Dre\’s Ramblings

YP Update: Time to go to “Cool School”

One of the suggestions of the COOL Community Task Force of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce was to create a Cool School as a way to provide human resources professionals with additional reasons for young professionals to relocate to (or stay in) Birmingham, Alabama for their next job. This will become more important according those studying the future of our workforce, including this paper written by Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting.

The first Cool School event will be held tomorrow evening (2.20.2007) at WorkPlay  beginning at 5 p.m. The focus of this first meeting will be Birmingham’s music and entertainment industries with a focus on how this information can be leveraged to attract talent. Attendees will also be able to pick up a copy of Birmingham’s “brag book” – a visual ranking of what the chamber says are “…the region’s hottest selling commodities for the young and young at heart.”

The event will be moderated by Malena Cunningham with an industry panel that includes Alan Hunter and Antonio Minnifield and the owners of the Bottletree Cafe. Click here to view the flyer to find out more details.

A few more updates throughout the day.


The Ramble: What’s next for local radio?


This past Thursday, 15 people gathered at Nabeel’s in Homewood to discuss what options exist to bring a community radio station to the Birmingham, Alabama market. Those in attendance realized that this action will be harder than it sounds.

Philip Jordan’s story in a recent Birmingham Weekly hits the nail on the head with regards to local concerns about the recent changes to the terrestrial radio landscape. We’ve had people from all over the place share their thoughts about what they like, don’t like, who they blame and whether hell, fire and brimstone are going to strike the city. You can find most of the comments here, though there are some here and here.

During their 1+ hour discussion, many of the common concerns shared by those following the demise of terrestrial radio as we knew it were brought up. These include the fact that it’s become a market dominated by conglommerates, reducing the need or ability to take risks with programming. Many people also argue that the current segmentation of the radio dial has led to extreme narrowing of target audiences, sometimes preventing exposure to new types of music. Many pointed to the need to secure a low frequency FM signal to start and then use the success of that signal to encourage corporate stations to make the switch from piped in format to one focusing on the local scene. Potential solutions for the issue include creating additional internet radio stations or convincing WBHM to diversify its current offerings. Those in attendance were more inclined to support the latter as they see it as the local public station that should be serving the public’s requests. They are willing to create CDs providing people with a taste of what local independent radio stations would sound like, lists showing what stations already exist; anything to help with thier goal of having a diverse broadcasting home serving the needs of the metro community.

One issue I brought up in the conversation was the need for those “minorities” to have additional choices. Many corporate stations apparently believe that those communities are served very well. This is despite the fact that most Latinos living in the area are regulated to 2 hours of Spanish broacasting on AM per week; we haven’t even really looked at the services provided to Caribbean expatriates or to those that long to hear the blues, traditional jazz, or a clearer signal on local issues that affect all people.

People will definitely want to see a station like Fried Green Radio (http://friedgreenradio.com), having recently started transmission this month succeed. The arhument in res The ultimate goal of an AM signal would do more for the concerns than the humble beginnings in the station’s plans. It would be foolish to not at least admit that one of the problems facing the digital stations is the availability of computers to those that could enjoy radio free of the trappings of the car or home audio system, namely commercial overkill.

There are many that only enjoy computer access at school or at home, despite the falling costs of desktops and laptops. It may be less expensive for those that have the financial means to do so. For those of us living paycheck to paycheck or worse, the ability to find and support new voices and avenues become complicated. You can name the reason: education, wages, mass transit… we could go on and on. Those who have the tools to assist in changing the area’s landscape should take advantage of every opportunity to do so.

Despite my current love affair with my old standby, mvyradio.com, I’m also always willing to give Fried Green Radio and any of the other numerous internet stations a try. One idea that was not brought up during the meeting, but in other conversations I’ve had about the topic is to boycott those stations that do not provide a service to you. The one thing that probably protects terrestrial radio from a complete boycott in this area is the reliance that the residents have on it as a source of information about local emergencies. You can’t necessarily listen to the weather report online if there’s no power to run the computer during a storm. Those stations that made changes to their format to address the needs of all of their listeners would receive more support. This would be a veriation of the idea to encourage public radio station members to earmark their contributions for new programming when they renew rather than support that which they do not listen to.

We can always hope that the community presents a viable alternative, whether it means encouraging the continued expansion of music venues in the city such as The Bottletree, The Nick, Cave 9 or Marty’s. We could also hope that those supporters of this project are successful in their efforts. Time will tell.

For Those interested in becoming invovled in this project are encouraged to contact Ken Harrelson @ kharrelson505[at]charter[dot]net. Later on today we’ll post a list handed out at the meeting to provide examples of independent radio stations.


The Music of the Magic City takes center stage as 2007 begins

We ended 2006’s normal posts talking in part about music over the airwaves. It only seems fitting that we begin 2007 taking a look at Birmingham’s music scene past and present. Considering that I also made a prediction that this would be the year of culture for the city, I figured I should make sure that I do my part in making this a reality.

Attendees of this year’s Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting were treated to a double shot of what Birmingham means to the music industry; a performance by Ruben Studdard and his old band Just a Few Cats, and to a unique music sampler showcasing musicians, past and present, that have a connection to Birmingham, Alabama.

The liner notes included with the 2-disc collection, entitled “A Magic City Music Samploer,” focus on the city’s reputation as a “shed town,” the influence that City Stages has brought to the scene, and the continued influence of many of our local musical venues, including the Bottletree, The Nick and Zydeco. The playlist that follows has no links to the actual songs. They do link to whatever information we could find about the artist that was most comprehensive. Hopefully you’ll want to learn more about these artists and hear more of their music.


The Temptations – The Way You Do the Things You Do
Emmylou Harris – Boulder to Birmingham
Hotel (featuring Marc Phillips) – You’ll Love Again
Birmingham Heritage Band – Tuxedo Junction
Claire Lynch and the Front Porch String Band – I Found You
Eric Essix – Rainy Night in Georgia
Brother Cane – Got No Shame
Azure Ray – For No One
Chuck Leavell – Tomato Jam
The Birmingham Sunlights – Jesus Have Me Water
Anthony Crawford – Glory Bound
Dorothy Love Coates – You Better Run
Wayne Perkins – Mendo Hotel
Karen Bentley Pollick – Jesse’s Joy
Wayne – Whisper
Odetta Holmes – Yonder Comes The Blues
Lola’s – I Can’t Stand It
Roszetta Johnson – Summertime
Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Eliot Morris – Balancing the World
Eddie Steele – Groove Me Mama
Bobby Horton – Pristine
Birmingham J Featuring Venus – Move Back
The Primitons – Seeing is Believing
Robert Moore – Sweet Birmingham
Baker Knight and the Knightmares – I Want My Cadillac Back
After Class – Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier
The Distortions – Thank You John
Verbena – Junk for Fashion
Backwater – 14th Avenue South
Topper Price – Wade in the Water
Lolly Lee – Perfect World
Larry & the Loafers – Panama City Blues
Mots Roden and Don Tinsley – The Way I Did
Jason Bailey – Butterfly Breakdown
Birmingham Heritage Band – Birmingham is My Home


As the Chamber suggests in the liner notes, this should only want to have us want to learn more about the musical heritage of Birmingham and not to limit the search to the those listed here. Support our local music scene and the cultural offerings of the city in general as we begin the New Year. We’ll see what we can do to help out the cause. You could also always contact the Chamber and make sure that they send that CD to someone that’s on the fence about coming to town. It’s not a slam dunk, but it will get them thinking.

Enjoy the day!