Commercial Break: Non-Comm 2018

Non-Comm 2018

Once again, the convention gods are blessing us with one of the more chill, and music-y gatherings going. Putting the calm in Non-Comm, Philly is, as ever, playing host to a bevy of programmers, artists, and all around cool cats for this year’s Non-Comm (okay, okay, we’ll say “vention” too.)  It all goes down May 15th to 18th, so, mark your calendars- now that you’ve got your taxes in, you got a month to go before you’ll be frolicing live music/panel discussion style.

And frolic you will.  Artists on tap so far include Brandi Carlile, Belly, The Wood Brothers, alongside Nathaniel Rateliff (and yes, his Night Sweats), Angelique Kidjo, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, plus oodles more. Make sure you catch the panels wisely though– while still catching “Feed the Tree” live.  I mean, c’mon!!

This year’s promise to tackle timely big guns. Opening day endeavors to predict and mold what’s ahead for Adult, Album, and Alternative listeners and programmers alike. Panelists won’t be afraid to drill down on the meaty issues, i.e. “Vitality and Sustainability,” and how they’re defined.  What’s the secret sauce?

Drilling down further, topics will include the role of local music in that overall recipe.  Also addressing the position of the medium overall, they’re heady questions, for sure.

“Women Who Rock” is a chance to take more than a moment’s look at women making waves and the issues impacting those working in this world we call music and radio.

Time will be devoted as well to NPR’s fabulously-named Slingshot, NPR’s group effort to introduce their picks for rising stars, led by KCRW, WFUV, WGBH, XPN, KEXP and more.

All of this builds up of course to the legendary Music Meeting. Yes, of course, with Songlines’ Sean Coakley.

Angelique Kidjo and Jeff Bhasker

All in all, it’s a chance for folks from the unique world of Non-Comm radio to revel and exchange ideas.  And with that, there is significant overlap with folks in the commercial world. NPR news coverage recently devoted some space to AAA, spotlighting the swath of stations across both Comm and Non-Comm audiences. With more than 100 AAA stations nationwide, they’re cross sectioned evenly between commercial and non-commercial.   And to be fair, AAA can be pretty broadly defined. (A former program director to my MD once told me “Programming Triple A is like herding cats.”)

There are specific nuances attributed to Non-Comm, for sure.  Jim McGuinn, PD of Minnesota’s the Current shared, “The non-commercial stations are much more freewheeling, willing to take chances and play a wider variety of sounds and styles and dig a little deeper into albums and artists. ”

And as Dan Reed expounded to Play MPE, “When you get to Non-Comm radio, Our P1s give us money so the intensity’s up a little bit. The good thing about Non-Comm stations is most of the people who support these stations and are P1s and are members of our stations expect us to take chances to some degree. They expect us to play more new music. They expect us to make mistakes sometimes. Our hardcore listeners, people that really care about the station, understand it’s a continuous experiment trying to find the right kind of stuff to play. I find them very forgiving, the public radio audience… That sense of ownership is there.”

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