Monday, September 01, 2014

Labor Day

Today is Labor day and in recognition of who really does the work around here, I am taking the day off. 
You can read more about the holiday here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

WARC bands

In Meadville, PA, on the campus of Allegheny College there lies a 400 watt college radio station, 90.3 WARC-FM. There are are non-commercial station, operating on the south side of the FM band. There are probably wholly unaware of a segment of the Amateur Radio band that happens to bear their name: The WARC Bands.

The WARC bands are 30 meters, 17 meters and 12 meters. This was established in 1979 at the World Administrative Radio Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, which is how they got their name. But this conference no longer exists. It was the main technical conference of the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). The ITU was a advisory group that gathered delegates from member nations to amend/revise international Radio Regulations. It ceased to exist in 1992 when a Plenipotentiary  conference "restructured" the WARC into the World Radiocommunication Conference or WRC. More pics here.

That 1979 conference took 10 weeks, and that doesn't even counting the preparatory conference that preceded it in Panama.They started on September 24th and finally broke on December 6th. There were a total of 147 delegations and about 2,000 individual delegates. They considered 15,000 different proposals in that time and most of those were about the allocation of specific frequency bands for particular uses. I cannot imagine what it takes to get 2,000 people to agree on anything. Somehow the result was that these frequency bands to the Amateur Radio band:
30 meters (10.100–10.150 MHz)
17 meters (18.068–18.168 MHz)
12 meters (24.890–24.990 MHz)
There were caveats attached of course dividing individual slivers for certain services: CW, narrow band digital, beacons, wide band digital etc. Also there remains a "gentleman's agreement" that the WARC bands may not be used for amateur radio contesting, a sport in which hams try to rack up two-way communications competitively for both distance and quantity.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Vinyl Records Are Made

I've posted before on how records are made but this is a nice modern production line. This baffling revival of vinyl has led to the re-activation and even new construction of record production facilities in America. So far this year total record sales are down almost 9% but sales of LPs, those 12-inch vinyl discs are up 33%. that meteoric rise is just s capstone on the 250% increase since 2002.

Amazing no?  I still believe that it's the last gasp of a doomed format. But in the mean time I will enjoy picking up high-quality re-pressings of Jazz sides I'd never otherwise own in mint condition. Thank you sentimental hipsters. As Claire Suddath quipped..."These people probably also eat kale."



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Half A Song or Half A Radio Station?

So let's start with the tagline of this story. It's run in a few magazines and newspapers but the gist is always the same. "This Calgary radio station has started cutting songs in half so listeners don’t get bored." First of all CHR/Pop is a pretty boring format. Canadian content requirements can't possibly improve upon that monotonous disaster of a playlist. More here. The original Billboard article praised it like the real deal

"The concept of QuickHitz was born in 2005. That’s when Sean Demery launched a feature called “The 60 Song Music Hour”—where songs were cut down to one minute each—on CBS alternative KITS (Live 105) San Francisco, where he was PD at the time."

The new format is called "Quickhitz." the station is 90.3 CKMP Calgary, Alberta in Canada. Just earlier this month they debuted the format. It ran for 3 weeks and then they quietly reverted to a normal, safe CHR playlist on August 20th. The station's ratings trail behind its CHR rivals in Calgary: Virgin Radio 98.5 CIBK and Kiss 95.9 CHFM. It was probably just a stunt. But the idea has merit. Lets us explore that idea.

First of all they didn't cut the songs in half. They didn't do a hatched job. they spent the time to do decent edits and shave the song down to about 2 minutes each, a reduction of about 30%. It was aimed this increased their number of spins per hour from 12 to 24. It was hyperbole. A hour is comprised of 60 minutes. During morning zoo 8-10 is more likely with the chatter. But in an afternoon slot sure 12 songs is totally plausible with the balance being filled by ads, liners, station ID and mic breaks, etc. 12 song sat an average of 3 minutes each is 32 minutes. An actually sustainable format would not reduce their spot load. If the songs were two minutes long the new hourly playlist would be about 16 songs.

But a modern CHR playlist is only about 120 songs deep. That's pretty shallow if you play 16 songs an hour. That's 364 spins a day. In other words, even if every song was played an equal number of times, each would be spun about 3 times daily. Now all of you in radio know that's not accurate. Some songs are already being played 20 or more times a day on CHR stations. So clearly Quickhitz would either need a deeper playlist or substantially fewer songs in heavy rotation to reduce burn out. But as a stunt it at least made good satire.

Sparknet Communications in Vancouver developed the brand and format. Previously they developed and rolled out the now ubiquitous Jack format, lending creedence to the story. Different parts of their website retain information on the brand but the original site is gone.. but thankfully still cached.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Transcription Mystery Disc #228

This is a 78 rpm metal-core, 8-Inch Recordisc. it's actually the B-side of the unlabeled idsc from last week that caught my attention. The physical connection made me suspect Ted Daffan but the song sounds nothing like his pop repertoire. I have my doubts in other words.

 It's So Hard to Walk the Straight and Narrow Way

This is a christian country tune presumably called "It's So Hard to Walk the Straight and Narrow Way." The  lyric is a reference to Matthew 7:13-14. The lyrics and arrangement appear to be originals. It's a shame the disc is unlabeled. The song consists of voice accordion, guitar and piano. The harmonies are quite competent. They are not local hacks, this was an experienced, road-worn band. The recording ends with an eruption of applause making me suspect this is another live radio recording.