Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Why The World Needs WFMU

I'm fairly certain that nearly everyone who reads this blog is familiar with WFMU. Yesterday the station is began its annual fund-raising marathon, which will carry through the next two weeks. For those that know the station, I will remind you not to take it for granted and pony up some cash. Those who haven't... well, you've been missing out and I hope I can convince you to send them a couple of bucks.

WFMU is an outlet for creativity that exists entirely on its own terms. It's a cultural touchstone completely removed from the mechanisms of industry. In this day and age, this is nothing short of remarkable. I don't want to slip into punk rock/pinko cliché here but so much of mass entertainment media is controlled by small group of corporations less concerned with presenting the public with quality work than fiscal prudence. This is especially true of radio, where playlists are generally limited to a handful of already commercially proven artists lest listeners tune out upon hearing something unfamiliar. Even independent music blogs, ostensibly a forum for individual ideas, have become increasingly little more than outlets for publicists. The results aren't always pablum, but they are often enough to make one suspicious and cynical about the entire enterprise.

WFMU is a real alternative to the above, airing work by artists who are not, in the terms of the music industry, unit shifters. Each DJ is an unpaid volunteer who programs his or her own weekly block of the schedule. There's no "format," no program director dictating what goes over the airwaves. Thus, every DJ's show is a reflection of his or her personal tastes, varying wildly in content from person to person. The station accepts no advertising, which ensures that WFMU's DJs are unencumbered by any restrictions that could be imposed by commercial interests. For those who volunteer there, the only motive is passion to offer the world the type of programming they want to hear. It's a shame to know that culture presented by human beings rather than conglomerate groupthink is the exception rather than the norm. WFMU is not the only exception but it may well be the most prominent. Their continued existence is an inspiration to anyone who values art over commerce and the unique tastes of individuals over focus group reduction.

Of course, the ethics granted by the station's lack of underwriting comes with the price of having to ask their listeners for monitory support. So tune in (91.1 FM in the New York area), listen to their extensive archives, check out their innovative iPhone app and, above all, send them some money.

There's all kinds of prizes and thank you gifts for your donation. And if that's not enough, one of the finest rock bands of all time will be playing your requests in exchange for pledges on Friday night.

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