRD Ė If your position is temporary, what do you plan to do with your interest in music in the future?
Andrea-Jane Ė This is a full time position. In the future, there will be machines that will make music & flying personal displacement devices
QRD Ė What are the best & worst parts of your job?
Andrea-Jane Ė Best part - I work in a collectively
managed station that is run by 10 coordinators & 300 volunteers; itís
QRD Ė I imagine a lot of the younger generation of DJís pretty much exclusively use MP3s over CDs (much less vinyl). How do you feel about the situation?
Andrea-Jane Ė This is not really the case, we have a higher percentage that use CDís & vinyl, or a little of everything.
QRD Ė Do you try to get your entire catalog digitally encoded on a hard drive for radio play? If so, at what compression rate do you feel is appropriate?
Andrea-Jane Ė No, this is not something that we are aiming to do.
QRD Ė How do you feel about automation for overnight or unfilled DJ slots? What program do you use for automation & how does it decide what to play?
Andrea-Jane Ė We have people willing to program at all hours of the day & night, there is no automation in place & we have no plans to implement one because there is no demand, there is a warm body programming from our studios around the clock all year round! & when someone canít do their 4 to 7am slot, we have a handful of volunteers dying to show off their DJ skills & musical selections ready to swoop in & fill the slot.
QRD Ė I know that some labels & promotional teams are pushing towards digital download links over physical copies. How do you feel about this?
Andrea-Jane Ė I understand that it is easier for some labels to service stations digitally, but I donít really like it, because it is less flexible & we just do not have the infrastructure to facilitate it.
QRD Ė When I worked in radio, there was a big problem with theft at the station. Since so many people these days just use MP3 players, do they just steal the music rather than the physical disc & do you feel as a DJ they have a right to personally access any music from the station library at any time?
Andrea-Jane Ė Again, because we do not
have digital music archiving in place, this is not an issue. Anyways,
whatís to stop someone from coming in with a laptop & burning CDs in
the library, or on one of the stationís computers? I donít think
there is a difference, except that copying an MP3 is a lot faster.