In the public radio world, music programs that are hosted by volunteers that have been around forever, many since stations began, are called “legacy” programs. And they are, as you might imagine, a mixed blessing for most stations.
It is a wonderful thread of continuity to have programs that have been aired through time with an audience, a station, a community. They are familiar voices, treasured genres of music, predictable patterns, and reminders, often, of how a public station began. And at the few stations that still have volunteer hosts, those programs don’t change much as the years roll by.
One of the challenges is that, over time, those legacy time slots often have a sense of ownership about them. One of my colleagues shared that when one of their legacy music announcers passed away, he willed his program time to a friend. Now, that is ownership. As stations try to stay relevant and forward moving, that ownership sometimes conflicts with new directions, but the pride and commitment is always appreciated.
We have wonderful volunteer announcers on both our stations. You may listen to particular jazz or classical programming just because you like the way one of our volunteers picks music. These musicologists give the stations their unique blend and flavor and there is great value in that.
Changing technology poses a real challenge for some legacy hosts and we are experiencing that here. Changing regulations about reporting the music we play (and particularly, the music we stream) have changed just about everything that needs to happen in the studio during a music program.
For some, what’s now required takes the joy out of what was once a few inspired hours of spinning records for an appreciative audience on a Monday night or a Saturday afternoon. In fact, records, and even CDs are kind of problematic as we move to digitized music libraries. Now every song has to be logged in, start and stop time, label, artist, title . . . and logged into an interactive electronic database — that’s not too difficult, if you’ve been working with electronic databases all your life. Doug Gruber, our jazz coordinator (a legacy all by himself!) and Kevin Kreigh, program director, continue to work on the systems for our volunteers, but the fun is gone for some who’ve been doing this for years. I hate that, but totally understand it.
So if you hear some changes in the volunteer host line-up, you’ll have some sense of what’s going on. And you’ll appreciate that those who continue are working a lot harder than they used to, doing some things they really aren’t crazy about, just to help us stay compliant with the people who give us the right to be on the air.
Nobody’s just spinning records.