Saturday, 18 March 2017

Laser Radio Programming

  Laser's programming secrets revealed     in new book

After my book late last year about the Communicator, I was asked dozens of questions about the sophisticated programming techniques used by Laser, and how they helped win up to 10 MILLION listeners for the station.   The Radio Adventures of the MV Communicator book was ideal for techies who wanted to know about the ship, aerials and transmitters, but was a bit thin on programme content.

This new book, Laser Radio Programming, answers all those questions, and more!  It discusses the station's format, the style of delivery, the Hot Clocks, and many other programming techniques that have remained secrets - and still seem to be unknown by a lot of programmers in British radio.  

I've taken the debate into the situation post Laser and looked at WHO used the Laser name since the 1980s, and why.   As an appendix I included a reprint of the Laser 558 Operations Manual, which has much valuable information that was the standard template issued to the station's team.  It gives a valuable insight into Laser's output and to radio programming in general.

Offshore Radio today

The book also looks at offshore radio today -  the ongoing Radio Caroline and its quest to be more widely heard (its currently online and has an application for a community radio licence in East Anglia)  and the Radio Seagull operation in the Netherlands.

Both Radio Seagull and Radio Caroline are discussed and referenced in Laser Radio Programming,  along with the Radio Day Offshore Radio Festival in May which is being held in Harlingen. Attendees will be able to take a trip across the harbour aand climb on board Radio Seagull's lightship, the Jenni Baynton, and see programmes going out live. A unique experience!

The book also examines the formats used by offshore stations in the 1960s, especially Swinging Radio England, which is the closes thing to a grandfather that Laser had.  I also look at what the radio landscape was in the UK before Laser launched in 1984, particularly the draconian needle time restrictions, that were one of the reasons Laser was such a resounding success. Well, it was a success as far as audience ratings went - on the financial front, Laser was an unmitigated disaster for its poor backer who was routinely fleeced, cheated and lied to.

UK Radio Programming today

A few weeks ago, an ILR manager issued a memno to his on-air staff basically saying "don't say anything on the air unless cleared with your PD". A ridiculous situation. Other comments in the memo are simply the 'first grade' instructions that Americans give to kids in their school radio stations when they first enter the business.  I espouse that it shows how primitive British radio techniques still are and discuss UK radio programming  further.

The recent axing of overnight DJs at most station, even at BBC Radio 2,  is a disater for radio. Those overnight shifts were a valuable training ground for radio talent. The move to eliminate such opportunities might not be suicideal for radio, but is certainly some vicious "self harming" and I really do worry about the future of radio.

Ive also included comments from veteran Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg DJ Tony Prince about the subject.  This is something that everyone with an interest in the medium should concern themselves with.

The Book

The book, Laser Radio Programming is available from World of Radio now. It's a softback book of 181 pages at just £15.95 (includes postage to the UK, to the rest of the world it's £19.95).  I believe the book is bound to become another 'collectors' item', so don't delay in ordering it!  Orders taken by Paypal, so you can use a card and the books ARE in stock, so your order will be dispatched immediately

You can also order the previous book about Laser, Radio Adventures of the MV Communicator, which tells about the ship, its equipmenmt and all the 11 radio stations that broadcast from her over a 21 year carrer as a radio ship. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Stevie Wonder battles for radio's future

Stevie Wonder battles for the future of radio

Legendary Motown musician Stevie Wonder has joined the battle for the future of radio. He's written a lengthy article about how the current trend towards ever more copyright bodies is stifling radio and may lead to its demise. The move will certainly drive many smaller stations out of business, leaving only the big boys on the bands - the major conglomerates.

Stevie makes several impassioned pleas in his article (you can read it all by clicking here), and stands up firmly on the sign of broadcasters.  He owns his own station in Los Angeleses, called KJLH Stevie says it stands for Kindness, Joy, Love and Harmony and he insists that the DJs have a free hand in the music they play. The station even includes the name FREE in its title.  Stevie bought the station over forty years ago, in the early 1970s. KVLH has long been one of the leading black music stations in California and is now the oldest African-American owned station on the west coast.

"Radio give us not only music and entertainment and direct into our homes, but news, war and religion, " says Stevie.  "It has helped shape the psyche of our country in difficult times and it has served to reassure us that we were not alone at times we thought we were. And while radio has seemingly been eclipsed through the years by other forms of mass communication, radio remains that constant that we rely on to always be there to deliver what we need."

The first thing most people think about when they think about radio is hearing their favorite song," Stevie reminds us. "Or they will be tuning in to listen to their favorite radio personality, because to this day DJs are often just as big a star as those on the records they spin (an out-of-date metaphor, I know, but you get the point).

"The first thing most people think about when they think about radio is hearing their favorite song," Stevie reminds us. "Or they will be tuning in to listen to their favorite radio personality, because to this day DJs are often just as big a star as those on the records they spin (an out-of-date metaphor, I know, but you get the point)."

"Mo matter how much current artists embrace new technology and platforms to spread their music, if you ask any one of them, they will still tell you that their biggest kick came from hearing their song on the radio for the first time, " says Stevie in the article

One of Stevie's best friends will tell you exactly the same. Paul McCartney (his and Stevie's duet Ebony and Ivory was #1 around the world in late 1983) reports that the first time he and the other three Beatles heard their music on the radio was in the group's van travelling home from a gig in 1962. They herd it on Radio Luxembourg; DJ Tony Prince has the actual copy played  and now signed by Paul McCartney its worth over £10,000. 

"All across the country there are still independent station owners maintaining a strong and vital link to their communities in the form of being not just a source of entertainment but also the eyes, ears and voice of their listeners. They are small-business men and women trying to be of service to their local markets while also dealing with the obstacles of running a radio station. I know these people very well, because I am one of them. I have owned my radio station KJLH in Los Angeles for almost 40 years," says Stevie, whose music continues to be among the most downloaded on iTunes. KJLH programmes all kinds of black-oriented music, but primailly jazz and urban contemporary. 

  "We strive very hard to be a meaningful member of our community and offer things that the large or nationwide programmers can’t. We are a home to our listeners, a place they find comfort and refuge from the mass market. All that is threatened if we cant stay in business. As a songwriter and recording artist, I grew up at a time when there were only two performing rights organizations in the United States, ASCAP and BMI. In virtually every other country in the world there is only one society. Then came a third, SESAC. And now we have a fourth: GMR. We  independent station owners are facing higher costs to play the music our audience wants to hear.  We have chaos, uncertainty and uinfairness!"

Let us all find a way to create a better system that takes away the need for any of us to be unhappy. 
Let us work together to get this thing right.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Internet Radio 2016 - your own online radio station

Internet Radio

Launching your own online radio station

on Kindle
and 'in print'


Earlier this year I published a book called "Internet Radio 2016". It tells readers what's needed and where to find everything that you need to set up and run your own Online Radio station. It is a mighty work - around 77,000 words and was designed as a reference work as well as an educational read.   The reaction has been very good - and we know of several who have launched stations with the E-Book's help. 

It is difficult to gauge the response of niche books such as this. My previous books have sold up to 10,000 copies but this one, well, perhaps we are expecting not quite so many!   To print and bind large numbers of books is very expensive, and you need to do so on a large scale otherwise the costs (for short runs) quickly escalates until the actual cost of a book goes well beyond what most buyers will be willing to pay for a title.  

The size of this book for a Kindle was around 350 pages, and to print and bind up 1,000 copies used to cost about £50 a copy, so we decided to go with the initial publication being as an eBook.  

Many people are convinced that this digital route to publishing is the future of book publishing, although if you look at any crowded book store any Saturday afternoon, you will see there are still tens of thousands of books being sold every week. Most of them are about cookery, or children's stories, such as the highly successful Harry Potter series but there is still a good market for popular books.  But a book will only ne successful if sufficient marketing is done and the title is of interest to the public.  You can have the best book in the world, but if no one knows about it, then it simply will not sell. 

Where can I read E-books?

E-Books are more versatile than the printed editions, as you can incorporate audio and video recordings into them as well as web links to other sites for more information. You can read an eBook via any device with a screen: a desktop computer (Apple Mac or Windows, they work on all types), laptops, tablets (such as the iPad) or even Smartphones.  And of course the many Kindle based devices, including the Amazon Fire. One huge advantage with eBooks is that the reader is able to vary the size of the print to suit you eye's capabilities. It’s so easy to increase the size of the print, which makes for a really easy reading experience. 

Similarly, pricing is just as important as availability.  We studied the few books that are available about radio stations, and the number is not huge. (There is a section on them in the Internet Radio 2016' book; the Bibliography includes a guide to the content of such radio books.).  The average price of general radio books, the semi-autobiographical ones, is from £10 to £25, and the more information, technical and academic books that impart knowledge, etc, sell for about £30 to £45, as anyone who has had to buy text books for university courses will know!

Internet Radio 2016  - now IN PRINT 

We decided to pitch the "Internet Radio 2016" book in its printed form at £25 or so. By removing a lot of the logos and using a slightly smaller text size we have been able to trim the size down to 280 pages and the cost to just below £25 24.50 in fact, which  includes post and packing!

So, in answer to those who want a hard copy of the Internet Radio 2016 book, its now available, either via bookstores (who take a few weeks to stock such specialist items) or via AMAZON's excellent mail order service, which can get YOUR copy despatched almost immediately and in your mailbox by tomorrow! 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Pub launches 

its own 

radio station 

Ive spent most of my adult life working in radio or behind bars - i.e. stood behind a bar dispensing drinks, in a piub, hotel, night pub or wherever! Great fun, both, but I have often wandered from one industry to the other because I didn't want to leave the lifestyle of either of them. They both really are great fun, and I am a firm believer in always doing whatever you enjoy!

Its amazing that I haven't thought of the idea before now, of running a radio station from a pub!

Well, someone else has beaten me to it.  Ian Evans and Brett Orchard have combined their experience in the licensed trade with time in radio and launched a radio station from a pub.  They have taken on an Enterprise Inns lease  (always a minefield of potential legal and financial problems - BEWARE!) on the Winchester Arms in Taunton (Somerset) and reopened it as the Atlantic Radio cafe. 

The sound-proofed studio is located inside the pub, just off one of the bars, meaning diners can not only hear the station but they can also watch the station's broadcasters.  Sometimes they can even take part in the programmes.  

The station's output can be heard on the internet, and they are currently targeting a family and predominantly female audience, aged between 25 and 55.  Atlantic Radio also intends to have a presence at various events in the taunton area and they have invested in a converted 'Thunderer' pick up truck, used for OBs. 

Maybe they will be playing lots of BEER GEES records?
Soft Cellar?  Stevie 'Golden' Wonder?  Guns & Rosé ? 

 Roberts 93i

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Rare Record Price Guide 2018 reviewed

 RRPG 2018 cover
Rare Record 
Price Guide 
2018 edition 
now available.

One new book published in October is, without any doubt, the best resource for the latest information about the state of the market for used vinyl records. Its a huge book with over 1,400 pages, listing one hundred thousand (100,000) of the rarest record releases in the UK. Better than just a cataloguing of the A & B sides, the catalogue number and artiste, the book also puts a fair valuation on the records' prices, based on actual sales and opinions of many of the UK's top record sellers.

Each artists has their own listing which chronologically runs through singles, EPs, LPs, etc, as can be seen herte with this very short exceprtt from the Beatles section, which tells how to accurately age the many issues and re-issues of their releaes. A 'First Pressing' is worth far more than a third or fifth repressing, that will proably have been contracted out to another company, as the Beatles were selling so many records in the sixties.

Beatles rare records listing

Editor Ian Shirley, of the world famous Record Collector monthly magazine,  assesses the business with the help of some of the leading experts in the field.  The RRPG is now in its 14th edition and covers all kinds of pop, soul, dance, rock and many more sub genres. Singles, albums, even CDs and 8 tracks are included,  where these are appropriately rare. 

Rare Record Values 

The guide shows 'mint' values, and has the necessary grid to track how to assess the comparison of your copies - is it Very Good, Fair, Poor, etc and so arrive at a reasonable valuation for items in your own collection.  The book lists every UK single worth over £5 mint,  every EP (ask your dad!) over £10 mint, each CD single with a value over £8, Album (LP) worth over £12 and CD album over £18
45s Beatles sleeves

Sometimes it s not only the vinyl thats of value, but the correct sleeve; much is put on a record being in its correct 'birth sleeve' and to help be certain that these are correct pictures of the right ones are shown for the most valuable records. 

No matter how obscure your taste you'll find the most sought after items here whether your particular obsession is 50's rockabilly, 60's MOR, 70's jazz funk, 80's post punk, hip-hop, reggae, Northern Soul, British Jazz or today's indie bands. If it is collectable, and it was released in the UK, then you'll find it in the Rare Record Price Guide!

2018 is the latest edition 

Back copies of RRPGThe book comes out bi-annually, and previous year's editions still sell for quite hefty prices, ullustrating what a valuable work of love this book is. Constantly revised and updated, no self-respecting record collector or music fan should be without a copy. I am sure you will be using it for many years and it will give many years of enjoyment, for you and, once they realise you have a copy, for all your friends. too. They will all be popping around regularly to 'just check one record oiut' and will probably stop for hours leafing through!

Link to buy RRPG 2018The book can be obtained via Amazon who offer next day delivery for just £29.99 including Post and Packing, or there are some offers  where you can get a copy for around £20. (Take care to be sure you are ordering the right year's edition). The 2016 has already been out for two years - its the 2018 one thats the latest and most up to date. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

Radio Adventures of the MV Communicator



 of the 
MV Communicator 

Its over thirty years ago that I wrote the book "Lid off Laser 558", a story about we set up one of Europe's most successful radio stations, on board a ship!  

The book was a great success, just like the radio station, Laser 558, which attracted over five million listeners in the UK and a similar number on the continent. Although very successful, the station was short lived, thanks to a totally inept New York based management who tried to control the station from the Big Apple.

They spent a fortune entertaining prospective advertisers on a series of junkets to Las Vegas but starved the poor DJs out on the ship of food, wages and even water. Eventually the crew mutinied and in true pirate fashion took the ship into port, where I was waiting with a writ!

The ship was sold for a pittance to pay her outstanding bills and her next owner put her back to sea as Laser Hot Hits. he was even less successful and soon she was languishing back in harbour again. Her next owner was Fred Bolland who had run the very successful Radio Monique. He took her to Portugal for a refit as a four station radio giant, but the Dutch secret service got very scared about one of his customers - a fundamental religious organisation called the Underground Church. By spooking the Dutch government's cabinet,  the BVD (Dutch sceret police) got permission to take immediate action and mounted an armed raid on the Radio Caroline ship, that crippled the organisation.   They also persuaded the Portuguese to stop the Communicator leaving harbour.       

A few years later the ship was taken to Holland, given a licence and successfully broadcast with a new high popwer Medium Wave transmitter on 1224AM.  Holland FM, Veronica Hit Radio and Q The Beat are just three of the stations that broadcast from the ship. She broadcast legally in Holland for around eight years during which time she made a fortune for her operators.

 In 2003 she was sold to a British company and taken to Scotland, the Orkney Islands to be exact, and launched a local radio station from there called the Super Station.

Now availabe as HARDBACK
or as a SOFTBACK copy 
This is a collection of stories of those eleven radio stations that were heard transmitting from the Communicator at one time or another. They are all "from the horse's mouth" , either the owners, the engineers, the DJs, the suppliers  and, in many cases, my own. I also examine the background into the many other projects that planned to transmit from her.  The midnight raids, the extortion, the takeovers and of course that other big lure of pirate radio - The Loot! 
Among the questions answered are:-
  • Why was it on board a ship?
  • What qualifications did DJs need to join the ship?  
  • How did they live and spend their time on board?  
  • What did they eat and drink ? 
  • What did they do for recreation?
  • Who was the ghost who appeared in the transmitter room?

A fun-filled, action-packed tale of 
dramatic events on the High Seas.  
Over 200 pages of swashbuckling excitement!  

To get a copy you can either order it at your local bookshop (ISBNs are below) or order via Amazon, or direct from the publishers who can get me to personally sign it and put in whatever dedication you wish.   Find it at the WorldofPages web site. An excellent idea for a Christmas present perhaps?

Link to  'Radio Adventures of the MV Communicator'
Radio Adventures 
of the MV Communicator
by Paul Alexander Rusling.  
Published by World of Radio Ltd
ISBN   Hardback   978-1-900401-14-2
             Softback   978-1-900401-12-8