The high, lonesome sound is meeting up with high-
Bluegrass music has long been a tough sell on broadcast
radio, falling between the cracks in the mass-market,
cookie-cutter mold of current country formats.
COLOR="#003163">Ralph Stanleyis too old
for young country and
heard on "The Snowy Road" (
HREF=http://media.addict.com/music/Lewis,_Laurie_And_R ozum,_Tom/The_Snowy_Road.ram>RealAudio excerpt
excerpt) with Tom
Rozum is apparently too cool for hot
But bluegrass is finally finding a place, if one far from its old
Kentucky home, on some form of radio.
"It's like a new golden age of radio, on the Internet," said
Terry Herd, who streams live audio 24 hours a day on the
Bluegrass Radio Network (www.bluegrassradio.com). "It's
always a challenge to find radio programmers with enough
vision to give it a chance. And so the Internet is breaking
new ground and giving people all kinds of access.
"There are new ones springing up every day. They may not
be doing live, 24-hour-a-day streaming, but they're doing
some streaming," Herd said.
Taking Back The Power
One of the new streamers is
COLOR="#003163">Elizabeth Burkett, who
co-hosts "Bluegrass Central," webcast live from 10 a.m. to
noon PDT on Sundays on the eclectic, San Diego based
World Music Radio (www.worldmusicradio.org). "For a long
time, those of us who love a 'niche' music like bluegrass
have been frustrated by the lack of access to our favorite
sounds," said Burkett, a musician who is also president of
the San Diego Bluegrass Club.
"We've been totally dependent on the handful of profit-
minded broadcasters who control the airwaves, and we've
had to work like detectives to track down their meager
bluegrass offerings," she said.
"Terry Herd was one of the first to recognize and use the
power of the Internet to blow away the distribution
roadblocks to previously hard-to-find musical styles like
bluegrass," Burkett said. "[Herd's radio show] 'Into the Blue'
is a great resource for bluegrass lovers a classy,
high-quality site that is always fun to listen to. I just think it's
a real treasure."
Herd began "Into the Blue" and his Bluegrass Radio
Network in conventional fashion. Starting out with an hour
on 2,000-watt radio station KUMA in his native Pendleton,
Ore., Herd ended up self-syndicating the show to 100
stations and moving to Nashville.
Herd began creating content for the Internet "in August of
'97. And at that time I was not doing live streaming; I was
doing on-demand RealAudio. I was recording the shows at
the station end, then encoding those and putting them on
the Internet, so anybody could go on at their leisure.
"We really had a lot of interest," he added. "And we were
pretty amazed at how quickly the interest grew. I think that
within two or three months we had people from 60-plus
different countries listening to the show. It was pretty crazy.
So right then we knew we had something.
"And so not too long ago October 20, as a matter of
fact we launched our live-streaming, 24-hour-a-day
programming. But we also keep 'Into the Blue' online as an
on-demand file, and we also archive a lot of our shows from
the station end. But now we send them out live as well,"
’Consuming Bandwidth At An Exponential Scale’
Herd's Internet operation has all the earmarks of a
commercial radio station. For one, BRN is fully automated;
Herd will break in live from time to time, notably for his
favorite segments, interactive interviews with such
musicians as Sam
Bush whose "Wayfaring Stranger"
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Bush,_Sam_And_Gris man,_David/Wayfaring_Stranger.ram">RealAudio excerpt COLOR="#003163">David Grisman
By using MP3 technology he also offers RealAudio
streaming for low-rate browsers he's able to provide
"near-FM-radio" sound that sets him apart from other
webcasters; the cost (free) differentiates BRN from another
major bluegrass player, Solid Gold Bluegrass
The success of the BRN, now a full-time job for Herd, has
"I like to look at it in terms of hours of listenership," he said.
"In January we had around 7,300 hours of listenership. I
mean, we're consuming bandwidth at an exponential scale;
As Ross Perot said, it's that giant sucking sound."