When radio station WDET
dropped nearly all of its music programming a couple years ago, it left
a deep dark void in Detroit's music scene. Even as Detroit gained some
excellent local news talk in shows like "Detroit Today
local musicians lost one of their biggest media outlets. And those who
wanted to tune into FM radio to hear something different lost their
place on the dial.
Now, however, WDET is using its HD radio
capacity -- which gives it multiple "stations" to broadcast on -- to
offer something more to music fans. And that would be music. And lots
WDET 101.9 FM is an NPR affiliate located on the campus
of Wayne State University. Through the magic of the high def radio and
the Internet, the station is bringing a vanguard of local DJs together
to represent Detroit's creative class to the world through a series of
innovative broadcasts, collectively called The Avenue. Having the HD
radio station also means Detroit Public Radio will get to dust off its
extensive music library, which includes more than 30,000 titles.
you listen to 89X or 97.9 FM, they're only playing one kind of music,"
says Aaron Vince, WDET public relations assistant and a DJ for The
Avenue. He hosts a Thursday night show called "Cookie Breath." "What
makes WDET different is that you're exposed to so many different forms
of music, through a single station."
The Avenue is broadcast nightly from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on WDET's HD station. You can also hear it on the web here
HD radio is digitally broadcast radio, giving FM stations CD-quality
sound, and AM stations FM quality sound. Unlike satellite radio
services like Sirius or XM, the service is free; but like sattleite
radio, you have to purchase a special receiver to get HD radio. Learn
more about it here
. Or, like we said, just listen to it on the web here
Avenue DJs spin all kinds of music -- new wave, industrial, hip-hop and
lots of local stuff. It's a commercial-free station, and WDET says it
will replicate the mission and values of traditional public radio
programming, and of course it will abide by FCC guidelines. Just think
more music, less talky talky.
"Everyone's really musically
oriented, and they're going to educate you, if you listen," says Vince
of the fellow DJs. "I think that's why a lot of people are here at
"Detroit Today" talk show producer Monica Isaac says her
own background influences the music she plays on "The Outer Ends,"
which mixes Afrobeat, Motown, soul and hip-hop sounds.
really want to play more North African beats, because I'm Egyptian,"
she says. "And I find that you can't play Afrobeat without playing soul
or funk. You can really hear those influences, too, in the 1959-1960 Motown sound."
Some shows chronicle the city's indie music scene. On "Musicians' Pick," "The Back Story"
producer Mike Blank spends an hour conducting personal, in-depth
interviews with some of Detroit's up-and-coming recording artists. "We
just hang out, and listen to music they like, and talk about what it
means to them, and how it influences their own sound," Blank says.
DJs bring hard-to-find music from around the world. "Detroit Today"
producer Amanda Le Claire says her show, "Soft Edge," reflects the
music she lives for: electro-pop, new wave and electronica.
find my music through digging," says Le Claire. She digs through music
blogs, foreign art magazines and stacks of 12-inch disco records from
the '80s to create her playlists. One recent "Soft Edge" show explored
"remixes from producers Designer Drugs, a new track from New Look
featuring former Detroiter Jimmy Edgar, music from Belgian label Kraak,
and much, much more."
Clearly, this is not "A Prairie Home Companion
incredibly exciting," Le Claire says, "to find new music in your own
time, created by people your own age, in your own generation."
social networking, The Avenue DJs are also revolutionizing the
connection between DJ and listener. Le Claire's "Soft Edge" Facebook
group allows musicians to submit their songs, and a "Soft Edge" web
site is currently in the works. John Notarianni's show, "Electric Park Radio
," links listeners to a MySpace page updated with
weekly playlists. WDET Sound Engineer Matt Treviathan creates podcasts
of his industrial show, "In the Flat Field," that are available to
download on iTunes and at his web site, www.inflatfield.com
During an episode of "The Outer Ends" celebrating Motown's 50th
anniversary, Isaac used Facebook to solicit real-time song requests
from her listeners.
The HD format could also bring back music
lovers who felt spurned when WDET moved to a mostly news format in
March 2007, canceling five popular music shows and dismissing popular
hosts in the process.
Vince says the HD programming will
target a new generation of music listeners: Young people who develop
their musical tastes through a computer, not a radio. "They're always
on a laptop, either on MySpace or doing research. So what better way to
find out about new music than to go online and hear it, literally 24
hours a day?" he asks.
And hopefully those listeners will become part of the WDET core audience, too
think what music offered, back in the day, was the ability to grow up
with WDET," says producer Grant Malsberger, who hosts the music show
"Multiplicity" on The Avenue.
Malsberger says he became
interested in the NPR news shows as a teenager, after listening to
WDET's local music programming. "I think the HD can offer a similar
sort of accessibility. We can make a whole new generation of people
ask, what is WDET all about?"
Ashley Woods is a recent Wayne State grad and an intern for Model D. Send feedback here.Click here
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Stacked vinyl on a cart in WDET's music library
Amanda Le ClaireAll photographs by Detroit Photographer Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the Managing Photographer for Metromode & Model D.