Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2016
As you cruise to and from work, week in, week out, your favourite radio station and its team become like a second family; and if your love for local music has led you to RTRFM, that sense of community is at the forefront of everything they do.
But those seamless playlists that act as a pick-me-up before your first coffee of the day and provide an eclectic soundtrack to your week take a lot of hard work to piece together – even though presenters like Rhian Todhunter (Rockin’ The Roots, Homegrown) make it seem like a piece of cake.
“As a presenter, you’ll spend hours preparing for a show, finding the perfect tracks and putting together a cohesive, meticulously-curated two or three or four hour music program,” Todhunter says, in the lead up to their annual Radiothon.
The 10-day fundraising drive – which kicks off Aug 12 – is imperative to the local music hub’s survival, with revenue raised during the period accounting for up to 30% of their annual operating income. “Radiothon quite literally is what keeps the lights on, keeps the rent paid and allows us to create radio for you,” fellow presenter and Radiothon veteran Sarah Tout adds. “At the same time, Radiothon is this special yearly celebration and reflection on what we’ve been sharing with, and creating for, the community.”
During the event, RTRFM uses that reflection to reciprocate the love through their epicRadiothon Party, happening Aug 13 across The Bird, Ezra Pound, State Theatre Centre Underground Foyer and Studio Underground, with sets from Gunns, Hyla, Mt. Mountain, and Todhunter’s band, Childsaint. “Every band I’ve ever played in has had their first airplay, interview or feature on RTRFM,” Todhunter says. “Community radio is about the only place you’re going to get exposure.
“And because RTRFM presenters only play what they want, you know that they’re picking your track because they dig it, and they want to share it with the world.”
With several staff shake-ups over the past 12 months, no one understands the importance of community radio for emerging acts more than the station’s new general manager, Eskimo Joe’s Stu MacLeod. “Hearing my band on RTRFM for the first time gave me that first moment of realisation that I could actually play music for a living,” he says. “The support and exposure RTRFM provides for WA bands is huge… as a band starting out in the industry, without stations like RTRFM, there really is no other avenue to get yourself out there, apart from the internet and word of mouth.”
Signing on to oversee operations at the station last year, MacLeod’s appreciation for RTR is constantly growing. “I didn’t realise just how enriching and vital this community is. This station celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. 40 years of people broadcasting on their own time, just because they feel so passionately about music, art, social, cultural and environmental justice.
“It’s staggering just how important this organisation is and how much they can give to the listener…I was always aware of the importance of RTRFM to local music, but everything else has been an incredibly rewarding discovery.”
A more recent addition to their team sees long-time member and presenter Will Backler take on the highly sought after role of music coordinator last month. “I hope to bring my obsession with listening to, collecting and cataloguing music of all genres,” Backler says on the new role. “I hope that these skills will ensure the station continues to play the finest in alternative music, ranging from Ambient to Zydeco.”
With a passionate team and loyal fanbase gearing up for the main event, there are other issues the station is also trying to combat, mainly a $1.4 million cut to digital broadcasting in the Federal Budget. “It is the only funding the sector receives, with all station costs being covered through donations, subscriptions, events and sponsorship, and it really is a drop in the vast ocean of the Federal Budget that goes so far to help so many communities,” Backler says. “I believe there is a crucial risk to how you will experience your life if certain aspects of it, that you engage with everyday, are allowed to slip away because there is not the community support or the government agenda to protect them,” Tout adds.
“When government cuts spending on arts, music and community media generally, they are removing a community’s connection to something really important. We cannot take art and music for granted, they are the soundtrack to, and constant peripheral presence in, every part of your experience. Music, art and journalism show society, show you, back to yourself.”
Having spoken out on the issue earlier this year, Macleod is also passionate on the subject, because, as he explains, you can’t really get the same experience that community radio delivers anywhere else. “Community radio is presented by volunteers. No one is paid for their time, the station runs on the passion of its presenters and the wealth of knowledge they bring into the studio each day,” he tells. “There’s literally something for everyone on this station. That’s a value you just can’t quantify, and it’s infinitely more satisfying and engaging than radio based on commercial interest and algorithmic playlisting.”
Head over to the RTRFM website to subscribe and grab tickets to this weekend’s epic Radiothon party.