WFMU’s RadioVision festival enters its third year this October 19 at the Scholastic auditorium in Manhattan’s SoHo. Curator Benjamen Walker said the overarching focus this year is, for radio producers and artists, “How can you stay true to yourself and find the right path?” One successful path is “what someone like (keynote speaker) Laurie Anderson represents.”
I spoke by phone with Walker and WFMU station manager Ken Freedman to learn more about what will go into RadioVision this year, and why the station puts it on.
Freedman stated that “there are actually a lot more people who are fascinated by radio, who want to work in radio, and don’t want to go into it via the standard route.” RadioVision is intended to inform and inspire these folks, who are ready to explore new forms of radio as it intersects with culture and technology.
This group includes “independent producers who don’t want to be part of the pubcast machine anymore, who want to pave their own path and be sustainable, (and) fund themselves.” Also included are “mainstream public broadcasters who are into new methods in storytelling and (becoming) sustainable,” as well as “community radio people who are curious about this stuff even if their stations don’t have all the tools they might need.”
Freedman observed, “You hear news that radio doesn’t appeal to young people anymore.” Yet at last year’s RadioVision “We saw tons of young people.” Rather than starting out at the entry level in mainstream public radio, he said young people prefer “the internet way.”
With the “internet way” a medium like podcasting lets a producer reach an audience without the backing of a station or syndicator, while Kickstarter lets an audience directly fund programs.
“You can create anything with a microphone on the internet,” Walker said. “Now we have the tools and we see someone like Roman Mars (and) shows like Nightvale. They’re recognizing that there are new financial paths to being supported by their audience.”
Sustainability and funding are headline topics on the RadioVision agenda. Walker said he is particularly intrigued by native advertising and wants to understand it better, which is why he scheduled a discussion on the topic. “It’s where all the money is coming from in publishing, but nobody understands the ethics. It offers piles of money, but what does it mean when a brand asks you to co-create content with them?”
That panel features Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR’s On the Media and an outspoken critic of native advertising, in conversation with journalist and Buying In author Rob Walker, writer and radio producer Starlee Kine and Buzzfeed’s Josh Fjelstad. Kine worked on a Levi’s sponsored project with The Thing Quarterly called Moment to Moment. Walker said that he’s eager to learn about her experience.
WFMU’s Liz Berg will lead a discussion about new funding models for radio and radio production. Included in this conversation will be Alex Blumberg from NPR’s Planet Money.
In this new funding environment Freedman reflected that “being noncommercial is becoming a more interesting question all the time.”
Walker also promised “one of the best comedy podcasting conversations, ever.” That panel features Tom Scharpling, host of the popular freeform comedy program The Best Show on WFMU, along with podcaster/comedy writer Julie Klausner and podcaster Jake Fogelnest.
Freedman noted that with the last two festivals “we got requests for more how-to sessions, that are less philosophical.” In response, this year’s RadioVision will have presentations focused on technology, including a demonstration of the Serato DJ system by Duane Harriott.
On the whole, Freedman said that RadioVision is “different from what you get at a typical conference. It validates the suspicion that there’s a different way to get into radio.”
Half-day and full-day tickets for the October 19 event are still available at the RadioVision website.
I will be attending this year’s RadioVision. Watch for coverage here at Radio Survivor.