Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Midwest's Gateway to the World: WOXY
An interview with Matt Shiv
When it comes to integrity within the national radio community, Cincinnati-based station WOXY has always been a name music fans can depend on.
The focus on providing listeners with a way to hear underground bands that would never succeed or get a voice in the Clear Channel world is what makes the station stand head and shoulders above the rest. Its longevity is also a thing to behold.
WOXY hit some hard times with funding a few years ago, but has since settled nicely into the role of the Internet-based station.
With the scope of People with Animal Heads focusing on the Midwest music scene, not talking to WOXY's Music Director Matt Shiv would be a huge mistake.
Local Cincinnati shows have been packed simply because the station plays a regional band's song. It is this kind of visible regional/worldwide respect that makes the station's impression so unique.
Shiv said there are lots of Cincinnati bands WOXY has playlisted since going internet-only and they also make an effort to have as many of them in for live in-studio "Lounge Acts" as possible. His said this is another way to help present their music to a wider audience.
But Shiv added that the concept of playing local bands with national bands has never been the point. It's all about finding bands they love and then supporting them.
"When WOXY was a local FM broadcast, we really went out of the way to spotlight the local music community. Once we went internet-only in 2004, we had to refocus our efforts a bit. Just because you are a band in Cincinnati or Dayton, that doesn't automatically earn you airplay on the station these days. The music submitted by local artists is held up to the same standards as any submission from around the world. If we like it, we support it," Shiv said. "Mike, Joe, and I are all from this area, so even without noticing that we have a fondness for Midwestern bands and artists, I think that sometimes that just shines through. In addition to the tri-state, we've really supported a lot of bands from Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland and Nashville."
He said the music coming out of all these areas does not seem to be getting the attention it deserves on a national
level. What these Midwestern bands face, as opposed to coastal bands, is that they have to try harder.
"I think that it can be challenging to build a regional following in this area, but if you are lucky enough to connect with an audience, they are really loyal," Shiv said.
Lately, he said, WOXY has been championing Chicago's Bound Stems as a prime example of what they enjoy.
"Their debut disc "Appreciation Night" was one of the best debut albums I've heard in a long time," Shiv said. "We fell in love with them and gave them as much support as humanly possible. They got some solid blog love and toured their asses off, but I still hope more people discover them."
Shiv also has advice for burgeoning bands hoping to pursue the radio frontier.
"The main suggestion that I can make to anybody trying to pursue radio airplay is to have quality product and submit it professionally. At WOXY.com, we've got a staff of three people and get hundreds of cd submissions a week. I can't even keep up with everything that comes in the door, never mind people e-mailing me asking me to follow 500 links to listen to their music online. Our attitude has always been, if you want me to hear your music, you'll get it into my hands," Shiv said.
He also stressed getting to know as much as possible about the radio stations before sending out material.
"If you cannot afford to have your disc promoted to radio, make sure you are doing a bit of research before you mail out all your CD's," Shiv said. "If you are a metal band, WOXY is not where you want to mail your music. It will end up in the trash."
At the end of the day, he said, he feels like WOXY pays less attention to where bands are from and worries more about the question: IS THIS GOOD?
"I know that we have a lot of A&R people from record labels who pay attention to the bands that we playlist who are unsigned. We get e-mails from them often asking us for more details on a certain band or they'll approach us after a Lounge Act performance airs asking for contact info. All we do is play the music that we feel strongly about, but I am always thrilled when that translates into more exposure or a label signing for a band," Shiv said.