Our friends in DeVotchKa swung through Washington, DC, back in March and went to the Hill with us to talk to Congress about the importance of public radio for musicians. The Denver Post recently ran an Op-Ed from the band; click over to the Post’s website or see below for the full text of the piece.
The importance of public radio to the music community
By Tom Hagerman, Shawn King, Jeanie Schroder and Nick Urata
Originally published in The Denver Post, November 9, 2011
On a recent stop in Washington D.C., our band, DeVotchka, had the opportunity to meet with some members of Congress and discuss the importance of National Public Radio. We got to tell our story and explain how NPR has given us, and many like us, an audience and a chance at a career.
Telling our story to policymakers was empowering, but we felt a need to take it a step further. Several weeks ago, we sent a letter to the Colorado Congressional delegation, expressing our concern and amazement that America’s elected officials would even consider eliminating support for such an important platform for American musical culture.
Many current musicians, who do not fit into a major-label industry, have a strikingly similar story which emphasizes how noncommercial radio helped shape their early influences, played their music when they were getting started and opened the door to a larger audience as they continued. These locally-rooted stations are loved by artists and fans alike because their programming is based on a passion for music and a desire to create a shared experience between listeners.
And that’s what we told Congress. Unfortunately, some members have yet to tune in.
Over the last few months, House Republicans signaled their intent to significantly cut back funding for public radio while placing other dramatic restrictions on noncommercial radio stations who want to air programs produced by NPR. While we personally do not feel this is a wise budget cut, professionally this is clearly not helpful to the music community, which depends on noncommercial and public radio to thrive.
In fact, DeVotchka’s own musical path took a turn that we can largely credit to National Public Radio.
A little more than five years ago, the filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris were listening to one of their favorite radio stations, Santa Monica’s beloved KCRW, when they heard our music on the air.
They thought our sound and aesthetic could be a perfect fit for a new movie they were shooting, and came out to one of our shows to meet and discuss the film with us. From there, we agreed to help score their movie, Little Miss Sunshine, which ended up receiving a nomination for best picture at the Oscars. The movie brought our music to a universe of fans who had never heard us before.
Now the need to convey the importance of public radio in our personal and professional lives has compelled us to join the growing network of musicians and artists that are writing letters and visiting Congress in support of this crucial broadcast sector.
Ultimately, policymakers need to recognize that local, over-the-air broadcast radio remains a vibrant medium for music discovery. Even in this era of online taste making and subscription music services, radio retains an almost mystical allure.
Radio connects people to culture and community in a way that other media cannot. To be moved by a song over the airwaves is a very powerful thing. It’s happened to us as listeners, and we’ve benefited from it happening to others. We want to preserve that dynamic for artists and fans everywhere, especially those who have yet to come on to the scene.
The public and noncommercial sector remains committed to providing a platform for the widest range of American art and culture imaginable.
To limit or eliminate this vital infrastructure would result in serious harm to the sustainability and growth of today’s music industry. As music lovers and music makers, we can’t let that happen.
Tom Hagerman, Shawn King, Jeanie Schroder and Nick Urata are members of Denver-based band DeVotchka.