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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Radio killed the radio star

    Local musician Andrew Collberg has remained safe from the editing practices of corporate radio. Most of his tracks have been played on community radio and the Internet.
    Local musician Andrew Collberg has remained safe from the editing practices of corporate radio. Most of his tracks have been played on community radio and the Internet.

    Once local musician Andrew Collberg picks up his acoustic guitar to strum the first notes of a flawless folk-pop song, his posture straightens and his eyes lose their fitful distraction. The restaurant he’s in is chaotic – waiters bustling around with trays of burgers and coffee, customers chatting while sipping foreign beers at the bar, glasses a chorus of incessant clinking – but the music is focused.

    Every measure, every note is calculated, as Collberg produces a distinct sound. He uses dynamics, voice inflection and tempo to craft emotional and stirring music, and is particular about the details.

    But while Collberg’s songs are left undisturbed in the frenetic live setting, they are no longer safe where he can reach his largest audience: on the radio. Techniques like editing songs for length and even speeding their tempos may be the way of the future, and they’re changing how people hear music.

    “”It hurts music in the biggest sense of it because the whole art form is being changed,”” said Collberg, who has so far been played solely on local and online radio stations. “”It just shows the corruption that’s going on inside corporate music and radio.””

    Many of Tucson’s corporate radio stations are playing songs with “”unnecessary”” sections left out, nonetheless to give listeners the impression they’ve heard the entire thing. And while the practice is rare, stations have also been known to speed up the tempo of songs to get through about one more song every hour. Any change might be inaudible to the listener, but it in fact makes the music sound higher in pitch.

    A prime example of editing for length is the new single by Kanye West, “”Stronger,”” which clocks in at five minutes, 11 seconds. The radio cut, produced by West’s self-owned record label GOOD Music, is approximately 44 seconds shorter and is missing the entire ending. After a short synthesizer interlude, the song abruptly stops instead of returning to the Daft Punk-sampled chorus. When you hear the longer version, the edit seems unresolved.

    But it’s common practice to slim songs down once they pass the four-and-a-half-minute mark, said Ricardo Rico, music director of 98.3 FM. Mostly it’s pre-emptively done by the label, but every once in a while the radio station will come in and edit a song itself.

    “”It would have to be really long for us to go in there and cut it,”” Rico said. “”We’ve even had some songs on there that are close to five minutes.””

    A not-so-new idea from a 30-year veteran in the radio market may soon turn these statements into anachronisms.

    Making the cut

    George Gimarc, creator of the syndicated radio format “”The Edge”” and the first program director in the country to play Nirvana’s Nevermind on the radio, has patented a format that essentially cuts many songs in half by putting them down to around two minutes.

    His protocol, which he calls Short Attention Span Radio, showcases extensively edited tracks that fade out into a musical purgatory just when they seem they’re about to take off.

    The idea behind the concept is that people get bored of a song around the two-and-a-half-minute mark and tend to switch the station, Gimarc said.

    “”People wanted to experience music quicker than it was getting to them,”” he said. “”We’re selling mass-consumption convenience. It is a snack culture world out there right now.””

    Gimarc has spent years at his Dallas studio editing songs with Adobe Audition and other programs, and making connections with the corporations that own radio outlets, saying it’s only a matter of time until he sells the formula.

    “”You can’t make Coca Cola in your backyard,”” he said. “”It will happen. It’s only a question of who’s gonna get on it first. At the highest levels, they’ve all acknowledged it’s ingenious. It’s gonna change the industry. It’s the way of the future.””

    Gimarc said he has collected a team of 20 musician-editors who are waiting for the deal to happen, and that they know how to structurally edit songs to blend pitches and tempos together.

    He said it drives him nuts to edit songs by “”less-schooled musicians”” like Justin Timberlake, because their unconventional compositions make it harder to balance everything out and fool the ear.

    “”He might have a verse that is eight lines long and then do a chorus. The next is 16 lines long, then a bridge, then another eight lines,”” he said. “”You can lead the ear along so it doesn’t hear that second verse, then all of the sudden you’re into the chorus. That’s the part that almost everybody knows. Once you’ve got them into that, they tend to forget what they’ve missed.””

    Gimarc, who relates his creation to the dawn of punk music, won’t touch a song like Queen’s “”Bohemian Rhapsody.”” But, listening to him, you’re not sure if it’s because he respects the creation, or because the multiple key and tempo changes make it just too complicated.

    Pre-emptive backlash

    “”I think that radio stations shouldn’t be in the business of altering what somebody has put together as a form of artistic expression,”” said Ryan Bruce, program director of the listener-supported 91.3 KXCI FM.

    “”They’re just in a different business than we are. They have to worry about the advertising bottom line,”” he added. “”We’re not willing to compromise the artists’ integrity to do that.””

    Bruce said that as a community radio station, KXCI does not play edited songs, except those that contain curse words that violate Federal Communications Commission rules. He attributes the editing of songs to advertising, saying it’s done because program directors want to make more time for ads and talking.

    Because KXCI receives much of its money from membership donations, it doesn’t rely on ads to make a profit, Bruce said.

    The UA’s KAMP Student Radio is in a similar boat. Its funding comes from a variety of sources – an annual $1 fee for every UA student; a $20 club fee for KAMP members who volunteer their time instead of getting paid; money from the Arizona Student Media budget; profits from KAMP’s rent-a-DJ program – and allows the station to play longer versions of songs.

    “”It’s 100 percent wrong,”” KAMP general manager Karl Goranowski, a history senior, said of editing. “”It’s other people’s music, and they originally created it.””

    Goranowski grants that KAMP has practiced editing in an artistic sense – through a DJ who works with mixing and mashups.

    “”If it has the artist’s approval and it’s tastefully done, sure,”” he said of editing. “”If it’s just for length, it’s totally different. What’s the point?””

    Not all musicians object to editing. Reginald “”Fieldy”” Arvizu, bassist for alt-metal band Korn, said that he was fine with his group’s songs being stripped down.

    “”As far as the editing part, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t care,”” he said. “”When they speed it up, I think it’s kind of goofy, like Mickey Mouse or something. It sounds dumb.””

    Gimarc said it is in musicians’ interests to have their songs edited for length, because then stations will have the ability to play them more often.

    If stations can fit 20 songs into an hour instead of 12, he said, they can expand their playlists to songs they couldn’t previously play.

    “”Here’s a mind-bender for you,”” Gimarc said. “”You have to think of radio compared to all other media. Radio is 100 percent advertisements. Everything that is in the program stream is a commercial to entice you to buy that song. It’s exposure. We’re just a sampler, letting you know what’s out there.””

    Gimarc went on to say that if musicians don’t appreciate being cut down, they can either provide the station with their own edited copies of songs, or they can request to be taken out of playlists entirely.

    “”Airplay is everything,”” he said. “”Do you want purity or do you want more? I think your average person wants more.””

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