Special Edition Cornfed's Corner: Marko Nobles' Talks Indie Dayz for Indie Music

lmgWelcome to a very special edition of the Cornfed's Corner, the ear of the people, the ear of soul. On this week of American independence, the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), a worldwide collective of independent label associations, has supported this indie music movement by declaring liberation from the majors and July 4th, Independent's Day. Since Clinton passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, terrestrial radio (that's radio operating on publicly owned airwaves) has been a nightmare for artists, indie labels, and consumers. Gratefully, the internet has given rise to new opportunities for internet radio and indie labels to combat the dominance of corporate radio and major labels, to get good music to the peoples. A 15 year music industry veteran, DJ, promoter and founder of http://www.rhythmandsoulradio.com/, Marko Nobles, talks about the new world order in music and what you can do to support this movement. This is a long, but vital intimate moment on IM with Marko Nobles. So, get settled in and get yo'self cornfed. Happy Independent's Day, ya'll.

Intimate Moments on IM with Marko Nobles:

CC: Why the hell is urban radio so damn bad? No, seriously, can you tell readers how the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the dominance of Clear Channel and Radio One play into the dismal mess we hear today?

Marko: Well, really radio was getting screwed up before the Telecommunications Act, that just took it over the edge when you look at how music is formatted and everything is put into a box. It really becomes all about money. The Telecommunications Act just forced radio to become more like the record labels that were already recycling what's hot at the moment (i.e., what just sold a bajillion copies). When the Telecommunications Act passed it really cut out what independent voice there was left, because the Clear Channels of the world could now buy multiple stations in a market and take advantage of various formats to create the ultimate monopoly, destroying the personality of radio.

CC: So, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed Big Radio to buy up multiple stations in a single market and dominate what those folks heard, huh?

Marko: Absolutely. So, when you look at the ability of a Clear Channel or an Emmis or someone like that who can buy three or four stations in a market: one of them is rock, another hip hop, another jazz and another still is R&B, then that one parent company is controlling what the listener is hearing. They're only going to program based on what their "research" says works for people who listen to those formats. These focus groups are based on 40 people or so sitting in a room. Many of them may not want to give their real opinion because they're just there for free food and a check. Oh and most of those people are already listening to the station they're doing the focus group for. They're not really talking to random folks about what they might want to hear.

CC: Now some people say that payola (giving DJs and radio program directors money under the table for spins) is to blame, but payola has always been part of the music game. Why do you think the effect is so different now than before?

Marko: Payola has always been around. It's easier to focus on and blame {the state of radio] on the smaller problem rather than repealing the Telecommunications Act and allowing more freedom into the ownership of radio stations and their programming. Now that the big boys have control, they are not going to give it up easily.

CC: I hear there are always new risks and challenges being launched against internet radio by Big Radio's corporate lobbyist. What do you know about that and is there anything the Cornfed camp and Soultracks' readers can do?

Marko: There is the continued effort to raise the licensing fees that internet radio stations are asked to pay, which in effect will dramatically squeeze out many independent internet radio stations. The Cornfed camp can write to their US Congressional representative or Senator and ask that those fees be held where they are, because it allows for a diversity of expression. It also allows for the public and the world to hear talent that might otherwise be silenced.

CC: Ya'll heard him, ya'll. Get those pens and e-mails out! Now, why'd you launch RhythmandSoulRadio.com and why should the Cornfed camp support internet radio?

Marko: I launched RhythmAndSoulRadio.com because it was time, in fact it was overdue. I have been producing and hosting a weekly two-hour show entitled Rhythm And Soul Radio for about 12 years. There is just so much good music to share and I couldn't keep containing it to one 2 hour show per week.

CC: Was this on the same station?

Marko: Rhythm And Soul Radio, the broadcast version has been airing on WHCR 90.3FM in Harlem, NY for almost 14 years now. We still do that show once a week and now we simulcast it on RhythmAndSoulRadio.com.

CC: So, you still work for a mainstream terrestrial radio station?

Marko: No, actually WHCR is a community listener supported station, so I am an independent producer that does a show once per week. All the shows on the station are like that. I have worked in mainstream radio though so I'm familiar with that world.

CC: Alrighty then! So, what can folks expect when they tune into Rhythm and Soul Radio? We ain't lookin' for "I'm So Hood" nah!

Marko: RhythmAndSoulRadio.com is an Urban Eclectic Internet Radio Station. When you tune in you can hear anything from Black rock to hip hop and everything in between. If you were to hear "I'm So Hood" (and we don't play it by the way), you can bet you're gonna hear some N'Dambi, Little Brother, Eric Roberson, The Roots , RhapsodE and much more along with it.

CC: Now let's wax philosophical for a minute. Is there an abiding ethic at your station in choosing what to play?

Marko: It's got to be good music. I love all styles of music and I believe that we don't have to get caught up in I only want to hear neo-soul or caribbean or classic soul or whatever. I just want to throw it all together and let the listeners enjoy all of our styles of music. Sometimes we need that hardcore hip hop track and then we can get back to a smooth soul song.

CC: What are those must listen to times and talents you've got on over there? And don't tell no all day e'ryday, ya hear?

Marko: Of course it's all day everyday...what are you talking about???? LOL

CC: LMAO! Aiight, let me not get you in trouble with none of that on-air talent you've got. What are your peak listening times? Now there you go, can't get around that one.

Marko: There are some great programs that we have including Musical Pathways which is on Tue, Thur. & Sat. from 2 - 5pm. There's ISB radio hosted by DJ Dan C.E. Saturday and Sun. at 1pm there's Soulchoonz Radio hosted by Gary Spence coming out of the UK every 2nd Sunday of the Month. Every 1st Sunday of the Month we have another show out of the UK called Soul Unsigned. We have the Krunchtime Mixshow every Saturday night at 8pm. There's our news from a hip hop perspective, Defuse News which airs Tues & Thurs at 8pm and of course every Tuesday night/Wed.morn at midnight. Then, of course, there's the show that started it all, Rhythm and Soul Radio. I made sure I could try to get everyone in so as to not get in trouble. And I still left out a couple.

CC: LOL, I hear you. We don't want any disgruntled employees brandishing baseball bats. Now, there are a lot more internet stations devoted to soul than there used to be. Are you soul internet radio owners supporting one another in this or is it just plain ol' competition?

Marko: I don't really think it's competition, but there isn't full support either. It's really like everyone is doing their thing. I think we may learn from each other and develop bonds where we can. When we develop those bonds, then there is support. But it will be hard for there to be real support because no one is going to say listen to their station instead of mine.

CC: O-kay? You're also in the promotion game, right? How can the Cornfed camp and SoulTrackers get more involved in getting more clubs and other live performance venues to give soul acts the same play they give indie rock? We want more opportunities to see our peoples!

Marko: It's really about supporting the events when they're in the area. It's a struggle to get venues to understand this soul movement and allowing us as independent producers to bring the talent into these venues. When we do so, the owners want to see a lot of people in the place because it translates into $$$. So, it is really important for the Cornfed camp and SoulTrackers to support the shows featuring independent artists because the more they support, the more opportunities there will be to present more shows.

CC: So, it's not about starting a campaign in your local community to get these venues on board? Can that be helpful too?

Marko: That can be helpful. The venues need to know that there is a demand and that this is truly an independent music MOVEMENT and not just a passing fad. But the next step is when an independent producer is able to present a show at a venue with artists, then that show needs to be supported, even if you know only one of the artists on the bill. Chances are you'll be pleasantly surprised and discover someone new. There are so many great new artists out here.

CC: Gotcha! From what I hear touring will replace CD and MP3 sells as an artist's lifeblood, but if you can't perform but in the same 12 places in the same 7 states then what is an artist to do?

Marko: Well touring is very important to any artist, independent or commercial and will always be. So, they should make sure that their performance is top notch, so that those people who see them live can talk them up, purchase the CD/MP3, etc and tell others to do the same. Music will always be sold in some form, because there is always a soundtrack that is needed for life. As long as people are breathing, music will be important, whether it's CD, MP3, etc. There will always be music to sell, just different ways to sell it.

CC: This movement lost Deb Hinds of Planet Soul last week after she ended her long internet run because of family constraints and a lack of financial support for this movement. We support her motives, but it's still sad and a loss for my peoples. How do you keep yourself energized to keep at this?

Marko Nobles: Deb did so much for the independent music movement and though I've only had the opportunity to converse with her via internet, I was always inspired by what she was doing. I hope she can work out a way to make it back to the scene, because she is important. I'm doing what I do because I enjoy it. I'm a fan. but I'm also in business and believe that being able to do what you love and sustain yourself is attainable. Hopefully, I can do it in such a way that it is a model for others to follow.

CC: You've been a good talking head expert, we're gonna make you a regular Cornfed pundit, like on CNN. Ya hear? Last query. What's next for Marko and Rhythm and Soul Radio?

Marko: LOL...I'd be honored.... Wow, whats next. There will be some live events in the future, meaning relatively large scale concerts that my company InJoy Enteprises produces as well as doing live broadcasts at events around the country with RhythmAndSoulRadio.com. We hope that people will let us know what events are important and what they might want us to cover. Maybe we can find enough support to connect the various strands of this independent music movement and cast a wide enough net to place everyone under.

CC: Now that's what's up! You can finish up those collards and get now. We're all through ovah here. The Cornfed camp will check you guys out and we look forward to hearing more great things from you now, Marko. Make us proud!

Marko: I'll do my best. Thanks for allowing me into the Corner... Hey, can I have some corn now????

CC: You best gone nah, boy!

Marko: LOL, Peace!

Now go buy some music, ya'll!

___________________________________________________________________

L. Michael Gipson is a cultural critic, music journalist and a lover of all underdogs; poverty becomes him

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