Oh. My. God. Becky, look at her butt…

This is The Stairway to Heaven for a different decade.

It is so big. She looks like, one of those rap guys’ girlfriends. But, you know, who understands those rap guys?
They only talk to her, because, she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?

Ordinarily, I don’t much go in for such things as rap music.  But this is entertaining, and somewhat universal.

Hard to believe that it was almost twenty years ago. Almost every lyric in that song is innuendo for some sex act. Like it. Dislike it. No rules were broken when making this song. It went to number 1 on the billboard chart in the summer of 1992 and no radio station anywhere ever received a fine for playing it.  It was quite scandalous at the time, of course, we were young and naive then.   Things have changed.

To the beanpole dames in the magazines: You ain’t it, Miss Thing!

I occurs to me that part of the reason that the radio industry sucks is because the music industry sucks.  The radio and music industry used to have a symbiotic relationship, each benefiting greatly from the existence of the other.  Of course, the greed and poor business practices of the last decade have driven every fun and thus entertaining element away from both industries.   Leave it to the bean counters, who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Sadly, no hit that I have heard on the top 40 station these days even comes close to the entertainment value of this 18 year old song.

Fireworks sychronized to music played over the radio!

In previous years, I have had the very pleasurable experience of setting up a fire works show remote with music synchronized to our FM radio station.  Ordinarily I don’t go near a remote broadcast, however, this is one of the more intricate broadcasts requiring coordination between the studio, the remote site and the fire works barge anchored 300 yards off shore, out in the Hudson River.  The fireworks company, Garden State Fireworks, are consummate professionals and produce a very well choreographed show.

Giving them the synchronizing track on site is not very hard, however, I was surprised to hear that not every radio station does that.  In fact, one of our, ah, ehm, Clear Channel competitors from The big Metropolitan Center Nearby could not be bothered to do it for the 4th of July fireworks this summer and last summer too.

The synchronizing track is on the left channel of a CD that Garden State Fireworks created, it is 1200 baud FSK data, 8,N,1, so it is pretty robust.

I thought I would post on how I do it and why. First of all, for the how part, there are two options:

  1. Play the music CD at the remote site and relay broadcast quality music back to the studio without any time delay.  Hard to do even with an ISDN line.
  2. Play the music CD at the studio and relay telephone quality audio for the firing track to the remote site from the studio.  Have the remote site play the air signal over the local PA system.

Option number 2 is technically far easier than option number 1, although it takes a fair bit of coordination.  Also, the sound reinforcement guy didn’t like the air signal idea because the quality of the audio.   That is a little nit picky, especially given the fact that much of the music at the fireworks show will be drowned out by the fireworks explosions.    In the end, he saw it my way.

Here is a list of equipment needed:

  1. Telco auto answer coupler, such as the Indy Audio
  2. Telco Hybrid, such as the Telos
  3. If the announcer is at the fireworks site, a POTS CODEC such as a Comrex Matrix or blue box
  4. Wireless microphone
  5. Telephone set and cord with RJ-11 connector
  6. Miscellaneous mic cables, power cords, etc
  7. At the remote site, two pots lines from the local phone company, long distance  service as required.

Here is the block diagram:

Note, this assumes no delay in the telco network, which under ordinary circumstances using wired, not cellular network, there should not be any.  The touchiest part of the whole thing is getting the stage coordinated with the studio during the transition to the remote broadcast.  Once that is done, everything else just falls into place.

The firing computer is located on shore next to our broadcast booth.  They send the signal out to the barge on a wireless LAN link.

That is the how part.  Here is the why (soundtrack is a little low):

That is from three years ago, but you get idea.

Even though I don’t work for these people anymore, I asked if they needed help with the broadcast this year.  “Nope, we got it, thanks.”  I will be paying close attention.

Radio Shark – Digital Audio Recording Device

Very similar to a TiVo, only works  with radios.   There are some very good radio shows out there, the kind that make you sit in the car long after you have reached your destination.  The kind that you might schedule your day around if possible.

A few of them are syndicated on NPR a few are locally produced, some are interesting talk, some are perspective, some are new music, etc.

Radio Shark Digital Audio Recording Device
Radio Shark Digital Audio Recording Device

Wouldn’t it be great if you could time shift those shows and listen to them when you wanted to?  Imagine this, you know that “This American Life” is airs on Saturday afternoon and it is a favorite.  However, this  Saturday you are busy working or what ever.  Go to the Radio Shark and program it to record your show, then listen to it later.  What a concept.

What this unit does:

  1. Plugs into PC or Mac USB port.
  2. Has AM and FM receivers built in.
  3. Can record programming and play back later, or pause programming and resume playback while recording.

What this unit does not do:

  1. Not very portable, unless the user want to lug a lap top around.
  2. Does not integrate into cars or other playback devices, such as I-pods, etc.
  3. Does not record internet sources directly, although there are a few links to shareware on the Radio Shark website that will do this.

This is a start, but what is really needed is something that is factory installed in cars.  Say the Digital Audio Recording Device (DARD) can be in installed in the car, or in the house, or both.  Then  each DARD has a flash drive that can be moved from one unit to another, but only played back in DARD units (to thwart pirating music). It can even be an I-pod app.

This is the type of new technology that will bring listeners to radio and make radio stations create good quality local content, stuff you can’t get anyplace else.

Why aren’t these being marketed?  Heck, radio stations should be giving them to listeners, I bet you could even get them manufactured with station logos.  Seems like an opportunity lost to embrace some meaningful, understandable, young technology.

Update: Okay, there are others out there as well.  What needs to happen is all these features tied together and offered in stock car radios.

Radio is dead/Radio is not dead

I have been reading with interest the whole debate about radio being dead or dying vs. radio being a vibrant thriving business.

FM-analog-tuning-indicator

Radio is not dead by any measure, however it is declining for a number of obvious reasons.  There are more competing entertainment and information options, that is true.  Ipods, netcasters, satellite radio have taken some of radio’s listeners away.  However, the main culprit in radio’s decline are the investment bankers that are squeezing every drop of blood nickle out of the industry before moving on to their next victim investment opportunity.

The net result of this has made much, not all, of radio predicable and boring.  No longer is radio the source for new music, news, information and entertainment as it used to be.  I don’t think that anyone will argue that point.  The money men have fired most of the creative and talented individuals who used to bring in the listeners and replaced them with computers.  They have also cut news staffs, support staffs and anything else that lives and breaths except sales people.  More sales people are always required.

HD RadioTM radio is a joke at best.  Setting aside all of the technical problems with coverage and building penetration, the programming sucks too.  The same purveyors of crap on the main analog channels are now branching out on the HD2 and HD3 channels.  I can’t believe that the secondary channels will somehow be better than the main analog channels,  or even marginally good enough to buy an HD Radio radio.  Some groups are putting their AM programming on an FM HD2 channel, which is great if one cares to hear drug addled corpulent talk show hosts wheezing into the microphone in full fidelity.   At least on the AM analog broadcasts, everything above 4.5 KHz is cut off, wheezing included.

The good news is, there are still some radio stations that are programmed well.  Radio sets are almost universal, every car has one, every house has at least one or two, most offices, stores, etc. Radio reception is still free.  Radio is still popular among many people.  Radio owner’s could very easily become involved with their communities of license, make better programing decisions, hire staffs, and add valuable informative local programs again.  This decline would soon be forgotten.

The bad news is that is unlikely to happen.  Less than a snowball’s chance in hell unless someone wakes up and smells the coffee.

I am half an optimist.