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Perth Diary


I am in the music business ó I get to receive free CDs

If you want to hear new music, quite often the best place to find it is an alternative station. Here, in a quite bizarre way, the major young-audience geared radio station is Triple J.

What makes it bizarre is that a) it is a government funded and run radio station, b) it is an alternative music station and c) it currently is the number one radio station in the country which means in some rather bizarre kind of way, alternative music has become mainstream.

How can alternative music become mainstream? Well here, in Australia, what is played on Triple J these days is a lot of emo, neo grunge, neo punk and neo goth. And they all sound the same. Itís as if the era of the garage band never really died.

Every year there is a fabulous new garage/emo/punk/goth band whose biggest hit is usually something that sounds like it should belong in either the extremely bubble pop dance genre or the "we are going to be really bad at it so that you know for sure we are heavy metal" genre. And they always seem to top the charts when they countdown to the biggest hit of the year before every Australia Day.

Alternative music

So where is the real alternative music if you really donít want to listen to a thousand new wave cure clones who manage to be inspired by all the horrible bits of cure and none of the good? Or if you donít want to listen to Wolfmother ó please, no more! ó or even The Herd? I donít want to listen to an Australian rap about the ghetto. Australian ghettos are miles away in the good direction from a lot of the slums of the world.

Itís in the community radio stations. These are stations with a few paid staff and the rest volunteers. They are backed by donations and a few government grants. However, they are a great place for new bands to get heard especially if your band does not fit into a Wolfmother like clone to qualify for Triple Jís new music programme Unearthed. Seriously I have nothing against Triple J but when are they going to play some really good music ó where have the staff membersí ears disappeared to? How can you be alternative if you are mainstream?

But when new bands, old bands, any bands try to get on the air with any radio station, they send them CDs. And this is where I come in. With not enough cash coming in to pay everyone as it is, RTR FM has called for volunteers to write music reviews.

Writing a review

So I catch the train to Mt. Lawley, which is just past Perth, and walk a few blocks. I go in and hunt through a huge big cardboard box that contains all the CDs. I eventually pick one that looks the most interesting and I sign off for it. Then I venture back home and listen to it. This ends up with me sticking lots of Post It Notes everywhere. "Hmmm... voice reminds me of Mark Knopfler" and "TOM PETTY!!!" and other such random phrases are scattered everywhere on yellow squares of sticky paper.

Eventually I get around to writing a review. Then I attempt to email it but usually someone stops me and tells me to sex it up a bit or make it seem more attractive. Give it a hook at the beginning to make people want to read it. That sort of thing. Which means I rewrite the damn thing so that even if I hated it, in all of the 250 words it requires, there is only one really negatively critical line.

I email it off and invariably get a reply along the lines of "Thanks, come by and pick up another one any time." At the moment, I think there are only two people who are writing reviews ó me and my boyfriend. The rest of the CDs get doled out amongst the staff with most of them dumped on the poor intern. However she must have a growing portfolio of music reviews and a huge CD collection. The policy is that whoever reviews the CDs, gets to keep them.

I was rather surprised at this. I thought they would have wanted to keep the CDs so that they could play them once the albums are officially released but clearly they must have several copies. Once I send in the review, I have to wait till the album is actually released. The CDs are available before the release date of the album specifically so that they can be reviewed in time. Then when the album is officially released, the review goes up on the radio stationís website and possibly gets read out on air as well though I havenít tuned in to listen yet. If I was more organised, Iíd write one each week, with about two weeks between submitting it and seeing it published online.

This means that a) I get to keep the CDs b) I can have free music to put on my mp3 player if I want to, c) I get it before anyone else does without paying, d) one day there might be an advance copy of an album by someone whose music I really am a fan of.

My only problem is that given the size of my flat, I am at a loss as to where to keep all these CDs.

ó Marisa Wikramanayake









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