Towards a More Cooperative Archive: Institutional Neglect and the Necessity for Community Empowerment within Independent Online Music Radio
- CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
- CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
- CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY
- CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS
- CHAPTER 5: WEIGHING BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN ARCHIVING
- CHAPTER 6: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- LIST OF INDEPENDENT ONLINE MUSIC RADIO STATIONS
As radio stations migrate from the airwaves to online, a new crop of born-digital radio stations have emerged, creating a translocal network of independent music that has never existed before in this capacity. Independent online music radio stations represent a culturally significant yet overlooked site of cultural transmission and interplay. The global reach of the internet means that these stations are both hyper-local and dispersed, operating within an unprecedented realm of community radio. While stations focus on archiving and distributing each episode during the life of the station, few stations have contingency plans in case of station closure, and case studies of defunct independent online music radio stations reveal that stations rely heavily on third-party platforms for the safekeeping of their heritage.
Despite the clear cultural value that independent online music radio stations have on their respective communities and the general music community at large, there are few resources or sustainable options for these stations to archive their output once they are no longer operating. Prompted by the question “whose responsibility should it be to manage the archive when its creators no longer can,” this thesis imagines the possibility of community members stepping in as custodians of independent online music radio heritage, both during the life of the station and after its potential demise. Applying the theories of “interdependence” and “networks of care” to independent online music radio station archives, and inspired by the recent work of participatory archives, I weigh the benefits and disadvantages of involving the community in the archiving and custodianship of independent online music radio station archives, relying on data from case studies I conducted with station representatives, users and specialists.
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
As many sites of cultural production have migrated online, radio too has followed suit, demonstrating the renewed relevance of the medium (1). Emerging as a user-friendly and widespread technology in 1993 (2), online radio has since become a staple for modern listeners, and has been poised to eclipse terrestrial radio listenership in the near future (3). Not only do many stations that were born as terrestrial radio now have an online platform, but many stations born in the internet era have only ever existed online.
The implications of the relatively novel phenomenon of interconnectivity in broadcasting has catalyzed the emergence of new social structures, networks and pathways. Today, the disbursement and interchange of local independent music cultures on a global level owes much of its success to the fluidity and flexibility of the internet, embodied in born-digital, online music radio stations. As a result, a transnational independent musical network has emerged, supplanting many of the traditional outlets for music discovery, disbursement and interactions for actors within the independent music sphere. Independent online music radio stations make visible this transnational network, and provides a rare and real-time glimpse into the propagation of local musical undercurrents.
According to music journalist Todd Burns, and echoed (4) in the independent music sphere, independent online music radio stations are “one of the most important journalistic and music resources that we have" (5). In a period where many of the staples for independent music’s discovery, interaction and reflection are disappearing (6), independent online music radio stations are supplanting these old forms of interactions, providing opportunities for communities to broadcast and connect with one another on a global level. Independent online music radio’s cultural value, largely unrecognized, lies in its capacity to showcase the diversity and transnationality of niche music scenes that are often ignored via major outlets. This cultural value has been especially visible during times of COVID-19, which has dealt a major blow to the live music scene, and the music world to a large degree. By the essence of existing online, independent online music radio stations are “holding together underground music scenes... providing a space for curators to keep introducing new music to listeners while we can’t be together,” (7) and upending the ways in which music is platformed, consumed and distributed.
Despite their increasingly relevant cultural value and growing (8) followings, independent online music radio stations are inherently unstable. This attribute is most notably demonstrated by the demise of several successful (9) independent online music radio stations in recent history, whose broad communities were both local and networked. Economic instability, rights management issues (10) and the sometimes illegal nature of independent online music radio stations operating outside of the norm make for unstatable and abbreviated lifespans of beloved stations. In a following chapter, results of case studies conducted of several no longer operating stations will be expanded upon.
Given both the cultural value and instability of independent online music radio stations, the archive is incredibly relevant. However, interviews and case studies conducted for this research examine archiving trends amongst shuttered independent online music radio stations, revealing an alarming lack of archival foresight, and reliance on third-party platforms as the sole evidence of the station’s existence. As case studies and interviews demonstrate, many independent online music radio stations archive their shows using third-party platforms such as Mixcloud and Soundcloud. Third-party platforms have proved themselves hospitable to independent musicians and independent online music radio stations for a myriad of reasons, but ultimately, they are not sustainable for long-term archiving, and additional routes should be exploited in addition to their employment. In the following chapter, I will enumerate the benefits and drawbacks of reliance on third-party platforms, with the drawbacks outweighing the benefits. As my literature review will demonstrate, this lack of foresight leads to “the loss of cultural heritage in a very present tense" (11).
Whether it is due to the relative novelty, the niche audience, or circumstance that these stations are off their radar, there is no record of archival institutions acquiring the archives of independent online music radio stations, or any evidence that these stations are considered culturally important from relevant institutions. Further, there is little to no research that centers on archiving the contents of independent online music radio stations. Where institutional archives are often at the center of standardizing archival approaches, there appears to be no input coming from the archival sector at present.
Given the factors contributing to the lack of suitable archival strategies for independent online music radio stations that I’ve outlined, a problem statement thus emerges: the content of independent online music radio stations are archived and stored on unstable third-party platforms, which is not a sustainable strategy in the long-term.
As introduced previously, there is currently no suitable or standardized approach to archiving for independent online music radio stations. However, there is evidence of a wide-spread network of stakeholders who are invested in the heritage of these stations. This presents an opportunity to reframe the way in which we view archiving and custodianship, with shared rather than delegated responsibilities at the fore. Rather than suggesting that independent online music radio stations hand their archival materials over to archival institutions for their safekeeping, this research seeks to work within a relatively new paradigm of dispersed and community-driven archiving that is already being exercised by the likes of community archives and online communities, and apply this approach to independent online music radio stations. This research seeks to mitigate the issue of archiving independent online music radio stations on a peer-to-peer level, thus reflecting the ethos of independent online music radio and their networks of communities, and empowering independent online music radio stations to work towards long-term preservation strategies.
1.1 Research Questions:
Considering that so many independent online music radio stations feel such a strong identity in both their sense of independence and their local and networked communities, my research question draws on the archival practices of independent and community-driven archives. The research question carrying the weight of the thesis is thus: what are the benefits and what are the downsides if communities take part in preservation of independent online music radio stations to prevent loss?
Using case studies of no longer operating stations as evidence for the unsuitable archival precedent for independent online music radio stations, I set about to weigh potential solutions to loss prevention as informed by qualitative research through interviews with current stations and a literature review, where I look particularly into archival practices for community radio, as well as the concepts of “interdependence” and “networks of care.”
In addition to my primary research question, my research will probe into ancillary subquestions. First, a literature review answers the following questions: how do communities archive? What are current processes for participatory community archival practices? I consider both how communities derive their value, and what loss means for a community. I pose the question: What kinds of community formations can be found around online music radio stations?
Interviews with radio stations answer the question: what is the current state of the art for archiving independent online music radio stations? Additional interviews with users answer two questions: First, how do users interact with the independent online music radio community? Second, what are the most important elements of independent online music radio to the community and how can we incorporate these needs into a better archival design?
1.2 Purpose of the Study:
The purpose of this study is two-fold: on the small scale, the objective is to provide archiving solutions that integrate both audio and metadata beyond the prevailing strategies currently employed by independent online music radio stations. Given the inherent instability of the third-party platforms which many independent online music radio stations rely on, an alternative method of archiving is necessary for the prolonged stability of its heritage, which is inclusive of the many activities that extend beyond singular radio episodes. The goal for a solution will be self-contained, community-driven and enduring. On a grander scale, the goal of this research is to increase the visibility of independent online music radio stations, and to encourage further research.
1.3 Background and Context:
In this section, I will give a brief history of independent online music radio stations, and enumerate the reasons why their archives deserve more resources and attention. Emerging from a lineage of pirate radio, “Do it yourself” (DIY) culture and independent terrestrial radio culture, independent online music radio stations now occupy a space that is often marginalized by the commercial radio and podcast industries. To that effect, independent music radio stations both embody that lineage and set themselves apart from previous notions of pirate radio, college radio and DIY terrestrial radio in several distinct ways.
Similar to its lineage, independent online music radio stations are representative of musical undercurrents. Independent and DIY radio has a history of platforming unrecognized, emerging, marginalized and silenced acts. Beyond representation, institutions and authorities have often questioned their legitimacy, catalyzing the need to operate outside of standard practices. Reflecting this precarity, some stations are sometimes forced to operate in legal gray areas. Accordingly, many stations do not have archives, and as a result, their episodes are typically irretrievable. Similarly, it is rare that recordings from these stations are collected by or patronized by major archival institutions.
With that being said, there are several distinct characteristics that set independent online music radio stations apart from traditional notions of pirate and independent terrestrial radio. Although they maintain the “independent” and “community” designation, many independent online music radio stations are for-profit entities. Whereas this is often a leading characteristic for independent and DIY radio, this does not hold true for independent online music radio stations (12).
The interface through which one accesses independent online music radio stations diverges as well. Metadata beyond broadcasts is now integral to the aesthetic, cultural and sonic heritage of the station. Our modern understanding of radio encompasses more than ever before: “contemporary radio is experimenting with ever more complex cross-media practices, where websites, video and social media are all part of many radio stations. In this setting social media practices, video and visuals and mobile apps further complicate these earlier definitions and suggest that radio is increasingly a selection of multifaceted interactive practices” (13). Some (14) would argue that the elasticity of radio is what makes it an enduring technology capable of transcending the test of time.
Likewise, user’s engagement with radio is different than ever before because it now encompases actions beyond passive listening, and can occur across several platforms. In “The New Materiality of Radio: Sound on Screens,” Michele Hilmes, reflecting on the transformed materiality of radio, poses the pertinent question, “what is radio?” (15) A more accurate response is posed as a question: “what isn’t radio today?...sums up the current situation, pointing to the sense of exploding categories and expanding possibilities that the new digital sound environment has loosed upon us” (16). Independent online music radio stations often have several points of access, including websites and apps, with their visual interface often on par with the sonic culture of the station. Besides tuning in on-demand, users can interact with a digital interface in real time, and make selections as to when and what they want to listen to.
On the management front, representatives of independent online music radio stations have praised the format for being less restrictive than terrestrial radio financially and politically (17). Importantly, shows are not confined to a grid, giving the listeners more agency and allowing broadcasters to work outside of normal broadcasting hours. Broadcasters who have felt deplatformed by the corporate reach and consolidation of terrestrial radio have embraced the relative ease and low barriers to entry of online radio. Likewise, online radio has been exercised as a political tool for marginalized and at-risk communities or in localities where the voices of the people have been silenced (18). These qualities have been demonstrated by the thousands of independent online music radio stations that have emerged over the past 25 years.
Radio has long been a transnational and border-crossing medium, but since the advent of internet radio, this has been even more the case. In Radio in the Global Age, David Hendy discusses the impact of the internet and globalization on the political-economy of radio, with independent online music radio stations demonstrating the paradox of the medium as both “intimate” and disparate (19). Embodying the contradictions of the medium set forth by Hendy, independent online music radio stations distinguish themselves from previous iterations of independent and DIY radio stations in their global, on-demand reach, but, alike their predecessors, they “are very much rooted in their communities and cities...depending on team-work and local know-how to function” (20). Within the geographic confines of a local community, many independent online music radio stations see themselves as points of congregation for a physical and geographical community to incubate. However, their audience reaches far beyond these confines. Diverging from the immobility of terrestrial radio, two versions of community are relevant for independent online music radio stations: one that is bound by geography and one that is not.
Besides its lineage in DIY radio practices, independent online music radio stations also emerge from a tradition of community radio. Although it exists on a wider plain, independent online music radio cultivates and propagates a community of invested parties. Local communities that were once defined by and confined to their geography now take part in a global culture of interchange and global visibility. Both homogenous and hyper-specific, this is a new age where the dialectic of a networked and localized music scene is normalized. Independent online music radio stations demonstrate their connective powers creating platforms for like-minded and geographically diverse people to congregate, whether online or in person (21). These connections are made visible through guest mixes, live guest performances and gigs, resident swaps (22), collaborations, partnerships, radio exchanges (23), chats, social media, blogs and forums, among others, all features that are showcased on independent online music radio stations and their multiple platforms.
Although independent online music radio stations are not the singular catalyst of the scenes, they make visible the networks that do exist, and provide platforms for these communities to connect. According to music journalist Todd Burns, independent online music radio stations “ [expose] a network or a group of connections… obviously they’re...important platforms… [because they expose].. connected threads... scenes, people, places, all at the same time” (24). Independent online music radio stations are novel in that they broadcast the local to the international, fomenting a new cultural currency.
Local and community-led independent online music radio stations are nodes in a network of communities that have overlapping actors and interests. I consider both geographical and internet-based transnational communities as communities nonetheless, and will expand upon my interpretation of communities in my literature review. Within communities, whether physically or online, culture(s) emerge.
My thesis is premised on the opinion that the cultures and heritage of independent online music radio stations are significant, not only to their surrounding and overlapping communities, but also to the musical community at large. Independent online music radio station communities are unique in that they offer a glimpse into musical undercurrents that are typically not reflected in mainstream platforms, and offer an alternative to algorithmic music discovery that is overwhelmingly becoming more of a general norm. In theory, independent online music radio should have the same academic and journalistic attention paid to it as the likes of analogue radio and radio archiving. It is this opinion that carries the weight of my arguments.
1.4 Significance of the Study:
Online radio has become a dominant distribution format for radio, and a vital platform for musical undercurrents to congregate and proliferate. With that being said, there is a surprising lack of research or literature on the topic. This study seeks to offer solutions for the perpetuation of independent online music radio station’s heritage as vital to the musical community of the 21st century, and to position independent online music radio stations as a significant and worthy area of study.
Although an online station is often started by individuals in service of their immediate community, the online aspect means that they become a part of a network of many like-minded local communities, creating one large and interconnected network. My research seeks to document that network, as a service to both the immediate communities and the musical community at large.
1.5 Scope of the Research:
Given the lack of research on independent online music radio, the research opportunities and angles in which to approach the topic are endless. Among topics that are essential for future research include probing into the cultural significance of individual stations and their wider global reach, questioning the representation and lack therefore of of marginalized and underrepresented groups, exploring potential solutions for mediating rights management restraints, offering technical aspects of archiving audio files for longterm and sustainable access and assessing the sociopolitical implications of independent online music radio stations.
My research only touches the surface in terms of inclusivity. While there are hundreds of invaluable and important independent online music radio stations that contribute to this network, my research focuses on a select number of case studies from North America and Western Europe. Given that there is no central resource for discovering and disseminating information about independent online music radio stations, I have assembled a list of independent online music radio stations that fall within my own realm of knowledge, reflecting the limits of the networks that I am embedded in as a listener. This list is available in the appendix of this thesis. This resource is presented as a tool for further discovery, and as a starting point for charting the many manifestations of independent online music radio stations.
The purview of this research is to orient the reader with the concept of independent online music radio as networked radio, reflecting its diverse community, and to impart its cultural significance. Using my archival background, I propose alternatives to third-party platforms for a more sustainable, decentralized and community-driven approach to archiving. Although I would ideally touch upon all topics listed previously, my priority in this research is to weigh the net positives and negatives of involving communities in archiving independent online music radio stations. My research is set against the test of time; when online music radio stations disappear, not only is their program content frequently lost, but also the culture of the station, with communities of presenters and their listening audiences. Although we have the tools to preserve this culture, much is lost due to insufficient archival techniques. To echo American archivist Jason Scott, “my number one concern is acquiring and having the data when it happens or before it’s removed because it’s not recognized as valuable” (25). Thus, this paper urges the academic, archival and music community to recognize the output of internet online music radio stations and its surrounding communities as culturally important.
1.6 Definition of Terms:
Several terms, which I build my argument off of, require additional clarification.
Independent Online Music Radio Stations In “Comparing the Regulatory Models of Net-Radio with Traditional Radio” and “College Student Net-radio Audiences: A Transnational Perspective,” Andrea J.C. Baker makes a distinction between two forms of internet radio (also referred to as net radio in her writings): ”radio online and net-only radio.” She elaborates,
radio online consists of regulated, traditional radio broadcasters with existing audiences, which have incorporated the internet as an adjunct service. In contrast, net-only radio, which webcasts exclusively over the internet, is generally unregulated. Net-radio, in both forms, draws its powers from five distinct characteristics of the internet and digitalisation: (i) It is a multi-media digital platform of converging print and audiovisual texts; (ii) It is interactive; (iii) It is a global medium; (iv) It provides on-demand access to a 24-hour database; and (v) It is a network of networks in a close-knit virtual online communities. Net-radio’s characteristics mean that its’ “user defined personal involvement” and interaction defines its global consumption practices and audience profile...in contrast to the ‘traditional discourse of radioness’, the real revolution of net-radio lies in its radial mode of personal audience address (26).
I maintain this distinction, and offer a further distinction in which I streamline the definition in opposition to algorithmic online streaming services with “radio” functions, such as Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal.
In terms of what one might hear when they tune in to an independent online music radio station: there is no one genre that characterizes any of these stations – rather, it is the fluidity of genres that attracts its listeners. On the whole, independent online music radio stations platform a diverse range of DJs and curators, who in turn expose audiences to underrepresented, independent music across genres that do not have a place in mainstream media.
Third-party platforms In the context of this research, a third-party platform is a software that hosts and distributes audio files and associated metadata. Examples of such platforms are Mixcloud, Soundcloud and YouTube.
Community Radio Framing independent online music radio stations as community radio expands that notion of community beyond geographical borders. I argue that independent online music radio stations host and foster communities. In my literature review, I will discuss the expanded meaning of communities in the digital age, and why, despite their differences, some of community radio’s archival practices should be adopted by independent online music radio stations.
1.7 Organization of the Thesis:
In the next chapter, a literature review will introduce the current state of research into independent online music radio stations, as well as adjacent topics informing my research. Here the primarily literature informing my selected methodology will also be discussed at length. In the following chapter, I will present and explain my chosen methodology, including case studies and interviews. The results of my interviews and case studies will follow. In the concluding chapter, I will weigh the pros and cons of community involvement in archiving, as informed by both the literature review and interviews. Lastly, I will make recommendations for stations who wish to adopt new methods for a long-term and sustainable approach to archiving.
1. See, for example, Richard Berry, “Radio, Music, Podcasts – BBC Sounds: Public Service Radio and Podcasts in a Platform World,” The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 18, no. 1 (2020): pp. 63-78.
2. According to Andrea Jean Baker, “Comparing the Regulatory Models of Net-Radio with Traditional Radio,” International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society 7, no. 1 (2009): pp. 1-14, net-radio was pioneered by Carl Malamud in 1993. Soon after, college radio stations were quick to adopt the technology.
3. See, for example, RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, “ALL RADIO LISTENING,” Rajar Data Release, 2013. https://www.rajar.co.uk/docs/news/RAJAR_DataRelease_InfographicQ32013.pdf
4. Jeff Ihaza, “Independent Online Radio Is the Algorithm Alternative You Need,” Pitchfork (Conde Nast, 2019), https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/independent-online-radio-is-the-algorithm-alternative-you-need/.
5. Todd Burns, Interview by author, Facetime Audio, October 29, 2020.
6. See, for example, Aaron Gilbreath, “Where Have All the Music Magazines Gone?,” Longreads, 2018, https://longreads.com/2018/12/27/where-have-all-the-music-magazines-gone/.
7. Martha Pazienti Caidan, “The Hour: The Power Of Radio,” Resident Advisor, 2020, https://ra.co/exchange/513.
8. Murray Stassen, “‘NTS Is All about Total Freedom of Expression. That Lies at the Core of It’,” Music Business Worldwide, 2020, https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/we-are-not-just-a-digital-utensil-for-listening-to-music/.
9. See, for example, “Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio Will Close in June,” Resident Advisor, 2020, https://ra.co/news/72625.
10. See, for example, Steven McClung, Bruce Mims, and Chan-pyo Hong, “College Radio Streaming and Legal Uncertainty,” Journal of Radio Studies 10, no. 2 (2003): pp. 155-169.
11. Laurent Fintoni, Interview by author, Facetime, October 26, 2020.
12. See, for example, NTS Radio, https://www.nts.live.
13. Richard Berry, “Podcasting: Considering the Evolution of the Medium and Its Association with the Word ‘Radio,’” The Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 14, no. 1 (2016): pp. 17-22.
14. See, for example, Ariana Moscote Freire, “Remediating Radio: Audio Streaming, Music Recommendation and the Discourse of Radioness,” The Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 5, no. 2 (2008): pp. 97-112.; and David Hendy, Radio in the Global Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).
15. Michelle Hilmes, “The New Materiality of Radio: Sound on Screens,” in Radio’s New Wave (Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2013), 43.
17. See, for example, interview with Matteo Spanó and Florian Demmer, interview by author, email, October 21, 2020.
18. See, for example, Gudaityte, Ieva. “The Invisible Politics Of Community Radio: The Case of Budapest Community Radios,” 2019.
19. Hendy, Radio in the Global Age.
20. Emma Finamore, “How Radio Found New Life on the Internet and Changed Music Discovery Forever,” The Line of Best Fit, 2018, https://www.thelineofbestfit.com/features/articles/how-internet-radio-is-creating-a-whole-new-online-world-of-music-discovery.
21. Interview, Todd Burns.
22. See, for example, “Rinse FM and Seoul Community Radio Announce Monthly Resident Swap,” Resident Advisor, 2020, https://www.residentadvisor.net/news/73038.
23. See, for example, “RA Exchange,” Soundcloud, 2020, https://soundcloud.com/ra-exchange.
24. Interview, Todd Burns.
25. Jason Scott, interview by author, Facetime audio, October 24, 2020.
26. Baker, “Comparing the Regulatory Models of Net-Radio with Traditional Radio,” 3.
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
This literature review will begin by offering the current state of research on online radio. Although there is no dedicated literature on independent online music radio station archiving, or independent online music radio stations in general, there are resources that broach the topic in tangential ways. I will begin by summarizing the current state of published knowledge on online radio stations, paying close attention to the discussions on the remediated nature of the medium. I will also briefly touch on the current state of shifting radio archiving practices. In the following subsection, I will examine another remediated form of radio, podcasting, and recent preservation efforts that have been documented and recommended for digital creators. Here I will present the presiding arguments against third-party platform reliance, and present some of the industry solutions to decreasing third-party platform reliance.
Next, I will examine different types of communities that differ from the common geographical definition, establishing independent online music radio stations as networked radio, a form of community radio. I will also define networked radio, and explore the ways in which different forms of communities factor into this designation. Here I will examine the way in which media circulates as a result of the internet, asserting that communities now take on different forms and structures in the 21st century, but that they still embody many of the very tenets that make up our understanding of community.
I will next survey different approaches to archiving beyond traditional custodianship. First I will examine instances of fan archiving within the online music community. Next, I will examine community radio archiving tactics, including non-custodial and participatory approaches to archiving.
The methodology for this thesis draws on two approaches. Firstly, I will introduce Annet Dekker’s “networks of care”. Secondly, in conversation with Dekkers’s approach, I will present Mat Dryhurst’s model of “interdependence.”
This literature review will set the grounds through which I will examine the benefits and drawbacks of involving the community in archiving independent online music radio stations. First understanding the current state of knowledge in the area will inform my conclusion, in combination with case studies and interviews.
2.1 “Net Radio:”
Research has made clear the absence of the independent online music radio station voice in academic radio discourse. Despite its increasing popularity and visibility, there is little academic or journalistic research on independent online music radio stations, let alone curated online radio. In one of the few distinctive writings on online radio (referred to here as net-radio), Andrea J.C. Baker articulates this deficit, voicing: “the relative instability of net-only radio, that is, the inability to stay functioning as an online entity, is the main reason many researches… have avoided exploring its phenomenon” (27). Baker’s observation is one of the presiding catalysts of my research. My belief, however, is that this unpredictability should ignite interest, rather than dissuade it.
Media anthropologist Jo Tacchi too acknowledges the delayed recognition of online radio, and calls for more research on the topic, fearing that it will become “another neglected and under researched field” (28). Her call has largely gone unanswered since her article was published in 2000.
Beginning at the turn of the 21st century, several scholars began considering the impact of radio’s migration to the internet. Notable scholars include David Black, (29) Kate Lacey (30) and Jo Tacchi (31). Here scholars defined and introduced online radio as an emergent and radiogenic medium. However, most scholars wrote about online radio as only an emerging medium, focusing their analysis instead on comparing and contrasting the new medium with terrestrial radio, and considering implications of radio online rather than imagining the future of online radio, a distinction offered by Andrea J.C. Baker in her writings (32).
Michele Hilmes’s 2013 “The New Materiality of Radio’’ offers a refreshing and perduring approach to net-radio. Although she fails to mention independent online music radio, the author introduces “soundwork” as a term encompassing the expanded definition of radio to include the convergence of the visual and the sonic, implicitly nodding to new forms of radio embodied by independent online music radio stations. “Soundwork’’ is defined as “the entire complex of sound-based digital media that enters our experience through a variety of technologies and forms,” (33) reconceptualizing radio and other radiogenic works as a “screen medium" (34) I consider Hilmes’s definition of “soundwork” in my later argument for increased emphasis on the importance of documenting station metadata beyond metadata concerning single episodes. I call on “soundwork” to substantiate the perduring value of archival metadata to capture the hybridity of online radio as both a visual and auditory medium, and argue that both are equally important for documenting and preserving the heritage of any independent online music radio station.
Today, the presiding literature on online radio emerges from several authors: the most notable and prolific amongst them are Andrea J.C. Baker and Ariana Friere.
Baker’s writings on online radio often emphasize user studies and online radio is often discussed in the arena of college radio. Both “College Student Net-radio Audiences: A Transnational Perspective” and “Exploring Subcultural Models of a Discursive Youth Net-radio Hierarchy” offer some of the most relevant discussions on the transnationality of online radio, as well as offering a history of the medium. In “Comparing the Regulatory Models of Net-Radio with Traditional Radio,” Andrea J.C. Baker provides an analysis of traditional radio versus net-radio, with a particular focus on regulatory models.
Ariana Freire’s “Remediating Radio: Audio Streaming, Music Recommendation and the Discourse of Radioness” also offers some relevant discussion points and definitions concerning online radio, firmly establishing the medium as a feature of the 21st century.
While these writings are relevant and informative to the topic, they service my research by providing a solid ground to stand on, but do not offer specifics as to the musical or the archival aspects of my research.
2.2 Current Approaches to Archiving Radio Collections:
Despite the born-digital nature of independent online music radio stations, they face similar challenges to traditional forms of radio archiving. In “Preserving Radio Broadcasts: Thoughts on Future Directions,” David Seubert summarizes the current obstacles faced in traditional radio archiving discourse, some of which also affect independent online music radio station archiving. Seubert vocalizes the current shift in archival practices for radio, spurred by a dissatisfaction with arcane archival practices and a push for a more equitable approach. Issues that Seubert contends with include “collection appraisal, collection dispersion, institutional infrastructure and support, intellectual property issues, format obsolescence and media degradation” (35). According to Seubert, “radio collections are more difficult to appraise for historical importance and uniqueness than other recorded sound materials,” (36) and a notable lack of metadata means that doing so is time consuming and labor-intensive. Collection dispersion is particularly challenging given the dispersed nature of radio recordings, as well as the scarcity of surviving recordings, which “were often not created with the intention of being permanently saved” (37). Accordingly, materials are not properly ordered or tagged. The precarious nature of radio recordings, even with institutional support, is commonplace. Making matters worse, “preservation efforts are frequently complicated by rights issues that make it difficult to find funding through preservation initiatives in archival institutions and from funding agencies” (38). As a potential solution to intellectual property issues, Seubert suggests a “model pursued by the AAPB, which has incorporated a click-through End User License Agreement to facilitate access to digitized collections… shift[ing] potential liability for copyright infringement to its users, rather than a repository” (39). This potential solution, however, is not without issues. Seubert urges scholars and specialists to look into the future, not the past, to mitigate these issues and modernize the radio archive. Seubert concludes, offering a forward-thinking approach to the traditional archive through a participatory approach:
traditional approaches to preserving [radio collections] are almost certainly not the right path, whether assessing historical significance and then writing a preservation grant and storing it in a dark archive, or perhaps cataloging the tapes and then letting users drive digitization through requests… the presumed centrality of the archive...needs to be rethought. Could crowdsourcing preservation through the existing network of fans of the show accomplish more in less time than an institutional approach? It would require rethinking certain archival norms and practices, but the end result might render content more accessible to users and in a timeframe that mitigates against the unstoppable deterioration of the carrier media that will soon make this content unretrievable by even the most well-intentioned of collecting institutions (40).
Seubert’s vision is echoed by several contemporaries, including Shawn VanCour. VanCour offers critiques of historical radio archival practices and potential solutions to mitigate digital obsolescence and favoritism toward collections of network broadcasting materials in “Locating the Radio Archive: New Histories, New Challenges.” In the report, VanCour details the overwhelming dominance of radio broadcasts from major commercial networks in American archives that “make a significant portion of the nation’s recorded cultural history” (41). In response, VanCour details the recruitment efforts of the US-based Radio Preservation Task Force (RPTF), who pay particular attention to integrate born-digital radio and unconventional forms of radio into the archive. In their plan, the RPTF calls for “proactive archiving of audio materials produced within the present,” in addition to “retroactive preservation and digitization of analog-era recordings,” (42) looking both into the future and respecting the past.
In “Introduction: The State of Radio Preservation,” Laura J. Treat and Shawn VanCour map the modern radio preservation movement, envisioning a more modern and equitable approach to archiving radio archives. Authors advocate the following tactics for overhauling the radio preservation field: “preservation agendas; expanding access to preservation training and diversifying archival education; preserving public media collections in university archives; preserving programming by and for historically underrepresented groups; surveying preservation practices at commercial and non-profit stations; creating access initiatives through local partnerships; cultivating transnational preservation strategies; exploring new transfer technologies; developing sustainable digital solutions; working with content creators; building alternative preservation networks; and, working with community volunteers” (43). Treat and VanCour’s diagnoses and proposed solutions suggest that radio preservation, alike independent online music radio stations, requires a more nuanced and sophisticated approach in order to solidify its future perpetuation and continued accessibility.
Michael Falcone, B. Real and Y.Q. Liu compare the differences in archival practices between nonprofit and commercial radio stations in “Behind the Transmitter: Differences in Archival Practices Between Nonprofit and Commercial Radio Stations.” Results for a case study comparing nonprofit stations to commercial stations revealed that nonprofit stations are “more likely to actively maintain their archives and do so in a manner that shows awareness of current archival stations, whereas commercial stations are less likely to exert active stewardship over their collections” (44). The authors attribute this fact to the enthusiasm for and desire to preserve radio heritage. In their conclusion, the authors advocate for more accessible tools for hand-on archiving and demystifying the archive.
An assessment of current literature provides a survey of current discourse on radio archiving, making clear the following points: historical archival approaches to radio need to be overhauled and reimagined in order to create and maintain sustainable, inclusive and long-lasting radio archives; community-driven initiatives, including participatory archives, have been proposed as more efficient and sustainable methods for archiving radio; and increasing the availability of archival education and tools for community members and creators is essential for maintaining radio heritage.
2.3 Eliminating Third-party Platform Reliances:
Here I will expand upon an earlier argument about why third-party platforms are unequipped to manage the long-term archives of independent online music radio stations, and introduce solutions proposed for preserving podcasts, an adjacent remediation of radio. Many independent online music radio stations believe that handing their tracks and metadata over to a third-party platform obviates the need for an archival system of their own. Likewise, in the podcasting world, dependencies on third-party platforms for managing, archiving and hosting podcast episodes has become the industry standard (45). Leaders of industry within the realm of podcasting recognize this increasing dependence on third-party platforms, but advocate for decreasing this dependence. However, they acknowledge that “the technologically complex and dispersed nature of podcasting will pose a difficult preservation challenge to those tackling born-digital audio preservation,” (46) which also affects independent online music radio stations.
In many ways, the presiding view of this paper establishes that independent online music radio stations share many of the same goals as podcasters. For example, both podcasters and webcasters share overlapping goals of safeguarding the legacy of their respective shows and station heritage through creating enduring content. Dependency on third-party platforms moves us further away from an enduring model of ownership, and increasingly strips the agency from creators. According to the authors of “Subscribe, Rate and Preserve Wherever You Get Your Podcasts,” one of the presiding studies on podcast preservation, “the conveniences afforded by platforms have disconnected podcasters from how their metadata, audio files, and RSS work under the hood. These layers of abstractions between services and end-users can contribute to lack of end-user agency, especially during instances of systems failure"(47).
Likewise, the instability of respective platforms themselves are also called into question: “failure happens, in large part, because most systems rely on the market viability of their parent companies” (48). This instability is demonstrated by recent infamous episodes, such as “the sudden clearing of hundreds of thousands of files from Myspace” (49) and the financial instability of Soundcloud as glaring examples (50).
In order to mitigate these issues, amongst other issues centering around digital preservation, the PodcastRE initiative was set up by Jeremy Morris to help digital creators establish enduring and sustainable models for preserving their podcasts. The Preserve this Podcast (PTP) project proposes solutions for “rely[ing] less on third-party platforms to sustain their podcast’s discoverability and accessibility through open tools and better control of metadata...The resulting curriculum focuse[s] on four key lessons: file and folder management, storage and backups, metadata, and self-hosting” (51). PTP advises a “3-2-1” backup approach,” which is a self-contained and self-reliant means of archiving that is already practiced in variations by several independent online music radio stations interviewed for this research (52).
Not only do experts on podcast preservation seek to eliminate third-party platform dependencies, but they also seek to increase metadata accountability. PTP encourages podcasters “to see metadata, along with audio files, as part of what they are creating and preserving. By embedding metadata into their files (i.e., filling out ID3 tags) or contextualizing metadata alongside their files (i.e. foldering an audio file with its transcript or creating a podcast website), and backing up their files in a 3-2-1 fashion, podcasters are effectively creating an archive of evidence (i.e. provenance) for how they originally intended to describe their podcast” (53).
On a more forward-thinking note, PTP also suggests that podcasters establish open-source and self-hosted systems: “by establishing a self-hosted system [open-source], podcasters can effectively eliminate their financial and technological dependence on their-party platforms, better guaranteeing their podcast’s longevity and accessibility on the web” (54). Establishing a “platform-independent hosting system” (55), in combination with the other three areas advanced by PTP, are the current models of endurance, although the model has yet to be widely adopted by podcasters.
Although research on preserving independent online music radio station episodes and associated metadata is currently unavailable, podcast preservation research provides an excellent footing from which to approach independent online music radio station preservation practices. Looking towards PTP and PodcastRE’s suggestions can help to manifest more sustainable tactics for independent online music radio stations that are often in precarious positions.
2.4 Networked Radio and Networks of Communities:
The slogan of NTS Radio, a London-based independent online music radio station with a vast and dispersed international audience is “real music community is more important than ever" (56). But what is the “real music community” and how might it differ from a “music community?” Does the qualifier “real” imply a nonexistent community, or an unreal music community? The paradox of what one might refer to as a virtual music community urging the importance of a “real” community is not lost, but it is also a sign of the ever-complex nature of communities. In the same way that “archive” has no singular definition, the definition “community” is also disparate and subjective, depending on its user and context. Here I will expand upon my research on communities, framing independent online music radio actors as community members.
Reflecting the environment in which they emerged, and the social structures that emerge as a result of connections made between listeners and respective stations, I refer to these as networks of communities, and thus establishing independent online music radio stations as networked radio, challenging some of the prevailing discussions (57) on community archives. Defined as much by its local communities as by the networks that it is embedded in, I argue that independent online music radio is not singularly community radio, but instead a part of a far more complex network of actors. Discussing archival endeavors for one community is impossible without implicating a whole network of actors, who exist on a physical, virtual and hybrid plane. Networked radio differs from community radio because it is not strictly driven by its immediate community, but instead driven by and embedded in many networks. Establishing this definition is important because case studies and resulting conclusions are not only dependent on establishing that these stations harbor respective communities, but also that interactions and exchanges with other communities are commonplace. The fluid nature of these interactions with other geographically diverse communities define these communities as much as their physical communities, a particularity that is detailed in David Hendy’s Radio in the Global Age. Thus I look towards fluid community solutions to mitigate archival issues that emerge for independent online music radio stations.
In this section, I will introduce literature on the different forms of communities, with the internet as the connective tissue, and music interests as the impetus of such connections. I will also discuss community-initiatives that came to fruition as a result of virtual and networks of communities, such as fan-based and crowd-sourced archives, forums and networks.
2.4.1 Decentralized and Nonhierarchical Forms of Communities:
As a key tenet of my research, I refer to the communities that emerge around independent online music radio stations as networks of communities, and independent online music radio as networked radio. Here I will also extend the distinction between communities and networks of communities, honoring the paradoxical nature of the hyperlocal and dispersed nature of radio. Networks of communities are disparate yet interconnected communities that emerge as a result of a common interest. Much has been written about the potential to reframe communities as a result of globalization and our increased connectivity. Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village” is often viewed as an impetus for academic theoretic discourse on the effects of globalization as one of the cornerstones of media theory. McLuhan’s “Global Village” continues to be relevant today, in that it predicted the homogenization of culture and the fluency in which people from different communities are able to interact and exchange ideas on a daily basis. With no centralized control, nodes influence one another through exchanges, creating a currency of their own. In “The Future of Archives as Networked, Decentralised, Autonomous and Global”, Victoria Lemieux, drawing on the work of Manuel Castells (58), expands: “networks are decentralised–or at least leave the impression of being so; unlike hierarchies, there is no command and control from the top. They represent a completely different sort of organizing principle - of thought (‘hive mentality’), of social action (literally, ‘social networks’) and of our material world (the internet)” (59), The importance of referring to communities that emerge around independent online music radio stations as networks of communities is essential, as it establishes that there is no hierarchy, and stations are only connected loosely and tangentially by actors. The density of such networks is only increasing overtime. In a time during which Lemieux denotes the “shift to networks" (60), understanding the power of such networks is essential for stations to reclaim their agency.
Lemieux continues, “not only decentralisation, but autonomy...emerge as defining features of the network organizing principle. Finally, the network modus operandi is one that transcends the national or the particular while at the same time encompassing it. It is–or seeks to be–inherently globally interconnected” (61). Lemieux’s descriptions of networks encapsulate the paradoxical nature of the communities and currencies that emerge as a result of independent online music radio stations–homogenous and yet uniquely local. Networks of communities and networked radio capture the impossibility of hierarchies, chronologies and indexes, as they are cascading and ever-expanding. They emerge as a result of shared interests, dedications and hobbies. These networks of communities are made visible in case studies and interviews with station representatives that were conducted for the purpose of this research.
In the next section, I will discuss other forms of communities that have emerged on the internet.
2.4.2 Crowdsourced, Fan-based and Amateur Digital Music Archiving:
In “Behind the Transmitter: Differences in Archival Practices Between Nonprofit and Commercial Stations,” authors offer a meditation on alternative forms of archiving: “amateur archivists and crowd sourcing are among the more hopeful undertakings to combat the large loss of heritage” (62). In this section, I will introduce successful instances in which community members take on the role of archivist.
Online communities are examples of communities that exist outside of the traditional institutional cultural heritage framework, but are also increasingly important for piecing together the past where institutional recordings fall through the gaps. Where communities have often been dependent on geographical factors, the internet now facilitates interactions between geographically diverse stakeholders. Today, “social structures have now emerged that are maintained almost entirely over the internet” (63), reshaping the way in which we define communities. Here I investigate transnational and non-geographical communities enabled by the internet, describing cases in which community members engage in self-initiated and self-contained instances of archiving.
In “Community in Cyber Space?: The Role of the Internet in Facilitating and Maintaining a Community of Live Music Collecting and Trading,” Peter P. Nieckarz, Jr. introduces a community of live music collecting and trading facilitated entirely on the internet. Citing the impact that the internet has had on our lives, and the “increased tendency toward disembedded social structures” (64), Nieckarz observes that “social structure has become increasingly far-reaching and pervasive while at the same time becoming more centralized and unified" (65). Calling for a more plural and flexible definition of community, the author reimagines communities as “a group of individuals, who engage in sustained cooperative activities that, in the process, construct a common identity and a negotiated order, posses shared definitions, feel a sense of longing, and a sense of commitment to the group and its preservation” (66). Virtual communities, he argues, fall into ”the criteria of regular interaction, a negotiated order, a sense of belonging, shared goals and values, distinct norms, identity and social status, personal commitment to the group and its preservation, sources of social status, sources of interpersonal support, and a process of socialization are certainly present in the evidence of the distinct and reflexive culture revealed in the findings” (67).
In another account of communities initiating self-contained archival efforts, David A. Wallace assesses the history of the Grateful Dead archive. In “Co-creation of the Grateful Dead Sound Archive: Control, Access and Curation Communities,” Wallace details the “aggregated-disaggregated taper and trader community” that surrounds the Grateful Dead. Wallace details the ecosystem in which amateur tapers and official band recordings co-exist, composing the record of the Grateful Dead’s live experience in equal parts, and resulting “in the successful curation, documentation and access to a substantial [distributed and centralized] archive” (68).
Even more than the archive that they continue to create, the community as a respective artifact establishes its own distinct culture and heritage. In a case study conducted by Wallace, one participant’s comment is particularly salient: “there was a culture within this transaction, this practice, and this product” (69). The user’s comment resonates with and is mirrored in other community-led and initiated archival efforts that emerge as a result of shared interests, with a “foundational ethos of non-commercialized sharing and co-operation" (70).
According to Wallace, “distributed production, curation and documentation management” has resulted in “an online archive– actually several online archives – that provide far more content and context than could ever be possible if a traditionally configured institutional or collecting archival setting. This harnessing of expertise outside the formal archive hints at the types of emergent theory and praxis of user collaboration” (71). Reconsidering the ways in which archives are formed and cared for also creates a more equitable and representative archive, offering “the opportunity for [participants] to document their participation in mass cultural events on their own terms and for their own purposes…. as a source of social memory and authenticity, and to mediate the events of their lives through means of technological reproduction" (72).
He attributes the success of the operation to “the attendant collective joy it incarnated. It also helps to partly explain why so many individuals were willing to leverage considerable voluntary effort and personal resources (both materially and temporally) to create something that, in effect, was required to be shared to be meaningfully valued as a community resource" (73).
In another instance of fan-driven archives, fans constitute much of the available knowledge and recorded materials on a given topic. In “Ripping the Pith from the Peel: Institutional and Internet Cultures of Archiving Pop Music Radio,” Ken Garner assesses the online “specialist, minority-interest listening community” that emerged as part of a Yahoo chat group devoted to the late BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, and their “original archival work” (74). According to Garner, “over the past five years the group has digitally reconstructed more than 1,300 otherwise lost radio shows presented by Peel, by ripping, sharing and combining listeners’ collection of fragmentary off-air cassette recordings” (75). Garner demonstrates “how listener-based, crowdsourced archiving offers a new model of public radio archival practice” (76) where “work is done collectively by listeners themselves, voluntarily. It is solely down to the online nature of the listener community, and the cheap and universal availability over the past decade of sophisticated audio digitization and correction software for come computers, that this collective archiving has proved possible" (77). Fans log and share shows for which audio files have been uploaded on a John Peel Wiki. In fact, during their assemblage of the official BBC John Peel archive, they relied on audio files and metadata supplied by the “illegal” archive. In his assessment of the case, Garner attributes the success of “this illegal archive... to the centrality in Peel’s listeners’ behaviour of taping the programme off the radio…such dedication may represent a minority of a specialist audience, but the net result is captured radio otherwise lost, not officially archived anywhere, is substantial to say the least” (78).
Similarly to Wallace, Garner questions the impetus for such efforts, arriving at “goodwill" (79). These projects, according to Garner, “are conducted in a largely altruistic spirit of mutual dedication to a cause. Not entirely, though, because one of the motivations, obviously, is to have the pleasure of hearing lost old Peel shows...tapers share their tapes for free; members of the group fund the costs of tape distribution; and give up many hours of their time voluntarily and unpaid to documenting, dating, digitizing and sharing recordings and tack listings" (80). Both case studies present successful iterations of community-led archival efforts that have positively impacted the memory of each respective topic.
2.4.3 Online Music Forums:
Informational interviews conducted by myself, particularly with Tim Sweeney and Laurent Fintoni, highlighted the history of participatory and community-led musical initiatives that emerged especially around electronic dance music, UK garage, Chicago house and Detroit techno communities. Despite their enduring impression on many music aficionados, and continued relevance, there is little written about online music forums. In An Exclusive Signal: Rinse FM and UK Club Music in the Digital Age, Simen Lindblad lends one of the sole academic analyses of music forums, although only in relation to a grander examination of UK club music station Rinse FM. Lindblad’s case study interviews members from Dubstepforum, “the largest concentrated community of UK club music listeners” (81) that emerged around fan-generated tracklistings, forums and sharing fan-archived Rinse FM shows. Lindblad’s case study establishes the significance of Dubstepforum and its community members as partially responsible for the proliferation of the UK club music scene “where scene participants “(...) around the world come together in a single scene-making conversation via the Internet” (82) as is the case with Dubstepforum” (83). Despite the insufficient literature on the topic, it would be remiss to overlook the participatory and community-led instances of archiving facilitated by the internet that took place on music forums such as Dubstepforum and MixesDB.
2.5 Community Archiving: Domain and Best Practices:
In “Promising Prospects, and the Hurdles Along the Way: Sharing and Archiving Community Media Content Online,” Joost van Beek describes community media as “defined by a mission to serve and represent communities rather than generate profit, independence from commercial and governmental interests, and a participatory, volunteer driven model” (84). Independent online music radio stations differ from these characteristics in several ways; for this reason, among others, I maintain that networked radio is merely a subdivision of community radio, maintaining some of the most prominent elements of community radio, but also deferring in several distinct ways.
Despite this division, examining the practices of community archiving is essential for setting the groundwork for assessing the potential for community members to become involved in the archival process for independent online music radio stations. Therefore, archival tactics employed by community archives are particularly salient for my assessment.
Community archives have existed throughout the 20th century, with the concept taking a substantial hold around the 1970s and 1980s. Today, archival practices employed by community archives are being reexamined by archival professionals as models for more equitable and representative approaches to traditional archiving. In whose Memories, Whose Archives? Independent Community Archives, Autonomy and the Mainstream, authors frame “Community archival endeavours… [as] ways for people and communities to gain control of decision-making surrounding issues of shared history, memory, narrative, preservation and power” (85). My research seeks to increase autonomy and agency amongst independent music radio stations and their community members through calling into question the sustainability of relying on third-party platforms for archival functions.
According to Belinda Battley, “traditional ways of collecting and managing archives are not designed to deal with th[e] level of complexity and interdependence” as exemplified in networked radio (86). Here I present some of the presiding and most forward-thinking instances of community archival practices that address the more complex and networked nature of modern community archives. In this section I present literature supporting my statement that community archiving is a more sustainable and representative avenue than reliance on third-party platforms. In these instances, community members make archival decisions, including decisions surrounding acquisition, appraisal, description, preservation and access, substantiated by knowledge of community needs and information preferences. These predelections are embedded in practiced solutions. This literature review addresses several of these approaches, including post-custodialism, participatory practices, utilizing open-source technologies and proactive archiving, and acknowledges that these topics are addressed in many research projects beyond the capability of this literature review.
2.5.1 Post-Custodial Approach:
Post-custodial archiving is a model of archiving that “separate[s] records management from physical custody. In this model, records creators retain custody of their records, and archivists provide some oversight into management of the records (87). In A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology, Richard Pearce-Moses defines noncustodial records as “archival records, usually in electronic format, that are held by the agency of origin, rather than being transferred to the archives” (88). Terry Cook sets the groundwork for post-custodial archival paradigm in “Electronic Records, Paper Minds: The Revolution in Information Management and Archives in Post-Custodial and Post-Modern Era,” and “What is Past is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift,” challenging the traditional notion of custodianship by archival institutions (89).
In “A Process Where We’re All at the Table: Community Archives Challenging Dominant Modes of Archival Practice,” authors examine ways in which community archives “challenge traditional archival modes of practice” and question whether or not “community archives replicate” or break away from “dominant custody practices” (90). To address the questions posed, the authors conduct research to understand current archival methods employed by community archives. Here, they identify several practices shifting the dominant archival practice to more community-driven and autonomous practices, including a post-custodial approach (91). Authors infer that, although there are many different approaches, post-custodial practices are some of the most effective approaches to community archiving, as they “empower... communities to have control over their material” (92).
Christian Kelleher substantiates the benefits exemplified in the post-custodial paradigm in “Archives Without Archives: (Re)Locating and (Re)Defining the Archive Through Post- Custodial Praxis.” According the Kelleher, “through this dislocation from traditional practice, post-custodial praxis democratizes the power dynamic of archives by decoupling the value of archival records from dependence on the archival repository, and prioritizing the context of records creation over records content. The post-custodial paradigm disaggregates archives praxis from physical custody of records and (re)locates the work of the archivist to be neither only the institutional repository nor the site of records creation, but rather a third space that crosses borders between the two and can function in both but belongs wholly to neither" (93). Kelleher’s ideas become particularly relevant for independent online music radio stations when one considers that these stations primarily exist in two spaces: physical space and cyberspace. Enabling the dislocation of the archive from these two spaces allows for a more equitable and cooperative approach to archival endeavors.
2.5.2 Participatory Archives:
In the last years, the paradigm of participatory archives has been popularized, heralding what Patricia Garcia has deemed the “participatory turn,” referring to the “ways in which communities practice stewardship and management in archives" (94). Depending on its context, participation takes on different meanings and is exercised in divergent ways. According to Andrew Fill and Anna Sexton in “Activist Participatory Communities in Archival Contexts: Theoretical Perspectives,” “the term ‘participatory archive’ has been associated variously with ideas of the collective creativity of Archives 2.0, the democratisation of mainstream archive decision-making and professional processes via a sharing of authority between archivists and others, and more radically the recognition and crucially the exercising of multiple ‘rights, responsibilities, needs and perspectives with regard to the archives" (95). Accordingly, participatory archives “increasingly enables community understandings, values and needs to be included in research design, methodology and desired outcomes" (96).
In a digital context, participatory archives “include crowdsourcing description, such as enlisting community members for describing images, transcribing handwritten script, translating from or into other languages, tagging items, or otherwise contributing to making sense of what is preserved" (97). In Participatory Archives, Fill and Sexton examine the application of participatory practices employed by community archives, including “social tagging and commenting, transcription, crowdfunding and outreach and activist communities” (98). In the following subsections, I subdivide examples of different participatory archival activities that may have particular relevance to archiving independent online music radio stations.
220.127.116.11 Crowdsourcing Preservation:
In “Unreliable Archivists,” Jon Ippolito asks “might it be more effective to deputize an army of amateurs to serve as preservation vigilantes rather than rely on the sheriffs of storage?” (99) Ippolito harnesses the potential of community participation as a more sustainable approach to preservation, proposing that digital media is fluid and will retain its value if community members continue to interact with it throughout spacetime. Ippolito proposes remix culture as an unconventional solution for preserving works once their authors are no longer able to do so, suggesting, “these disembodied deceased do not live on as ectoplasm but as echos...these cases of computational media outliving humans are the exception rather than the rule, for their lifespans are still a fraction of their users” (100). In order to do so one must contend with the possibility of loss of artistic value, loss of artistic integrity and loss of its cultural context, requiring for one to disregard traditional notions of authenticity. Despite its drawbacks, Ippolito argues that this type of preservation may be one of the most fail-proof means of preventing loss of cultural heritage.
18.104.22.168 Microhistory Projects:
Interviews with and case studies of independent online music radio stations highlights an emphasis on archiving episodes of the station, often sidelining the heritage and narrative of the radio. Microhistory projects, such as the one documented in “Collecting the Easily Missed Stories: Digital Participatory Microhistory and the South Asian American Digital Archive” “highlight the effectivity of digital participatory microhistory projects,” which “generate new records the represent perspectives not commonly found in archives... convey an important sense of emotion and affect, and...effectively solicit community participation in the archival endeavour” (101). In addition to directly involving the community in archival practice, microhistory projects fill in historical gaps that are not conveyed through documents and artifacts (102).
22.214.171.124 Crowdsourcing Metadata:
Participatory archives prompt user participation in several regards, with crowdsourcing metadata as one of the most popular applications. Crowdsourcing and user participation “in practices such as appraisal, description and access provides autonomy for community members who are able to manage archival collections on their own terms”(103).
126.96.36.199 Participatory Appraisal:
Participatory appraisal has been practiced as a tool for empowering communities, especially marginalized communities, to reclaim agency of their histories. In response to the postmodern viewpoint that “archives have appropriated the histories of marginalized communities, creat-ing archives about rather than of the communities” (104), authors of “Participatory Appraisal and Arrangement or Multicultural Archival Collections” address the “documentation gap,” suggesting working directly with the affected communities to determine which documents hold value to respective communities (105). Instead of objectifying community members, archivists can aim to represent community traditions, rituals and heritage in a way that resonates with the community members. Accordingly, arrangement and organization decisions should also be dictated by community members.
188.8.131.52 Open-source Solutions:
In “Promising Prospects, and the Hurdles Along the Way,” Joost van Beek surveys the array of community archiving techniques across Europe, identifying best practices for “preserving and sharing content online" (106). Van Beek identifies several challenges holding stations back from utilizing the digital media environment and creating digital archives, most notably financial restraints and lack of resources. To mitigate these restraints, van Beek advocates for “building and utilizing non-commercial, open-access and open source tools and infrastructures which they alone control, and can expand and customize at will. Doing so requires reaching out more to open source communities, recruiting primarily IT/web-focused staff or volunteers, partnering with local tech companies with similar values, developing open source software that could also meet the needs of other community broadcasters and creating avenues for stations to pass on lessons learnt” (107).
184.108.40.206 Proactive Archiving:
Glenn Patterson and Laura Risk reimagine proactive archiving “founded on principles of dialogic community collaboration in the procurement and description of material” (108) in “Digitization, Recirculation and Reciprocity: Proactive Archiving for Community and Memory on the Gaspé Coast and Beyond.” Patterson and Risk describe an effort to recirculate materials into its community of origin, wherein community members become custodians of such shared history, providing “local and diasporic community members with a consolidated inherited musical commons from which to craft their present and future cultural life" (109). Proactive archiving acts in response to reactive access, which traditional archives embody, where users request archival materials for access. A proactive archive proactively engages with “potential users, employing various strategies to invite them to access archival material of possible interest" (110).
Proactive Archiving is also documented in “Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles: A Case of Proactive Archiving and Empowering Collaborations” as a tool for community archivists to recirculate and engage with archival materials in response to a financial limitation (111).
220.127.116.11 Communities as Recordkeeping Systems:
In “Authenticity in Places of Belonging: Community Collective Memory as a Complex, Adaptive Recordkeeping System,” Belinda Battley challenges the traditional narrative that archivists “rescue” records from communities through displacing records from their communities and holding them in depositories for safekeeping. Battley offers evidence of the contrary, arguing that this notion is antiquated and distances the community from their heritage. In response, Battley lends evidence that “a community itself acts as a complex, adaptive recordkeeping system that maintains records through networks that include personal relationships, cultural practices, stories, embodied knowledge, repeated events and special places" (112). She argues that “removing records from communities without taking these elements into account assumes our recordkeeping methods are superior to the community’s existing systems, constructs barriers between the community and its records, and removes much of the records’ context" (113). As argued by Battley, archival endeavours should be undertaken with consideration for the community that creates, ingests and services the documents that occur as a result of any business activities.
In the following section I introduce an example of communities that establish unique recordkeeping systems of their own in service of a common goal or interest.
2.6 Networks of Care:
In this section I introduce one of my main methodological approaches through which I lay the groundwork for assessing the benefits and drawbacks of community participation in archival endeavors of independent online music radio stations. Here I introduce “networks of care,” which, in combination with “interdependence” and community archival tactics, demonstrate the potential for and examples of community participation in archival endeavours.
In Collecting and Conserving Net Art, Annet Dekker describes the concept of “networks of care” as “based on a transdisciplinary attitude and a combination of professionals and non-experts who manage or work on a shared project. To enable the creation and administration of a project, the transmission of information is helped by a common mode of sharing where everyone in the group has access to all the documents or archives” (114). Within the construction of “networks of care,” stakeholders become caretakers, often with the cooperation of a singular institution or organisation, to care for a certain body of work.
In theory, a “network of care” can result in a sustainable and non-hierarchical recordkeeping approach, in which stakeholders from different backgrounds constitute a community that can maintenance and maintain the work as needed. In her writings, Dekker depicts the articulation of a “network of care” as an antidote to traditional institutional custodianship, where “a collection of individuals and small organizations gather to form foundations that look after an artist’s legacy” (115). Dekker describes “a networked, community-driven conservation strategy” (116) that derives its value from “a dispersed network of knowledge with a non-hierarchical structure emphasiz[ing] localized knowledge, avoiding standardization and ensuring variability rather than creating a freeze state” (117).
Drawing on the “collectivity in networks,” Dekker nods to philosopher Gilbert Simondon, characterizing the “notion of collective individual and the group not as opposing but as entities that influence each other and together constitute a constant process of individuation” (118). In her work, “the term ‘network’ is used in different ways to characterize current social formations (especially within technological cultures)...to indicate the potential of networks as collaborative practices that work towards the realization of projects" (119). Harnessing the collaborative potential of networks is essential to the success of such an undertaking.
Despite the potential downsides of “networks of care,” Dekker’s case study demonstrates that “it is clear that these networks can operate without the structures of centralized archives of authorized custodian" (120). Dekker lays out the “fundamental conditions that must be in place in order for a ‘network of care’ to succeed outside of an institutional framework, or to become effective as a tool for transformation” (121). These include:
•transdisciplinary coalition between community members, including experts and amateurs.
• a ”common mode of sharing where everyone in the group has access to all the documents or archives” (122).
•An open-source system or set of tools that allow for contributors to “add, edit and manage information and track changes that are made” (123).
•network should be dynamic and unstatic, with an option to jump in between other networks and projects (124).
Although it is not specific to independent online music radio stations, “networks of care” provides a model for approaching archival endeavors for digital-born media, especially in the case of digital-born media sustained by communities. Where research surrounding independent online music radio falls short, “networks of care” offers an alternative to their current mode of archiving, shifting the paradigm from third-party dependence to collectivism and cooperation.
In response to the stifling proliferation of neoliberalism and the rise of platform capitalism, “interdependence” was introduced by Mat Dryhurst in 2019. A research project and podcast with Holly Herndon, “interdependence” is framed as an antidote to the dependency of musicians and digital creators on third-party platforms. In a masterclass in which Dryhurst expounds upon the theoretical standpoint, Dryhurst laments, “in the age of platform/information capitalism, electronic musicians – and other digital creators – have become completely dependent on large streaming platforms and social media giants”(125). In interdependence, Dryhurst sees the possibility of artists reclaiming their agency with the help of their surrounding communities. Still premature, Dryhurst calls for “technical and economic concepts that reflect what working artists have long known to be true: an artist creating challenging work is dependent on resilient international networks of small labels, promoters, publications and production services to facilitate their vision. A vision of interdependence acknowledges that individual freedoms thrive in the presence of resilient networks and institutions” (126).
Harnessing the “cooperative stance between artists and their communities,” Dryhurst reexamines the significance of the “independent” moniker, making a dry cut distinction between independence and interdependence; while independent music values and rewards individualism, often at the cost of the collective good, interdependence music benefits artists and their communities equally, creating sustainable practices for the collective, rather than the individual (127). Platform capitalism, which promises independence, is “dictated by an increasingly small number of platforms, we are divided and – as presaged by this recent cluster of closures – all too easily conquered” (128). The Interdependent structure will help creators to “maintain control of what’s ours” (129).
Interdependence is particularly applicable for independent and specialist strains of media with a strong sense of community, making it particularly well-suited for independent online music radio stations.
My literature review highlighted the relative academic and journalistic disinterest in online music radio stations, and sought to marry imbricating subjects in order to form a cohesive overview of the current state of the art in archiving, networks, communities, virtual community archives, community archives, post-custodial and participatory archives. In the following section I will present the main theoretical viewpoints of my paper, allowing for me to frame a way in which to approach the topic, which, as demonstrated in my literature review, is relevant to adjacent literature, but not the subject of any substantial research.
27. Ibid., 6.
28. Jo Tacchi, “The Need for Radio Theory in the Digital Age,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 3, no. 2 (2000): p. 289.
29. David A Black, “ Internet Radio: A Case Study in Medium Specificity,” Media, Culture and Society 23, no. 3 (2001): pp. 397-408.
30. Kate Lacey, “Ten Years of Radio Studies: The Very Idea,” The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 6 (2008): pp. 21-32.
31. Tacchi, “The Need for Radio Theory in the Digital Age.”
32. See, for example, Andrea Jean Baker, “College Student Net-Radio Audiences: A Transnational Perspective,” The Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 8, no. 2 (2011): pp. 121-139; Andrea Jean Baker, “Exploring Subcultural Models of a Discursive Youth Net-Radio Hierarchy,” Continuum 26 (2012): pp. 409-421; Baker, “Comparing the Regulatory Models of Net-Radio with Traditional Radio.”
33. Hilmes, 2.
35. David Seubert, “Preserving Radio Broadcasts: Thoughts on Future Directions,” Journal of Archival Organization, no. 1-2 (2020): pp. 13-18.
36. Ibid., 14.
37. Ibid., 15.
38. Ibid., 16.
39. Ibid., 16.
40. Ibid., 17.
41. Shawn VanCour, “Locating the Radio Archive: New Histories, New Challenges,” Journal of Radio & Audio Media 23, no. 2 (2016): pp. 395-403.
43. Laura Treat and Shawn VanCour, “Introduction: The State of Radio Preservation,” Journal of Archival Organization 17, no. 1-2 (2020): pp. 1-12.
44. Michael Falcone, B. Real, and Y. Q. Liu, “Behind the Transmitter: Differences in Archival Practices Between Nonprofit and Commercial Radio Stations,” Journal of Archival Organization 17, no. 1-2 (2020): pp. 66-94.
45. Mary Kidd, Sarah Nguyen, and Erica Tikemeyer, “Subscribe, Rate and Preserve Wherever You Get Your Podcasts,” Journal of Archival Organization 17, no. 1-2 (2020): pp. 161-177.
47. Mary Kidd, Sarah Nguyen, and Erica Tikemeyer, “Subscribe, Rate and Preserve Wherever You Get Your Podcasts,” Journal of Archival Organization 17, no. 1-2 (2020): pp. 161-177.
48. Ibid., 165.
49. In 2019, Myspace infamously and abruptly deleted more than fifty-three million user-uploaded files from its server; Ibid.,169.
50. A perfect example of this is Soundcloud, a popular and free audio and podcast hosting platform used especially by independent creators, that nearly went bankrupt in 2017.
51. Ibid., 171.
52. Jeremy Wade Morris, Samual Hansen, and Eric Hoyt, “The PodcastRE Project: Curating and Preserving Podcasts (and Their Data),” Journal of Radio & Audio Media 26, no. 1 (2018): pp. 8-20.
53. Kidd, et al., 171.
54. Ibid., 171.
56. NTS Radio, https://www.nts.live/.
57. See, for example, Ben Alexander, Community Archives: the Shaping of Memory, ed. Jeannette Allis Bastian (London: Facet Publishing, 2009).
58. Victoria Lemieux, “The Future of Archives as Networked, Decentralised, Autonomous and Global,” in Archival Futures (London: Facet, 2019), pp. 33-44.
62. Falcone et al., 70.
63. Peter P. Nieckarz, “Community in Cyber Space?: The Role of the Internet in Facilitating and Maintaining a Community of Live Music Collecting and Trading,” City & Community 4, no. 4 (2005): pp. 403.
64. Ibid., 420.
65. Ibid., 404.
66. Ibid., 407.
67. Ibid., 418.
68. David A. Wallace, “Co-Creation of the Grateful Dead Sound Archive: Control, Access and Curation Communities,” in Community Archives: The Shaping of Memory (London: Facet, 2018), pg. 90.
69. Ibid., 172.
70. Ibid., 188.
72. Ibid., 172.
73. Ibid., 188.
74. Ken Garner, “Ripping the Pith from the Peel: Institutional and Internet Cultures of Archiving Pop Music Radio,” Radio Journal:International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media 10, no. 2 (2012): pp., 5-6.
75. Ibid., 6
77. Ibid. 8
78. Ibid., 21
80. Ibid. 44
81. Simen Kolstad Lindblad (Stockholm University, 2014), pp. 1-100.
82. Ibid., 13.
84. Joost van Beek, “Promising Prospects, and the Hurdles Along the Way: Sharing and Archiving Community Media Content Online,” in Transnationalizing Radio Research (Bielefeld, Germany: transcript Verlag, 2018), pg. 223.
85. Jimmy Zavala et al., “A Process Where We’Re All at the Table’: Community Archives Challenging Dominant Modes of Archival Practice,” Archives and Manuscripts 45, no. 3 (2017): pp. 202-215; Andrew Flinn, Mary Stevens, and Elizabeth Shepherd, “Whose Memories, Whose Archives? Independent Community Archives, Autonomy and the Mainstream,” Archival Science 9 (2009): pg. 73.
86. Belinda Battley, “Authenticity in Places of Belonging: Community Collective Memory as a Complex, Adaptive Recordkeeping System,” Archives and Manuscripts 48, no. 1 (2019): pg. 73.
87. Sofía Becerra-Licha, “Participatory and Post-Custodial Archives as Community Practice,” Educause Review, 2017, pp. 90-91.
88. Richard Pearce-Moses, “Noncustodial,” in Dictionary of Archives Terminology (Society of American Archivists), accessed 2020, https://dictionary.archivists.org/entry/noncustodial.html.
89. Terry Cook, “Electronic Records, Paper Minds: The Revolution in Information Management and Archives in Post-Custodial and Post-Modern Era,” Archives & Social Studies 1 (2007): pp. 399-443.; Terry Cook, “What Is Past Is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift,” Archivaria 43 (1992): pp. 17-63.
90. Zavala et al., 202.
92. Ibid., 211.
93. Christian Kelleher, “Archives Without Archives: (Re)Locating and (Re)Defining the Archive Through Post-Custodial Praxis,” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1, no. 2 (2017): pg. 1.
94. Zavala et al., 204.
95. Andrew Flinn, “Activist Participatory Communities in Archival Contexts: Theoretical Perspectives,” in Participatory Archives: Theory and Practice, ed. III Edward Benoit and Alexandra Eveleigh (London: Facet, 2019), pp. 173-190.
96. Becerra-Licha, 90-91.
98. Edward Benoit III and Alexandra Eveleigh, Participatory Archives: Theory and Practice (London: Facet, 2019).
99. Richard Rinehart, Jon Ippolito, and Jon Ippolito, “Unreliable Archivists,” in Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014), pp. 155-184.
100. Ibid., 159.
101. Michelle Caswell and Samip Mallick, “Collecting the Easily Missed Stories: Digital Participatory Microhistory and the South Asian American Digital Archive,” Archives and Manuscripts 42, no. 1 (2014): pg. 73.
102. Ibid., 83.
103. Zavala et al., 11
104. Katie Shilton and Ramesh Srinivasan, “Participatory Appraisal and Arrangement for Multicultural Archival Collections,” Archivaria 63, no. 1 (2007): pg. 90.
106. Van Beek, 223.
107. Ibid., 229.
108. Glenn Patterson and Laura Risk, “Digitization, Recirculation and Reciprocity: Proactive Archiving for Community and Memory on the Gaspé Coast and Beyond,” MUSICultures 41, no. 2 (2014), https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/MC/article/view/22913.
109. Ibid., 104.
110. Ibid, 110.
111. Birgitta J. Johnson, “Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles: A Case of Proactive Archiving and Empowering Collaborations,” Ethnomusicology Forum 21, no. 2 (2012): pp. 221-242.
112. Battley, 1.
114. Annet Dekker, “Networks of Care,” in Collecting and Conserving Net Art: Moving Beyond Conventional Methods (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018), pg. 91.
115. Dekker, ibid.
116. Ibid., 89.
117. Ibid., 92.
118. Ibid., 89.
120. Ibid, 91.
122. Ibid., 91.
125. “Masterclass: Interdependence by Mat Dryhurst.” Introduction.
127. Mat Dryhurst, “Interdependent Music vs. Independent Music,” https://matdryhurst.medium.com/interdependent-music-vs-independent-music-ba265e2ea996.
128. Mat Dryhurst, “Band together: why musicians must strike a collective chord to survive,” https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/apr/09/experimental-musicians-must-strike-a-collective-chord-red-bull-music-academy-closing.
129. Jon Davies, “Interdependence, or How I lLearned to Love Again on the Dancefloor,” https://www.factmag.com/2019/12/20/interdependence-or-how-i-learned-to-love-again-on-the-dancefloor/.
CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY
The research framework for this study consisted of a mix of interviews, a case study, a literature review and an adoption of two central theoretical concepts to frame my arguments. In this chapter, I will present the methods in which I approached my research, and then expand upon the ways in which the two central methodological concepts of my paper, “Interdependence” and “Networks of Care” frame my arguments going forward.
This chapter will offer an outline of qualitative interviews, in which the methodology for station interviews, user interviews and informational interviews will be expounded upon. Case study methodology will follow. Next, I will present my methodology for the assessment of benefits and drawbacks of embedding communities in archiving independent online music radio stations. Finally, I will elucidate the methodological framework of this research, “Networks of care” and “Interdependence.”
3.1.1 Interview Research Methodology:
A series of qualitative interviews were conducted with representatives from independent online music radio stations, as well as their listeners. Interviews took place throughout October 2020 via Facetime (calls), Skype (calls and chats) and email (written responses). Participants from stations followed a loose script of pre-provided questions about their archival practices, contingency plans if the station were to shut down and the significance of their community to the heritage of the station. Listener participants answered questions about their listening preferences, participation and whether or not they felt a sense of belonging in the independent online music radio network. In addition, several interviews with stakeholders in the independent online music radio community took place. Interviews that took place over calls were recorded as voice notes with the participant’s consent and transcribed.
Questions for the three classifications of participants were written as a reflection of initial research, and as a result of being a longtime listener of several of the stations in question. Before drafting questions, I first interacted with the virtual interface of each station assessed, as well as other stations not included in this research, in order to ascertain how much information I could grasp without a first-hand interview. My questions were then drafted and continuously evolved throughout the period in which I conducted interviews.
Given the novelty of this research, the subjectivity of the responses and the variety in which different stations approach archiving, results are varied. My analysis addresses the multiplicity of approaches that stations and users embody in their practices and preferences. The novelty of the research also presents challenges to ensuring the reliability and validity of responses.
3.1.2 Station Interview Methodology:
For station interviews, the selection process for interviewees was based on my familiarity with the station, and whether or not I could get in touch with them in the time allotted. In theory, I would have liked to cast a wider net, and include interviews from stations outside of the United States and Europe. However, this proved challenging in the given timeframe. In total eight stations were contacted, while six agreed to interviews. Interviews were conducted with station representatives, who were often either station managers or heads of technology. Representatives were provided with a list of questions before the interview took place, but conversation flowed freely in many cases. Given the geographical diversity of the respondents, interviews were conducted via Skype, email and Facetime.
Many of the questions posed were technical in nature, assessing the current state of archiving as well as the sufficiency of the infrastructure for the long-term. Interview questions were designed to expose the structural and economic considerations that governed the station, as well as their attitudes and preferences towards archiving. For a list of interview questions asked, see the appendix.
3.1.3 Users Interview Methodology:
User interviews were conducted both via Google Documents and Google Forms. A link to the anonymous questionnaire was posted on the RE:VIVE website, and a questionnaire was sent out to friends and acquaintances around the world, with the bulk of participants from the United States and the Netherlands. Users were asked to participate based on their various experiences with and interest in independent online music radio stations, and based on a diversity of roles that each participant plays within the network of independent online music radio stations. Interviewees include radio DJs, avid independent online music radio listeners, music industry personnel, music researchers and journalists. A prerequisite for interviewees was a frequent listenership to at least one independent online music radio station. In total eight users participated in the case study, answering a total of 17 questions each.
Questionnaires were anonymous to better improve the quality of the answers. Disadvantages of this interview format were also taken into consideration. For example, from the results (discussed in the following chapter), it was made clear that the definition of archiving is unclear to many participants, which likely influenced their chosen answers. Given the anonymous nature of the interview format, it was also impossible to grasp the demographics of the sample, which could have improved my understanding of the demographics that make up the community.
The goal of user interviews was to try to understand if there are any community-led recordkeeping systems in place. In addition, I sought to identify ways in which the larger and intertwined networked radio community maintains collective memory. In addition, my case study sought to uncover how willing stakeholders are to participate in participatory archival practices, and to assess their sense of belonging within the community. For a list of questions asked, see the appendix.
3.1.4 Informational Interview Methodology:
Qualitative informational interviews were conducted to gain a further grip of the current state of discourse surrounding independent online music radio stations. In addition to interviews with station archivists and managers, as well as users, several interviews with various stakeholders of independent online music radio were conducted. Interviewees include Tim Sweeney, host of WNYU’s Beats in Space; Jason Scott, of the Internet Archive; Todd Burns, music journalist; and Laurent Fintoni, author and former employee at Red Bull Music Academy Radio. Interviewees were selected based on their tangential association with independent online music radio and their knowledge of the field. Interviews were conducted via Facetime and Zoom in a conversational manner, often stretching for more than an hour.
3.2 Case Study Research Methodology:
Although the bulk of my self-conducted research occurred as interviews, several qualitative case studies were conducted in addition, replying solely on information found on (or omitted from) the internet. Such was the case for my assessment of defunct independent online music radio stations. Although interview requests were sent out (and followed up multiple times), no station representatives were willing to take part in an interview for this thesis. Accordingly, case studies were conducted based on availability of articles and interviews about their respective shuttering.
Case studies were conducted on the following stations: Berlin Community Radio, Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Radio, Red Light Radio and East Village Radio. Stations were evaluated on the following criteria: searchability, accessibility of website, accessibility of radio episodes, thoroughness of accessibility of radio episodes, whether episodes were retrievable beyond a third-party platform, whether episodes were archived beyond a third-party platform (and whether this information is retrievable), accessibility and availability of metadata, whether or not metadata was available beyond third-party platforms. The results of this case study will be discussed in the following chapter.
Case studies were conducted through simple search terms. The goal of the case study was to understand the digital footprint of each station, and to deduce how much metadata and audio could be retrieved through a search engine. An additional objective of the research was to learn how no longer functioning independent online music radio stations archive the digital footprint of their stations. Conducting a case study cast light on the current state of the art in terms of archiving independent online music radio stations, and illuminated a dependence on third-party platforms. Findings will be discussed in the following chapter.
3.3 Methodology for Assessment of Pros and Cons:
Establishing an approach for assessing my research statement involves a qualitative methodology based on a literature review, interviews with stations, users and additional specialists. Approaching my research question involves a comparative analysis, in which the arguments of my sources will be weighed. Most important sources include podcasting preservation tactics and community archiving literature. The “pros” are particularly influenced by literature on participatory and community-initiated and sustained archiving practices, while the “cons” are particularly informed by interviews. Although drawbacks are brought up throughout both interviews and literature, the potential is ultimately realized as a net positive. However, the idea in practice raises more concerns. Research is based on theoretical approach, and does not provide as many practical applications as theoretical viewpoints in which to approach the enforcement of such practices. Given the deficiency of research on independent online radio, especially in relation to its archival practices, this research is intended as an introduction, and acknowledges that gaining knowledge on the topic is an iterative process.
3.4 Theoretical Methodology:
The concept of communities being involved in archival practices are influenced in part by the theoretical concepts “networks of care” and “interdependence,” which are applicable in that they offer theoretical grounds but also demonstrate the infrastructure through which one can approach participatory archives. Both theories contextualize this research as concerning community and participatory archival techniques, thus positioning a more modern approach to archival academic research that diverges from antiquated and dominant Western archival theory viewpoints.
3.4.1 “Networks of Care:”
“Networks of care” as a concept is essential to the ability to assess the potential for community involvement in archival endeavors, especially if that effort is largely voluntary and as a result of a shared interest. Dekkers’ assessment of Mouchette’s “networks of care” as a case study in Collecting and Conserving Net Art points to a decentralized model of care for projects that lie outside of the traditional archival model of acquisition and custodianship. “Networks of care” provides a sustainable model for decentralized and networked communities that are themselves the custodians of such heritage, and names an exercise that has been demonstrated by decentralized communities mediated by the internet since its popularization. Assessing the potential of community involvement with the backdrop of “networks of care” provides feasible and tangible means to perpetuate the visual and sonic heritage of an independent online music radio station beyond the life of the station. This theoretical viewpoint is implemented in the assessment of the feasibility of such a network, and the imagined future for such participation.
Applying Dryhurst’s theory of “interdependence” as my research framework substantiates the potential for community-led archival practice, and advances the potential to compare the benefits and drawbacks of communities participating in such a model. Dryhurst’s theory emerged just as third-party platforms and benefactors that were longtime supporters of experimental and avant-garde arts began to fold, and many of the infrastructures that had been built around the genres started to upend, leaving organisations and artists with few options. Dryhurst sought a more sustainable and less precarious model in communities that already existed around certain artists, projects and spaces. My assessment is premised on similar grounds, through which I imagine the potential for communities to rely on the participation amongst one another, rather than an isolationist approach with third-party platforms safekeeping their collective heritage.
When one applies Dryhurst’s methodology to archiving, the same theory applies; communities that represent experimental and avant-garde arts have often struggled to gain recognition as legitimate and worthy forms of art, and it is likely that this struggle will continue into the future. A community that recognizes the value of such art is invaluable to the perpetuation of the art, and will be the main driving force to carry its heritage into the future.
Similarly, Dryhurst seeks to remedy the issue of third-party platform dependence on more of a theoretical level than a technical one. Dryhurst takes umbrage with the methodological approach to these dependencies, and questions the sustainability and health of such a dependence in the long-term. Similarly, without the investment of community members, the legacy of such stations will no longer be relevant, no matter what happens to these third-party platforms.
Reframing the longstanding tradition of archival custodianship as a community effort is a step towards “interdependence.” The goal of this research is to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of community participation in independent online music radio station archiving, and not to provide technical solutions for archiving. Dryhurst’s “interdependence” provides excellent footing through which the technical aspects of sustainable and long-term archiving can be approached.
CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS
In this chapter I will discuss the results of case studies and interviews. In the first section I detail the results of the “defunct stations” case study, which is the grounding point from which my problem statement emerges. It also offers a glimpse at the current state of preservation efforts for no longer operating radio stations. Next, I detail the results of my interviews with currently operating stations, highlighting their current method of archiving, the cogency of their contingency plans for the postmortem, and their attitudes towards archiving and community involvement. In the next section, the results of user interviews are detailed. Finally, the contents of additional interviews with different stakeholders in independent online music radio stations are summarized.
4.1 Defunct Stations:
The starting point for my research begins by looking at no longer operating independent online music radio stations, including Berlin’s Berlin Community Radio, Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio, New York City’s East Village Radio and the international RBMA Radio. All four stations were chosen because they had a relatively large and expansive community, and their respective closures resounded throughout a large network.
Proprietors were unreachable via email, and, for the most part, associates were unable to confirm the details of their archival practices. From a user standpoint, the only official enduring audio files and metadata exist solely on third-party platforms through an official channel associated with each respective station. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, are currently enduring as well, although there have been no new posts since each respective station ceased operations. Social media platforms are still occasionally used to promote events or share news, as is the case with Berlin Community Radio and East Village Radio. Websites for each respective station, which often hosted radio shows, displayed a roster of hosts, shows and guests, and promoted station-related events, have been taken offline.
Conducting a case study without interviews presented distinct challenges, including the impossibility of confirming certain details. However, associates related to the formerly operating stations informed me wherever possible, painting a clearer picture of the current state of each station’s archive.
4.1.1 Berlin Community Radio:
Although multiple attempts were made to get into contact with Berlin Community Radio founders, Sarah Miles and Anastazja Moser, an interview was not possible for this research. However, a combination of interviews with former hosts, as well as information available on social media, pieced together the current state of Berlin Community Radio’s archive. As it is available now, BCR’s archive is hosted on Mixcloud.com. An exploration of the Mixcloud page reveals that over four thousand episodes are available for listening. The availability of metadata for each episode varies. Out of the 25 random episodes surveyed on the Mixcloud page, only three had tracklists, while 14 had descriptions. All episodes have photos or images associated with the episode. It is unclear whether all episodes are available on Mixcloud.
According (130) to a former host on BCR, each contributor was responsible for uploading their own files, creating a decentralized network and eliminating extra work for the founders. However, the lack of centralized means that the only files that are currently available are those on Mixcloud, as well as in the possession of the DJs (if they still have them). It is also possible that files are saved on a harddrive or former station computer.
It appears that a fundraiser (131) to archive episodes in 2020 allowed founders to purchase external hard drives to start the process of archiving the studio computer. According to an update posted on social media, the episodes will also be uploaded to a secure online server, but they will not be available to public access at the point because of insufficient funding. The founder pointed to Patreon as a potential option for accessing the archive in the future. It is also unclear whether the archive would include metadata as well as audio recordings of radio episodes.
4.1.2 East Village Radio (E.V.R):
A New Yorker article titled “The Death of East Village Radio” details a confrontation between East Village Radio’s former station manager, Peter Ferraro, and a fan: “he was approached by an anxious bystander, inquiring as to the exact details of where E.V.R. would be archiving their music and how he could access it. (They’re not, and he can’t) (132).” This telling anecdote captures the indifference that station managers and founders have often felt towards the archive.
Accordingly, East Village Radio does not host an archive, and nor does it publish episodes via a third-party platform. A mere 51 episodes are made available through artist uploads on Mixcloud, despite a history spanning decades. However, its history is not entirely lost; East Village Radio is unique to this sampling in that every episode broadcast during the last five years of its existence is archived on the Internet Archive, and organized by show. Of the 25 episodes randomly surveyed on the Internet Archive, 22 have tracklists and descriptions, and all have photos associated with the show.
An interview I conducted with the Internet Archive’s Jason Scott, who is the contact for this particular digital archive, stated that the initiative was undertaken by employees and volunteers of the Internet Archive on their own initiative, without input from the East Village Radio staff or founders. According to Scott, the reason for the five-year-spanning archive was because of trial and error with East Village Radio’s website. Volunteers wrote custom scripts to pull the metadata such as the self-descriptions and tracklists from the MP3 files of each show. Without such effort, there would be almost no public memory of the station beyond articles and several social media profiles.
4.1.3 Red Light Radio:
Red Light Radio could not be reached for comment. On Mixcloud, Red Light Radio has made available 16,482 episodes, all of which broadcasted from 2010-2020. On Soundcloud, the account has informed visitors that the archive has moved to Mixcloud. Although the station shuttered in June 2020, its social media is still intact. Its website is no longer retrievable through relevant channels. Of the 25 episodes surveyed on Mixcloud, none have tracklists, but 23 have descriptions.
4.1.4 Red Bull Music Academy Radio:
Red Bull Music Academy Radio station shut down October 31st, 2019. By November first, its website was rerouted to Mixcloud with around 3,000 episodes currently available, but updating weekly. Laurent Fintoni, a former employee, estimates that more than 70-80% of material was lost because of poor archival practices and licensing issues. Offline, the episodes are owned and controlled by Red Bull Media House. Of the 25 episodes randomly surveyed on Mixcloud, all of the episodes have descriptions and photos, and none of the episodes have tracklists.
For all of the stations assessed in this case study, websites were the central method of organization of audio files and metadata. This information includes tracklists, descriptions, photos, station rosters and events. Much information has been lost as a result of websites being taken offline. In the cases where stations transfer their archive to a third-party platform, much meta-data is often missing, including descriptions and tracklists. Where there are available tracklistings, they only exist on third-party platforms.
To avoid these situations, I looked at the current methods of operating radio stations to see what kind of information is being archived. It is clear from my current station interviews that many stations have the tools for sustainable and long-term archiving, but, alike the stations surveyed in this case study, they lack foresight and a contingency plan in case of station closure.
4.2 Current Stations:
Interviews with currently operating independent online music radio stations allowed me to understand the workflow of online radio stations and learn what their goals are to help develop a realistic approach to preservation measures. It also illuminated that many stations are interested in long-term and sustainable archival practices, and that many of them have some tools at their disposal to implement measures, but not the knowledge, wherewithal or time.
Interviews were conducted via email and Facetime. Participating stations include Berlin’s Cashmere Radio, Bristol’s Noods Radio, The Hague’s Intergalactic FM, Los Angeles’ Dublab and New York City’s The Lot Radio.
4.2.1 The Lot Radio:
In an interview conducted with The Lot Radio’s founder, Francois Vaxelaire, I learned that the Lot Radio archives their episodes in several ways, storing every episode, including the photo, audio file and video file across multiple platforms. They upload each episode and associated metadata, which includes a tracklist in addition to the audio file and photo, to a Mixcloud page as well as Soundcloud, and occasionally YouTube. Privately, they upload each episode (including video) to Amazon S3, which goes into “Glacier mode” after 30 days to conserve costs. The metadata that is saved with each episode includes the date, photo, video and audio files. The track listing is not uploaded to the Amazon server. Each show is logged on a Google calendar. Vaxelaire spoke of the reason why he chose Amazon’s S3 server, pointing to a financial incentive for US-based businesses using cloud services. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to archive video. One of The Lot Radio’s features includes a live chat in which DJs and listeners can interact. According to Vazelaire, the website uses a plugin to enable chats, through which they can retrieve the most recent history of chats.
Vaxelaire’s contingency plan for the postmortem, barring legal issues, would be to make the Amazon server accessible to the public. However, he acknowledges that it is unlikely that these issues will be resolved in the near future, so it is more likely that the episodes would be hosted on Mixcloud and Soundcloud. Overall, the attitude of the station is that they are interested in adapting to new, more sustainable and long-term archival methods, but they do not have the professional background or know-how. Accordingly, their archival process has been largely a result of trial and error.
Vaxelaire sees the local community as central to their strength as a station. The Lot Radio sees both the international and local audience as their target–-their physical space serves as a community meeting point, and they often host shows and events in the church across from the station. In terms of his connection with other stations, he feels that socially they exist within the same network. For his resident DJs, he sees that The Lot’s connection to other international stations within the network is a large draw, which enables residents to play elsewhere. For the public, though, he believes that they see The Lot Radio as a local community.
Los Angeles’s Dublab has a long and rich history in online radio. It is unique in that it has a sophisticated and multi-faceted archive, which has spanned from the beginning of the station, with over 22,000 archived episodes. For my interview, I spoke with Brennan Mackay, Dublab’s chief technology officer, who does a lot of work with the archive. Mackay explained that much of the legwork in the archives is done by volunteers. Each broadcast is recorded on a main computer in the studio, and all episodes are uploaded to a respective harddrive at the end of the year. In addition, everything is saved to Amazon S3 cloud storage, and a script uploads shows directly to Mixcloud.
Another unique aspect of Dublab is that all of its episodes are accessible via their website to both stream and download from their Amazon S3 server, which is technically illegal. Mackay acknowledges the importance of saving files in additional locations given the illegal nature of hosting files for download on their website. However, this aspect characterizes the precariousness of the station itself, which often prioritizes accessibility over legality.
Documents that are archived include all broadcasts, the events calendar, and metadata, which includes tracklists, genre tags, dates and description. Metadata is not embedded in audio, but it’s uploaded via Wordpress. The metadata only exists on the Wordpress, but there are frequent backups of the Wordpress of all the servers. Metadata is archived along with audio files on hard drives at the end of each year.
Dublab’s archive represents a true community effort, where volunteers are more involved than professionals. This approach has endured during the more than 20 years of the station’s existence, and has been successful as a result of community involvement, despite shifting leadership over more than 20 years of broadcasting. Mackay acknowledges that this process has been successful due to the defined process that has been established over the years, with multiple locations for backups and automation that will remain sustainable as long as there is at least one employee.
In several instances, Mackay recalls moments in which recordings have been lost, and fans have uploaded and shared their personal recordings to YouTube. In one case, he had to access a fan’s recording to upload to the archive because the original was missing.
In terms of the importance of the community, Dublab finds the local community incredibly important to the success of the station, citing the community as more local than international. However, there are instances of international listenership, such as a community of 50-100 listeners in Lagos, Nigeria, who consistently tune in.
4.2.3 Cashmere Radio:
The Cashmere Radio interview took place over email, and was completed by two representatives of the station, Matteo Spanó and Florian Demmer. At Cashmere, all audio files for their shows are hosted in cloud-based storage. As illuminated by the interview, each host uploads their own show to the website “via a custom interface that ensures a somewhat consistent metadata format” (133). This process allows for both community involvement and archiving to become a part of the process, rather than a retroactive practice executed by an archivist or station manager. According to the interview, “it’s sustainable for us as the systems scales easily and the archiving is not a dedicated process and instead an integrated part of the general show hosting process” (134). In addition to this, all audio is uploaded onto a Mixcloud page for playback. Each episode lives on a database, which is backed up on cloud storage weekly to prevent data loss. Here files automatically move into a less expensive “deep storage” mode after two weeks, which allows for the station to “give download access to the file for the part of the community that feeds our rotation, allow the host / guest to download the file easily etc” (135). Interviewees see the economic benefits and drawbacks of migrating show files onto “deep storage,” but also the drawbacks, at the expense of accessibility and retrieval times.
Their metadata scheme is uniform for all episodes, and includes: show, title, initial airing date of the episode, style, list of genres, list of moods, full text description, full text optional tracklist, free form tag list and episode image with metadata. Metadata is stored in a database and not in the audiofile itself.
In terms of the importance of the community to the station, interviewees see this as “crucial. The station is conceived as an intersection and exchange point between the shows and practices of its members, and a lot of those intersecting moments happen around the broadcasting practice, in-between, before or after shows. A lot of “basic” things like talking, catching up, discussing ideas and projects, having a drink, working the garden, browsing the library, and listening to each other’s show are all very effective examples of what it means to inhabit a collective space and to participate in shared narratives” (136).
4.2.4 Noods Radio:
Although Noods Radio had initially enthusiastically agreed to take part in an interview, their decision was reversed once they took a look at the questions. An email reply was received in response: “we don’t really have much of an archiving system outside of Mixcloud” (137).
4.2.5 Intergalactic FM:
An interview took place over email with Ferre de Ridder, who acted as a station representative for this research. According to de Ridder, Intergalactic FM has a database with a few backups and also backs up their files to the cloud. If DJs send them mixes, they will play them if they like them on air, and then upload them to hotmixes.net for download. Metadata includes file names, which include airdate, artist name and name of mix. The founder of Intergalactic FM, Ferenc E. van der Sluij, founded IFM “as a way of communication, to send content to the world” (138). Accordingly, the station is surrounded by a network of tech and design-minded people who volunteer as contributors.
Interviews with currently operating independent online music radio stations were exploratory, and were loosely premised on the goal of understanding how, and if, these stations archive their materials. Results are varied. As illuminated from interviews, there is not one archival standard across the board for independent online music radio stations. In general,
•Station representatives displayed an interest in archiving, and all of the stations assessed have an archival practice in place, with the exception of Noods Radio.
•Stations had little to no contingency plans for the postmortem.
•Station interviews highlighted the imbalance of attention between archiving audio files and all other metadata, including events, rosters and chats.
•Stations often utilize cloud services and hard drives to back up their materials.
•Even so, stations rely heavily on third-party platforms.
•In many cases, legal limitations impede stations from making their files more accessible to the public.
•In many cases, financial restraints limit stations from archiving episodes to the fullest extent.
•There is confusion as to what constitutes “archiving.”
•Several stations already employ community archiving techniques.
•Community, mostly local, factors largely in the identity of the station.
•Likewise, most stations feel embedded in an international and networked community of independent online music radio.
Reliance on Third-party platforms: All stations interviewed rely considerably on third-party platforms, to various degrees. The majority of stations have an additional personal archival strategy consisting of storing audio files and some metadata on personal harddrives or cloud services.
Metadata vs. audio: Interviews with station representatives were oriented primarily towards audio file archiving. In my experience, the term “archiving” in this context is interpreted as preserving individual episodes, rather than metadata. When prompted, station representatives revealed various approaches to metadata archiving. The focus, however, across the board, is on the audio files themselves. Associated metadata includes playlists, show name, episode date, location, guests, photos, etc. Beyond metadata associated with individual episodes, metadata surrounding station culture, community and events should also be considered.
Contingency plans: None of the stations that were interviewed had considered contingency plans for archived materials in the case of station closure. Despite employing alternative approaches to archiving during the life of the station, most pointed to third-party platforms as the potential solution for mitigating loss.
Station representatives detailed prohibitive factors for a more long-term approach to archiving. These include:
•Costs associated with rights management
•Costs associated with cloud storage
•Financial restraints associated with independence
•Lack of manpower
•Lack of knowledge
•Lack of resources
•Lack of specialists
•Ease of third-party platforms
Attitudes towards community involvement: Several station representatives seemed excited about the potential of community involvement, but most were unable to imagine a path to community archiving that would be on par with their current archival system. Some stations, such as Dublab and Intergalactic FM, rely on community involvement for archiving past episodes. Other stations, such as Cashmere Radio, place the responsibility on community members (DJs) to upload their own files and accompanying metadata, utilizing a script to make all materials uniform.
Results from interviews illuminated that all stations interviewed are interested in and concerned with archiving. However, most of the station representatives indicated that the respective stations do not have the infrastructure, funding or manpower to be able to do so in a proper way. Many had archiving tactics in place but were unsure if these were best practices.
Station representatives indicated a general unease with their archival practices, mentioning an interest in learning more about archiving and indicating an open mind towards adopting new practices. For many stations, the archival process in place is a combination of trial and error and experimentation. Most stations do not have an archivist on staff, with various actors filling the role of “archivist” throughout time. As a result, there is not often a standard archival practice throughout the history of the station. In other cases, archiving and community participation in metadata aggregation is embedded in the heritage of the station, such as the case with Dublab and Cashmere Radio. As demonstrated by Cashmere Radio, there are ways to ensure a uniform and consistent metadata format, even if documents are emerging from different origins.
Lastly, some station representatives acknowledged the legal barriers that impede station archives from operating to their fullest extent. Potential solutions that bypassed legal codes include peer-to-peer sharing through torrenting and seeding files, recalling the blogs and forums that popularized and proliferated special interest music. Although these solutions are illegal, they employ community archival tactics that have the potential to manifest enduring content. In the conclusion of this paper, these tactics will be elucidated in more depth as potential solutions that require more research.
User interviews were conducted to both assess listener preferences and evaluate attitudes towards user involvement in the archival process. User interviews were conducted through a Google forms questionnaire. A total of eight interviews were conducted during October 2020. Interviewees included radio DJs, listeners, music industry personnel and radio station founders in both Western Europe and North America. All respondents were enthusiastic and frequent listeners of independent online music radio stations.
Interviews illuminated the varying listening habits amongst independent online music radio station users. Responses indicated that most users listened to at least two or more stations regularly, with a majority of users saying that the connection between stations was palpable, but that they typically felt a connection to one station in particular. Respondents indicated that their sense of community was typically contingent on their connection to a particular radio show or DJ. Accordingly, their listenership would follow a DJ or host to whatever independent online music radio station they were appearing on.
User participation was recounted as financial contributions, feedback directly to DJs, taking part in an online chat, commenting on Soundcloud or Mixcloud and sharing episodes with friends. Despite these clear demonstrations of community participation, a total of seven of nine respondents answered “no” in response to the question “would you be willing to help with archiving the station?” However, it became clear that users were unclear about what “archiving” entails because they demonstrated a proclivity for downloading and sharing both audio files and associated metadata, including tracklists, and sharing these attributes. Most respondents indicated that they had their own unspoken archival practice for specific episodes, such as downloading, reposting and bookmarking episodes, as well as downloading specific songs from respective episodes. Although users demonstrated that they in fact exercised archival practices, such as selection, appraisal, preservation and pluralization, it became clear that users were unaware that these actions could be considered archival practices. In fact, the definition of “archive” in the internet radio context, echoing the ambiguity of the term itself, is evidently unclear. “The archive” and what it means to participate in “archival practice” thus needs to be demystified for users in order to make community archiving a reality within the context of networked radio.
In response to a question prompting users to rank their most preferable metadata according to importance, almost all users chose tracklists. The benefits of focusing archival solutions on track listings will be discussed in more depth in the concluding chapter as potential solutions. However, interviews also exposed a clear preference for audio recordings over tracklists. Follow-up interviews with some participants elucidated these preferences, with users pushing for a more audio-focused rather than metadata-focused approach to archiving independent online music radio stations.
4.4 Additional Interviews:
Additional interviews provided a social and cultural backing to understand the current state of archiving independent online music radio stations, and to provide a footing to demonstrate the cultural importance of these stations. Results from interviews are integrated amongst the various sections of this research, and greatly informed my research. Transcripts of such interviews are available on request.
130. Interview with Koen Nutters, interview by author, Amsterdam, December 2020.
131. Anastazja Moser, “BCR Archive,” Go Fund Me, March 3, 2020, https://www.gofundme.com/f/bcr-archive?pc=fb_co_campmgmtbnr_w&rcid=r01-158376670201-e59b623ac76742ef&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_lico%2Bbanner&fbclid=IwAR3YtFZL4ismWS34cLwCdFBppPO__3wZjaZor9oXrX8RaVIy-po3_p9GErg.
132. John Ortved, “The Death of East Village Radio,” New Yorker, June 12, 2014, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-death-of-east-village-radio).
133. Interview with Florian Demmer and Matteo Spannó
137. Interview with Leon Pattrick from Noods Radio. Interview by Lilli Elias, Email, November 2020.
138. Interview with Ferre de Ridder from Intergalactic FM. Interview by Lilli Elias. Email, October 2020.
CHAPTER 5: WEIGHING BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN ARCHIVING
In this chapter I will weigh the benefits and drawbacks of communities participating in archiving independent online music radio stations. In discussions and interviews with respective actors involved in independent online music radio stations, one thing became immensely clear: that the future of these stations is contingent on the participation of its users. However, data collected from users indicates a general lack of enthusiasm and lack of responsibility towards involvement in archival activities, but also a clear misunderstanding of the actions involved in archiving and user participation in regards to archiving. In addition, interviews with stations revealed several elements that make community involvement challenging for both station management and users, including:
Some station representatives acknowledged a lack of trust towards its users and a general unease towards relying on their efforts;
Some stations do not have the infrastructure to accommodate community involvement;
Some stations are happy with their third-party archival systems;
Time, money and access to information about archiving are finite.
Despite these challenges, community archival techniques, such as participatory archiving, have been demonstrated as effective approaches to archiving when institutions fail to demonstrate an interest in the materials, and as antidotes to third-party platform dependency.
In “Authenticity in Places of Belonging: Community Collective Memory as a Complex, Adaptive Recordkeeping System,” Belinda Battley, paraphrasing Jeannette Bastian, describes “a community of records” “as the aggregate of records in all forms generated by multiple layers of actions and interactions between and among the people and institutions within a community." The success of this research is contingent on the actions produced by a “community of records,” which manifests as an active, continual and sustainable approach to community archiving. This assessment will be made on the grounds that community members can take part in participatory archival practices (and already do in many cases) through providing varying distributed archival functions such as appraisal and selection, storage and preservation, metadata enrichment, distribution, use, maintenance and disposition, by engaging in actions typical to the community. As enumerated in a previous section, such actions include downloading and sharing both audio files and associated metadata, including tracklists; participating in online chats; contributing financially; providing feedback directly to DJs; commenting on and reposting playlists on station websites or third-party platforms. Here I will weigh the pros and cons of adopting such an approach for archiving independent online music radio stations.
The success of community-based archival practices have been demonstrated in this paper thus far through crowdsourced, fan-based and amateur digital music archiving, as well as in community archiving practices. Both “interdependence” and “networks of care” provide a theoretical grounding and examples of applications for community-led approaches to maintaining a community’s heritage overtime. Such practices have been elucidated as sustainable and authentic approaches to safekeeping a community’s heritage.
In case studies and interviews, many actors were emphatic about the importance of the community and the accompanying values that derive from communities, despite varying viewpoints on community participation in archiving. In response to the question “do you think it’s sustainable that a community could be the custodians of such heritage?” music journalist Todd Burns essentialized the importance of community involvement in music and radio archives: “it’s essential… whether it’s sustainable, that’s more of a tactic… I don’t think there is any other way to do that without the community” (139). Although practices and approaches vary, a sustainable and representative archive has been proved successful when community members are integrated in the process.
Benefits of community archiving for independent online music radio stations have been mentioned throughout this paper, but will be summarized and synthesized in this section:
•In cases such as networked radio, where the value of community involvement is intrinsic to the community, community-led and participatory archival practices honor the vision and values of the community. An archive whose practices are dictated by its community ensures an enduring authenticity (140).
•As demonstrated by cases in which information is lost or irretrievable, the endurance of an invested party, most often manifested as a (networked) community, can prevent loss as a result of shared interests (141).
•As demonstrated by the theory of “interdependence,” and advocated by podcasting preservation specialists, community archiving practices can provide solutions to mitigate third-party platform dependence, preventing loss (142).
•As illuminated in literature about modern community archival techniques, community archival tactics promote a more equitable approach to building and capturing community heritage, with community members making decisions as to what holds value to them and what does not by essence of participation. Collective memory is pooled to determine what should be remembered, rather than a third-party making those decisions on behalf of the community, as in the case of third-party platforms and institutionalized archives (143).
•As exemplified by “networks of care,” a diversity of vested actors can manifest as a safekeeping mechanism when institutions fail to step in (144).
•Archives, especially digital archives, require constant care in both the short and long-term. When communities are invested in their collective heritage, the prospect of data loss holds a greater meaning, as it equates to loss of heritage. Whereas third-parties are not necessarily incentivized to maintain a community’s heritage, communities are (145).
•The networked nature of communities surrounding and involved in independent online music radio stations is beneficial because of the multitude of invested parties who take part in those communities in varying capacities. If one community fails to act as a “network of care,” there are other networks that will potentially step in.
Case studies in particular draw attention to the lack of infrastructure for and interest in community involvement in archival endeavors for independent online music radio stations, but also shed light on its potential. In this section I will enumerate the drawbacks of community involvement as ascertained by case studies, interviews and a literature review, probing more deeply into instances of dissent and hesitance. Research conducted for this thesis indicates that there is a clear division between those familiar with community archiving tactics, and radio practitioners, who were for the most part more skeptical of the potential of community archiving tactics. This disharmonious nature between theoretical and a more hands-on and practical approach to archiving independent online music radio stations is particularly relevant to this research for a myriad of reasons. Given the lack of research on this topic, firsthand experience from radio management is valuable to this research. In addition, their hesitance exposes the lacunae in academic and “in practice” approaches to archiving. Taking both viewpoints into consideration is invaluable to my research. Drawbacks, as ascertained from the literature review, interviews and case study are enumerated:
•If community members make archival decisions by essence of contribution, then many things will be inherently left out of the archive. The act of appraisal and disposition, for example, becomes passive in some ways, rather than an active process, and information that has no use to the communities might be included, while more useful items might be omitted.
•As demonstrated by user interviews, there is little to no user interest in participating in archiving independent online music radio stations, even if users feel embedded in their respective radio communities. It is clear that users feel little responsibility for archival functions, especially when third-party platforms deliver and make accessible full “archives” with no effort or participation requested from community members (146).
•As demonstrated, for example, by the failed fundraiser on behalf of establishing a digital archive for Berlin Community Radio, the interest of users is lackluster, even if it just means contributing financially to establish a more secure archive (147).
•Although fan and amateur-led archives provide successful instances of community-led archival approaches, both David A. Wallace and Ken Garner draw attention to the fact that much of the work is done by a select group of contributors, with other community members acting in more passive roles (148).
•As called to attention by station interviews, archiving requires time, money and personnel, which is often hard to come by for financially and legally precarious stations (149).
•As brought to attention in station interviews, third-party platforms provide cost-friendly and station and user-friendly tactics for uploading, sharing and accessing materials, while other approaches can be costly.
•User and station interviews highlight that users and station management prefer audio files to all other metadata. Technically speaking, there is no clear benefit of employing community archival tactics for audio files over third-party platforms. Any form of digital storage, such as computers, external hard drives or cloud memory services require both short and long-term care in order to maintain its function. In any case, the same digital technologies are ultimately relied upon, and none provide absolute security in terms of preventing data loss.
•According to station interviews, the current infrastructure of station archiving allows for users to easily access episodes, while keeping costs low for stations. Other tactics can become expensive and time-consuming (150).
•Third-party platforms often offer a solution for licensing fees, which can become costly for stations and in cases contribute to loss (151).
•Users are already familiar with third-party platforms, which require little to no participation, and are accessible to a large majority of users. Users have become familiar with passive listening and consumption, rather than contributing (152).
• Users can easily follow stations on established third-party platforms, making it easier for them to stumble upon new shows and simultaneously providing the station with a larger reach.
•Stations have demonstrated a lack of trust in its community to carry out archival functions. Tim Sweeney, host of Beats in Space, voiced this lack of trust towards his audience, stating flatly that he would not trust community members to archive his materials. This opinion is echoed in less emphatic terms by other stations as well (153).
•Both Laurent Fintoni and Jason Scott raised the issue of compensation and exploitation in relation to community participation in archival efforts. Scott has a history working with volunteers at the Internet Archive, and spoke about the delicacies of working with a volunteer staff. Fintoni also raised questions about the ethics of an all-volunteer network, especially when the station itself may have a financial stream (154).
•Community-involved archiving may require some community members to shoulder the costs of archiving, while other community members may not. This has been exemplified by both the Grateful Dead and John Peel fan-led archival efforts (155).
•The concept is only relevant if there is a sustained vested interest on behalf of community members, as maintaining an archive requires upkeep and enduring financial support. Otherwise, the cultural memory of the station will eventually fade along with its data (156).
•A community-involved archive has the potential of being partial and not thorough. In many cases, the selection process is based on individual popularity and interest, rather than being democratic, as it is intended.
•A community-involved solution has the potential of episodes and metadata being decentralized, where there is currently a centralized and easily accessible option in third-party and station-kept archives.
•This option includes the issue of training community members and sharing resources, which requires time and money, which are often finite resources for independent online music radio stations.
•In “Unreliable Archivists,” Jon Ippolito warns that delegating archival responsibilities to amateur preservationists can lead to “the loss of artistic integrity through a deviation from a work’s original intent" (157).
Although there is a clear number of drawbacks outweighing the benefits, community involvement in archival endeavors for independent online music radio stations should not be discounted. Research indicates that many of the drawbacks listed can be alleviated with community-led archival solutions. Eliminating costs for example, can be met head on with open-source and distributed ownership (158). Decentralized data can be combated through digital solutions, such as scripts and softwares designed by station management (159). In addition, many of the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in the long-term, such as metadata preference and licensing issues. An assessment of both the benefits and drawbacks of involving community in archival solutions for independent online music radio stations elucidates the need for more research on sustainable and cost-effective archival solutions for such stations, and for born-digital media in general.
139. Burns, interview.
140. Battley; Jeannette Allis Bastian and Ben Alexander, “ Introduction: Communities and Archives – a Symbiotic Relationship,” in Community Archives: the Shaping of Memory (London: Facet Publishing, 2009), p. xxi-xxiv.
141. See, for example, The John Peel Archive at the BBC.
142. Kidd et al.; Morris et al.
143. See, for example, Zavala et al.
145. See, for example, Damon Krukowski, “History Disappeared When Myspace Lost 12 Years of Music, and It Will Happen Again,” Pitchfork (Conde Nast, March 20, 2019), https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/history-disappeared-when-myspace-lost-12-years-of-music-and-it-will-happen-again/#:~:text=The%20Pitch-,History%20Disappeared%20When%20Myspace%20Lost%2012%20Years%20of%20Music%2C%20and,to%20the%20digital%20dark%20age.&text=The%20news%20emerged%20this%20week,an%20estimated%2053%20million%20files.
146. See “User Interviews."
147. See, for example, “BCR Archive.” Go Fund Me.
148. David A. Wallace; Ken Garner.
149. See, for example “Interview with Dublab;” “Interview with The Lot Radio.”
150. See “Station Interviews.”
151. See “Is Mixcloud Licensed to Play Copyrighted Music?,” Mixcloud, accessed 2021, https://help.mixcloud.com/hc/en-us/articles/360004185159-Is-Mixcloud-licensed-to-play-copyrighted-music-.
152. Fintoni, interview.
153. Sweeney, interview.
154. Scott, interview; Fintoni, interview.
155. Wallace; Garner.
156. Fintoni, interview.
157. Ippolito, 170.
158. “Interview with Dublab;” Fintoni, interview.
159. See, as an example, “interview with Dublab;” “Interview with Cashmere Radio.”
CHAPTER 6: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In my thesis thus far I have established that the heritage of independent online music radio stations is important and worthwhile. To summarize my arguments, independent online music radio stations are vital to underground, networked music communities, and the inheritance of this musical community to the next generation of listeners is contingent on the success or failure of these station’s documentation strategies. In the previous section, I weighed the benefits and the drawbacks of involving community members in archiving independent online music radio stations, reaching the conclusion that implementing a community-approach will require a massive restructuring of infrastructure, but also shifts in attitudes of both users and station management. Despite the numerical supremacy of drawbacks enumerated, research indicates that ultimately, community-involved archival efforts will be more sustainable in the long-term. With these arguments at the fore, I will conclude by examining a path for implementation of such practices. Taking into consideration both concepts of “Interdependency” and "Networks of Care,” as well as community archival techniques, I propose a community-driven, post-custodial and distributed archival approach, with an emphasis on metadata aggregation in combination with audio file archiving.
In this section I will summarize suggestions for the implementation of such tactics, including a section on metadata aggregation and peer-to-peer file sharing. I will conclude by offering thoughts on the future of research on independent online music radio stations and archiving.
In this section I will entertain the potential of user participation in archiving online music radio stations, acknowledging the uphill battle that stations will face in implementing such tactics. Here I outline several suggestions for the implementation of such strategies, including: demystifying the archive; shifting the archival culture and attitude; focus on metadata and peer-to-peer solutions.
6.2.1 Demystifying the Archive:
One of the main insights gained from user studies is the confusion about the term “archiving.” As highlighted in both user and station interviews, there is a discrepancy between what people believe archiving to be in theory versus in practice. Research indicates that users in particular do not realize that many of their actions, such as downloading episodes, sharing episodes, providing feedback and comments on episodes and downloading tracklists, are archival actions. Actions such as appraisal, disposition, selection and use, among other archival terms, are employed by users on a daily basis. Making this clear to users would likely make the potential of participatory archiving more approachable and less tedious.
6.2.2 Shifting Archival Attitudes and Culture:
Although implementing community-driven archival techniques requires a technical approach, it also requires a shift in attitude from station management and its users. The following are a series of suggestions with the goal of shifting such attitudes towards community participation rather than isolationism, as partly informed by the theory of “Interdependence.”
•Galvanize actors from across the spectrum to participate in station archiving through making cogent and coherent arguments for conserving the station’s heritage
•Research indicates that users do not often feel a strong sense of community within each station or network of stations. Focus on more inclusive and user-focused approaches for cultivating communities by reaching out and stimulating existing listeners.
•Reframe archival approaches from short term goals to long-term gains. As demonstrated from the defunct stations case study, the deficit of a contingency plan almost always leads to loss.
•Decrease dependence on third-party platforms, emphasizing decrease and not elimination. Third-party platforms serve their purpose, but put in place alternative methods of archiving, such as the one outlined in this thesis.
•Shift the archival responsibility from the station management to the community. Involving community in archival decisions, as well as maintaining design control, will benefit the station in the long-term.
•Reframe archiving as a mutually beneficial undertaking.
•Although episodes are the primary draw for each community, metadata provides context and contributes to station heritage. Pay more attention to metadata aggregation and archiving, as smart metadata will likely outlive audio files, especially when they are embedded on webpages or posted on the internet.
The current model of passive listenership and consumption has proven to be unsustainable. However, it is possible that a retroactive shift from the current model of consumption to a model of a less convenient past would be counterproductive. It is also clear that there is no future for any of these stations without cooperation. As much as it is station management’s responsibility to encourage and build the infrastructure for community involvement, community members should also shoulder more responsibility for the preservation of their shared heritage, which manifests in varying ways. By shifting the theoretical methodology to “Networks of care” and “Interdependence,” users can become collaborators in the process to preserve and manage their shared history, rather than remain passive consumers.
6.2.3 Focus on Metadata:
Michele Hilmes’s use of “Soundwork” to describe the new frontier of radio and its materiality offers an updated perspective on all that modern forms of radio encompass. Today, audio programming is no longer the sole determinant of “radio heritage.” Instead, radio is composed in equal parts of traditional audio programming, but also adjacent media that manifests through other sensory experiences, as well as non-traditional audio programming. This new programming requires an updated approach to metadata that captures in equal parts the immateriality and the materiality of radio.
My literature review, as well as research conducted for this thesis, indicates that metadata, despite its importance, is often slighted when it comes to archiving independent online music radio stations. Although users and radio practitioners alike favor audio files of episodes to any other metadata, metadata has been recognized as holding great importance for the perpetuation of a community’s heritage, as it documents, contextualizes and conveys cultural significance. Given the instability of the current approach to archiving independent online music radio stations, this research seeks to introduce a more sustainable approach to archiving, which may not always be the most favored approach. Despite the clear preference for recorded audio materials, metadata, such as tracklists, photos, DJ rosters, events, chats and comments will likely outlast the availability of audio files, and have the potential to paint a more inclusive picture of the heritage of a community.
Tracklists, for example, if preserved and circulated properly, provide assurance that if an audio file is no longer playable, then a list of audio that was played on the show will remain available. Although they are not preferable over audio recordings, Tim Sweeney has found tracklists invaluable when audio files of radio shows are unavailable, as they compose a “document of time,” documenting what DJs are playing at a given moment (160). Laurent Fintoni recognizes the potential of focusing archival efforts on simple metadata such as tracklists, pointing to the success of tracklists in capturing what was being played on pirate stations, forums and blogs where no audio files remain embedded or playable. Although Fintoni acknowledges that it is “not quite the same as being able to listen to the show…[tracklists] provide a layer of data and knowledge into what was played and when it was played" (161). In addition, tracklists are not subject to copyright or licensing issues, which means that, if episodes are ever taken down, tracklists will be some of the only remnants of the episode.
Podcasting preservation experts also advocate for increased attention to be paid to metadata. The Preserve this Podcast initiative encourages podcasters to “see metadata, along with audio files, as part of what they are creating and preserving. By embedding metadata into their files or contextualizing metadata alongside their files (i.e., foldering an audio file with its transcript or creating a podcast website), and backing up their files in a 3-2-1- fashion, podcasters are effectively creating an archive of evidence (i.e., provenance), for how they originally intended to describe their podcast" (162).
In accordance with their ethos, community archives should be reflective of the community they are serving. Thus, metadata aggregation should also maintain this spirit and they should be accessible and easy to contribute to. In accordance with podcasting preservation tactics, as much metadata as possible should be captured at the time of creation, rather than retroactively.
6.2.4 Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, Open-source and Wikis:
In an article on independent online radio, Pitchfork contributor Jeff Ihaza, commenting on the more personalized and spontaneous element of online radio in comparison to terrestrial radio and streaming sites, suggests, “these internet-based outposts have more in common with the peer-to-peer sensibility of Napster than the commercialized sheen of big streaming sites" (163). Ihaza captures more than the spirit of independent online music radio in his characterization of online radio as community-driven. His comments provide grounding for the potential operization of peer-to-peer technologies that have already sustained fringe music communities for years as solutions to archive-related issues that arise for independent online music radio communities.
Interviews with specialists as well as radio management point to potential solutions for community involvement, with many offering peer-to-peer sharing technologies as an option for community-sustained solutions. Although not always legal, this follows a long history of communities maintaining their own “networks of care” through forums, blogs and seeding softwares. This research does not advocate for any illegal activity; however, it suggests that information specialists can learn from these self-sustained “networks of care” to combat instances of loss of heritage.
Laurent Fintoni, for example, pointed to peer-to-peer file sharing and torrenting websites, such as Napster, which effectively “convinced an entire generation of people to share folders that were on their harddrives,” as a starting point (164). In our conversation, Fintoni spoke of peer-to-peer technologies as a tool for communities to shoulder server space where institutions are not able to assume financial responsibility. He continued, “a wiki would be maybe the easiest way… in regards to having people help with the archiving… it has this peer-to-peer quality in regards to text, you invite everybody to contribute… metadata would be interesting” (165). Fintoni’s ideas are echoed by other interviewees, some of whom asked to not be named. In an anonymous interview, an interviewee discussed the potential of making public their cloud storage website for users to download and disperse episodes through torrenting on peer-to-peer file-sharking networks such as soulseek. Although these solutions are dispersed and often precarious, they should be considered as potential avenues for sustainable and community-led archival efforts.
6.3 Thoughts on the Future:
Despite the dominance of the commercial radio and streaming industries, independent online music radio consistently provides the essential services of amplifying underrepresented voices and cultivating networks of communities, offering “a useful reminder that nothing has to be the way it is” (166). Independent online music radio stations require archival solutions that reflect the democratic and DIY nature of its ethos, with the possibility of implementing sustainable and substantial change to the status quo as a priority. Creating opportunities for communities to become involved with archival efforts will only increase the sustainability and longevity of such materials, which are at risk of not only digital obsolescence, but also cultural erasure.
As demonstrated by the infancy of solutions proposed in this section, there is much to be learned about archiving independent online music radio stations before new solutions can be implemented. Establishing solidified technical resources, such as what Jeremy Morris and Department of Communication Arts and Libraries at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have done with PodcastRE, is a step towards providing long-term and sustainable solutions for digital-born objects. Incorporating independent online music radio stations into the academic realm of radio discourse will also further legitimize independent online music radio as worthy of preservation, and will hopefully encourage more scholars to partake in research surrounding the topic.
160. Sweeney, interview.
161. Fintoni, interview
162. Kidd et al., 170.
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164. Fintoni, interview.
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LIST OF INDEPENDENT ONLINE MUSIC RADIO STATIONS
Boxout FM (New Delhi)
Dublab (Brazil, various locations)
Dublab (Tokyo / Sapporo / Osaka)
Dublab (Los Angeles)
East Side Radio (Paddington)
Echobox Radio (Amsterdam)
Foundation FM (London)
Future Intel (The Hague)
Half Moon (Brooklyn)
Hong Kong Community Radio (Hong Kong)
Hotel Radio (Paris)
Intergalactic FM (The Hague)
KChung (Los Angeles)
Kiosk Radio (Paris)
KPiss (New York City)
Le Mellotron (Paris)
Lighter than Air Radio (New York)
LYL Radio (Lyon / Paris / Brussels)
Mad Radio (Colombia)
Maxi Radio (Leiden)
Ma3azef Radio راديو معازف (Tunis)
Micro Radio (Amman)
Montez Press Radio (New York City)
Netil Radio (London)
Newton Radio (New York City)
Noods Radio (Bristol)
No Signal (London)
O,O, Radio (The Hague)
Operator Radio (Rotterdam)
OT301 Radio (Amsterdam)
Radio Alhuma (Tunis)
Radio Flouka (Paris)
Radio il Hai (Beirut)
Radio Nard (Bethlehem)
Radio Raheem (Milan)
Radyoon (Tunis / Paris / Cairo / Geneva / Casablanca)
Resonance FM (London)
Rinse FM (London / Paris)
Root Radio (Istanbul)
Seoul Community Radio (Seoul)
SOAS Radio (London)
Soho Radio (London / New York City)
Terry Radio (Kansas City)
The Lake Radio (Copenhagen)
The Lot Radio (Brooklyn)
Threads Radio (London)
Tsubaki FM (Tokyo)
Wave Farm Radio (Hudson / Acra)
WorldWide FM (London)
8 Ball Radio (New York City)