WUMB’s the Word

The following came from a post on the Fans of Folk Radio WUMB, reposted in its entirety, giving a good look at how songs are chosen at a radio station for incessant replay:

When record companies and some independent artists send CDs to commercial radio stations for airplay they are often stickered with notes “suggesting” which tracks to favor for airplay, as well as “tear sheets,” a one page artist biography and background information.

The theory is the more “spins” a certain song gets, the higher it will place in Billboard and other commercial pop music charts. WUMB-fm is run more as a commercial station than an independent community station in that

1)  it subscribes to this practice,

2)  airplay is dictated by music director, not the program hosts, who allows only certain artists/songs to be played (e.g. “playlist”),

3)  despite their personal knowledge and experience, “on air hosts” are not allowed to deviate from the playlist.

We suspect WUMB’s new CD flow goes something like this:

The music director…

1)  receives new CDs and reviews for “fit,”

2)  selects only one or two songs, the ones best fitting music mix WUMB’s desired sound, to add to the playlist,

3)  has the CD “ripped” into itunes or a similar database,

4)  creates a daily computer program of songs, promotional breaks, station IDs, PSAs, planned breaks for news, etc. The “on air personalty”…

5)  sits in the UMass Boston studio or in their home studio, and like a TV talking head, during the music breaks reads off prepared scripts or list of management-written talking points about the artists and songs.

Some functionary…

6)  Submits the daily “WUMB playlist archive” — http://wumb.org/cgi-bin/playlist1.pl — to Billboard, Americana Music Association and/or other commercial trade organizations.

In return…

7)  WUMB-fm management gets some kind of reward from record companies and featured artists’/artists’ agents.

If after a 3-4 weeks the CD is still in the favor of the music and general manager, the original one or two songs are retired, replaced by another one or two prescribed by the record company and publicist, and the cycle begins anew. Playing the snot out of the chosen songs to the exclusion of all others on the album, or previously done by the artist, to many listeners makes songs and artists unwelcome (that song again??!!).

In the wall post in its “friend” page — http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=814915243 — titled “Results of WUMB Boston’s annual Top 101 performers, including Chris Smither at number…,” “friends” are asking WUMB-fm management to explain their reasoning behind the heavy play/favorite practice, especially in light of many of the favored artists did not receive enough votes in the recent contest to break the top 120, let alone the top 100.

Richard Danca My question: How does the the top 100 list compare to the playlist? The station’s format has changed a lot over the past few years.

Wumb Boston ‎100% the artists on our Top 100 list are in the WUMB Playlist. If an artist makes it into the Top 100 and we have not previously had their music in our Playlist, we add it.

Scott Johnsen ‎@WUMB – Nice!

Paul Martin re “100% the artists on our Top 100 list are in the WUMB Playlist,” but the opposite is not true. The point was many of the favored artists played every day did not make the top 120. I believe that was Mr. Danca’s underlying point. Will those peoples’ votes (or lack of) influence play frequency and possible de-listing

Wumb Boston The Top 100 artists will probably be played more often. However, artists will not be removed just because they didn’t make the Top 100.

Howard Glazer Why not reduce the number of spins songs by those artists get? After all, the voting seems to show that the push being given those artists by your program director (1) isn’t working.(3)

For more about the “favored” artists who failed to make the top 120, read “There are no surprises in the top ten, so let us focus on how the ‘clunkers’ fared” — http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=175432842482751

WUMB’s “heavy play/narrow focus” commercial practice causes one to wonder, why does WUMB-fm give favor to certain artists and songs to the exclusion of others, is this to “bump” songs the record companies dictate up the charts? That practice serves the selected artists and their record companies and their publicists, but what does WUMB-fm get in exchange? We hope it is not payola (2), can there be another logical reason?

And how does repeating the same AAA artists and songs over and over and over benefit the listeners?

When some non-current favorite song is played, the chances are very hight that it is the one or two or three approved for airplay of that artist. Does WUMB-fm hold listeners in such a low regard that it believes listeners crave only the familiar? One of WUMB-fm’s favorite promotional jingles is “our roots are deep,” which is pure hype and subject to debate. It would be more palatable and truthful if “…but our hyper-played featured artist list is shallow” were added.

Perhaps WUMB-fm will reinstate its “Ask the Manager” feature (not heard since ex-program manager Brian Quinn was on staff) so we could try to get a direct answer. Or hold public forums where members and former members could ask policy questions. In lieu of that, we suggest you call or write station management — http://www.wumb.org/about/contact.php — to inquire into their reasoning behind earmarking 1 or 2 songs/album and playing the snot out of them. And why, despite popular rejection of Dala, The Guggenheim Grotto, Back Yard Tire Fire, Birdsong At Morning, Golden Smog, Ingrid Michaelson, Anders Osborne, Feist, Good Old War, The Tallest Man On Earth, Tom Jones, Sass Jordan, Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Samantha Gibb & The Cartel, Greg Laswell, Vetiver in the popular “top 120” vote, they will continue to receive airplay. And why WUMB-fm has adopted a commercial rather than free-form community radio sound and practices.


(1) Please note, WUMB-fm has had no program director since Brian Quinn’s departure, Mr. Glazer probably meant “music director.” Nevertheless, we are waiting for that answer!

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola

(3) Extracted from http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=143341692381616&id=814915243&notif_t=feed_comment_reply To read the entire thread, go to http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=814915243


3 Responses

  1. “Public” radio station WUMB-fm maintains two Facebook presences

    1. A personal page – “Wumb Boston” – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=814915243 – from which I and many other former member and former employees are banned.

    2. A fan page – “WUMB Radio Network” – http://www.facebook.com/pages/WUMB-Radio-Network/23985746031 – which back in October announced would be its single entity going forward, yet most activities continue in #1.

    Facebook has also created a page that is a repository of all things WUMB, receiving posts from all its sources – WUMB-FM – http://www.facebook.com/pages/WUMB-FM/105586289474541

  2. Great post! But if WUMB is following the lead of other so-called “public stations” then good luck getting any kind of information about their practices. A couple of months ago I tried with 3 stations around the country and had the results posted here under the title “Don’t Ask,Won’t Tell.” And the results are easily summed up: Nada. WUMB was not one of the stations I contacted then, WGBH was. None of the 3 I contacted even bothered to reply, much less provide any answers. I think it’s always a good idea to keep pressing for answers & hold their feet to the fire. But these days it seems like most stations devote more of their energy to keeping the public in the dark than in letting any light shine thru.

  3. […] WUMB's the Word « Keeping the Public in Public Radio […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: