Music Radio to Playlists 1

Since I stopped being on the radio, I have been keeping my ear to the ground and listening and watching the slow death of music radio. To me, music radio should be a place to hear all kinds of music and a venue to let the DJ educate the listener about all types of music, in the ways of the pioneer’s of FM radio DJ’s. The radio DJ of today in the majority of radio stations is a computer that has been programmed to play the music around the advertisements. It’s all done by some guy in another location who “knows” everything about what the listener wants to hear by studying charts and “data” of sales worldwide. But not what the market is like and what the demographics of the listening area is, so in other words taking local out of the local radio. We hear music that all sounds the same it “pre-programmed electronic Disco.” It’s time to give the control of the music selection back to the DJ!

WARNING – If pre-programmed electronic Disco is the kind of music you like then you might not want to read on, but I hope you do and you realize there are more kinds of music out there to listen too.

Let me impart some knowledge and history on you now – the FM radio signal, was invented in the 1930’s, but as a commercial medium it didn’t take off until the late 60’s. When rock radio stations began using FM to get away from the locked down format of the pop stations of the AM dial. The format used was loose and free, and the DJs programmed their music in a freeform style. This style was the birth of Freeform radio that was popular in the late 60s and the 70’s, but as the audience grew the radio station owners and advertisers realized that there was more money to be made in FM radio, then there was in AM.  So more and more structure was added to the format of the station thus tieing the hands of the DJ. Which eventually caused the replacing of a live person with the before mentioned computer, so that eventually FM music radio became sounding more like the pop formats of AM radio, with more commercials and less musical diversity, killing the Freeform format.

Freeform, or freeform radio, is a radio station programming format in which the disc jockey is given total control over what music to play, regardless of music genre or commercial interests.” – Wikipedia

When I started in radio in ‘86, the Freeform format had been dead for many years, but no one had told me, I programmed my shows the way I made mixtapes, come up with a “theme” or a set of songs and fill in around them during my show. Because of this, I got called into the office more than once for playing a “B” side or a song that had not been released from a new album or the big one…it didn’t follow the format of the station. Little did I know that I was following in the steps of the inventors of the early “FM” sound…the Freeform radio DJ.

It wasn’t till I had stopped working in radio and listening to the stations in other markets that were still letting the DJ do a modified “Freeform” format that I learned more about mixing the music in a way that took the listener on a musical journey.  The songs were laid out to tell a story or they followed a theme, and they didn’t just use the top music of the day.  They used those buried gems on “Side 2” or a cover of a past hit or a B side to lay out the musical journeys, and they didn’t just use the music of the format of the station to take these journeys. Since the late 90’s trying to find a station letting the DJ go out and build these musical journeys is getting harder and harder, but soon I realized that Playlists could be a conduit to supplying a Freeform musical journey to others.


Since I can’t seem to get back on the radio to do a show in a Freeform type of format I have been starting to make 3 to 4-hour Playlists of the shows I would program.

Making a playlist for me is creating a piece of art, I start with a base of songs that I want to hear. One or two for the beginning of the list and then as I am listening to that I start adding music that blends and flows with the “base” songs that are going to be added or I might have a theme in mind or a story to tell through the music. Yes, my playlists will have a lot of the same artists as the “base” of all my playlists, but it’s what I put in the cracks between them that will take you on the musical journey.  My playlists are to listen to in the order they are laid out as though you are listening to a radio and not in shuffle mode

When it comes to music I have a broad taste, not just the Jam Band genre, like a lot of people think I do. I was brought up listening to all kinds of music, and I appreciate some more than others like most people. For certain songs, I might like a cover over the original version; for example, I like the Jerry Garcia’s Bands version of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue,” so in my lists I try to use the best version that fits, not just the one that I like.

This week, there is a new site where I will start listing my playlists so that you will be able to play on Spotify, and Amazon Music. I am open to comments and suggestions for songs or bands you might like that I would like as well, I am open to hearing new stuff, but please keep all comments polite and on topic and no hate.

Just in case you are a radio programmer reading this and listing to my lists who is looking for a DJ who doesn’t stay in the format box and loves to interact with the listeners and take them on a Musical Journey every shift contact me, please.

So in the words of Dave Herman from when he started The Marconi Experiment at WMMR in Philadelphia on April 29, 1968:

“Arise my heart, and fill your voice with music. For he who shares not dawn with his song, is one of the sons of ever darkness.” – David Herman

Q-SKY Radio – No Static at All 1

I am looking for a few “friends” or if you were part of WVIN back in the late 80’s or at WCEB during the 1986 -1987 semesters and would like to help out and get on the air and have some fun.

Do you have a topic you want to talk about or a genre of music you want to get others hearing, or maybe go live with a podcast you are involved with then reach out to me at

I would prefer people in the Corning area to start with, but am open to others in other locations if you have a good idea for a show.

The format of Q-SKY is going to be a mix of talk and freeform music radio, but we will have to follow the DCMA rules for streaming radio stations to stay legal. All rules and broadcast information will be explained if you are interested in doing a show. This is all voluntary and not a paying gig so don’t quit your day job to do this.

I just ask that anyone interested be willing to give me at least six months of shows and not flake out on me and just disappear. I want to get a very robust and fun schedule and get some listeners other than our parents and relatives. 🙂

I want to start broadcasting Q-SKY Radio in the first part of the new year to get things set up and get some ideas fleshed out.

A question that made me do a double take!

So an interesting thing happened to me at Soulful Cup when I went into get my morning large cup of Jamaican Me Crazy, I asked the Barista my usual “how are you doing and ready for the weekend” question, she gave me her answer and then turned and asked me “what radio stations I had worked for”. One of my coffee group had mentioned to her that I had worked in radio; it took me by surprise, because not many people below the age of 40 care or want to hear about it.

But it got me thinking of the kind of show I would love to do again. It would of course be based off of the Freeform format of the late 1960’s and 70’s.  The last true disc jockey that still does a freeform show, but on satellite radio is Jim Lad and his show is a great one.

The show would be 4 hours a night 5 days a week and it would have interviews and of course great music (Rock, Country, Folk, Jazz, etc.) from bands of yesterday and today…request welcome. I think for a small/medium market radio station this would be a great way to educate their “young” to 40 some things about music.  I know I write this article every few years but the theme and ideas for the show grows in my head and I have to get it put down so I remember and maybe a program manager with some guts will read this and get in touch to talk about a job.

I consider myself a historian of radio and I think it’s time for the small/medium sized radio stations to start swinging back to the start of FM radio, throw out the Automation machine, hire some good Disc Jockeys and some high school/collage kids to learn from the “old timers” you just hired so they can become the future of real radio.   There is so much good music and bands out in the world that aren’t getting air time because they don’t have a big music contract or they don’t play the current top 40 sound.  I am a big fan of the Blues Brothers and Ellwood Blues said it best back in 1978 when the album “Briefcase Full of Blues” (BTW this album appeared on my albums that influenced my life list) was released:

You know, so much of the music we hear today is all pre-programmed electronic disco; we never get a chance to hear master blues men practicing their craft anymore. By the year 2006, the music known today as the blues will exist only in the classical records department of your local library.

-Ellwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd)

And you know what 2006 has come and gone and that quote still holds true today, the music of 60’s through the 80’s really only exists in your local library and in people’s music listening device, it’s not getting played on the radio so that the youth of today can hear that there is music out there that isn’t rap or what I call the bubble gum music of top 40.  I use to love walking by my daughters door and hearing some classic rock coming through the door.

So if you’re a radio program director or you know a radio program director (drop them the link to this story) looking for a good show, from a disc jockey with a great voice, a great knowledge of music genres (except Classical Music) and radio drop me a line I would love to talk and see what we can do. This is a great way to educate your audience and community.


This morning I got an e-mail from Dave Game the founder of the Corning Community College radio station WCEB that it had lost it’s license. I have written about WCEB before and the ideas I had for making it a viable option for the Corning Community. Sure it was low powered but it had potential well at least I thought so. I thought it so much that I sent an e-mail to the President of CCC with my ideas of what could be done to make WCEB a great local community radio station and a learning tool for the students. So in this hard time for the local radio station especially in the Corning/Elmira market where most of the radio stations are all on hard times I raise my glass to you WCEB the radio station that started the carriers of many of the radio personalties in what was one of the best markets to start a radio carrier. Here is a copy of the e-mail I sent the President of Corning Community College.

As a former student of Corning Community College and former announcer on WCEB it was sad to see that the college hasn’t renewed the license for WCEB. I was the program director of WCEB in 1986 and 1987. I always thought that the station was never used to it’s full potential for the college and the Corning radio community.

WCEB is one of only a handful of Class D licensed radio stations in the United States.
In Corning there are 13 stations licensed to Corning including WCEB. 7 of the licenses are for repeaters for stations outside of the Corning area. Of the 6 remaining stations 3 of them are in financial trouble and are cutting back on local programing and personnel. The remaining 2 just play bubble gum top 40 music and are programed by people outside the Corning area.

The Corning radio market use to be a great place for up and coming radio personnel to get there feet wet in the broadcasting field. But since deregulation of radio and TV the big corporations have bought up most of the stations in the area and cut back on station personnel in favor of satellite fed shows or making the station automated and getting rid of the human factor in broadcasting.

I have always thought that WCEB should be run as a business for the school and not as a student club. It should be used as a teaching tool as well as a way to promote the college and to give back to the Corning community. I have always felt that if I was given a chance to run WCEB again I could make it a viable concern. It is already licensed as non-commercial so making it a public radio station would not be hard. As a format I would make it a hybrid of WXPN in Philadelphia and FreeForm radio such as WFMU as well as brodcasting CCC sports events and other community shows. In my 5 year plan the college would provide funding for the station with grant money as we rebuild the station, we would have fund drives 2 times a year starting in the 2nd or 3rd year and slowly start cutting the college funding from our budget. For personel we would start with a manager/program director/announcer/board operator and a part time certified radio engineer to maintain and take care of the equipment as well as marketing manager. To fill out the air shiifts we would take volunteers from the comunity and college. As well as have internship positions hopfully filled by CCC students.

I have more ideas about this and feel that it is an idea that Corning Community College should think about as a way to educate your students and as a way to give back to the Corning community.

William Bilancio

Update: The deletion of the license by the FCC was also mentioned in this weeks North East Radio Watch by Scott Fybush

WCEB-FM and a picture of me from the history of Corning Community College

So I was checking out my restaurants on and decided to do a search on the open directory project for an old radio station I use to work at and found a picture of myself on the Corning Community Collage site on there time line of great moments in CCC history. I was pictured in front of the new control board that we purchased for the student run radio station for the year 1987.

That was a good year for me in radio. I was working at a commercial radio station in Corning and running WCEB with a great group of other students. I think that the years of 1986 through 1987 were probably the best years of WCEB.

When I walked into WCEB it was very unorganized and weren’t getting any support from the record companies. After working for the station as there engineer for a while I was able to get the record companies to start sending us release albums as well as starting to report to the College Music Journal . I then got Brian Burquwist to run as general manager with me as the Program Director and of course we won. When we took over we had a control board that was limping along and a schedule that was all Heavy Metal music. We moved most of the heavy metal DJ’s to the afternoon and Brian and I took over mornings and put more non metal Dj’s on from 9 till 1. We also got a Tim Vogal a local voice over/radio announcer at the time to do a new set of legal and liner IDs. The new tag line was “WCEB-FM the new 92”. In 1987 we got the college to let us spend our whole yearly budget on a new control board. After I got the new system up and running I left CCC to pursue a new job back at WVIN-FM. The format and scheduling we set up lasted another semester before the rest of the crew we hand picked to run the station with us left or graduated from CCC. The last I heard WCEB it was running the same IDs and were all over the map with music but very heavy on the heavy rock and the announcers were very unprofessional sounding and you could tell no one was helping them become better announcers and radio personalities.

If I could run a radio station again I would love to run WCEB again. I could make it a driving force in the Corning/Elmira area with the backing of CCC as a public supported station. I would fashion the programming around the freeform radio format. So if you are a member of the board or the dean of Corning Community College I am open to an offer and willing to move back to the Corning area and get you on the map of the college radio with a good sounding and well run radio station and to help mold your communication students into better radio personnel.

What is your “thing”?

I came home last night and my daughter was going on about how she didn’t have a “thing”.  I asked her what my “thing” was and she said my “thing” was computers…. Well I let that go, but it made me start thinking about my “thing”….was it really computers or something else?  Is your “thing” define by what you do or what makes you happy?  I sat up a little bit last night trying to figure out the answer to those questions…..I think it’s what makes me happy. 

So on the way to work and dropping Avery off at school I figured out that I have had many “things” so far in my life.  Computers might be my thing now but it will always be radio right to the sunset of my life that will be my true “thing”.  If I could get a radio job that pays the same amount I am making now…..but also lets me program my own music and not follow some format mandated by some person working for the man, but that’s another post. 

I explained to my daughter that it took me a long time to get my “thing” in life.  I don’t remember many people who had a “thing” when they were freshmen in high school and that eventually she will find her “thing” and that it will change as she gets older and the first “thing” might not be her “thing” later on.

Damn The Man!!!! The days of local radio breaking new records, taking chances on unknown acts and responding to it’s audience’s interests have all but disappeared.

Local radio is it a thing of the past and just holding on by the skin of its teeth?

I say yes and the main reason is that the Telecommunications act of 1996 has allowed the huge conglomerates to come in and buy up most of the stations in the large to medium markets and playing the fewest songs that appeal to the most people. Though more than 30,000 CDs are released in a year, the national play lists are getting tighter than ever and are being influenced by big money from the big labels being brought into the stations through independent radio promoters.

As the former manager of the Police, Miles Colpeland said in the article “What’s Wrong With Radio?” by Greg Kot of Rolling Stone Magazine, “the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which deregulated radio and set off an unprecedented wave of media mergers. That action “made radio more corporate, more homogeneous, and rounded out the rough edges that make music interesting.” I can’t agree more. Back in the day the independent radio stations use to break new bands and had all the control of their play lists as well as being a little rough and fun to listen to.

In today’ radio markets the play lists are set by corporate management and focus groups.  The Disc Jockey we know of old who use to bring in interesting and new music is gone and now we have a person who is told what he can play and when.

I am one of those old-time radio announcers from the 80’s. I use to go into the studio with a pile of records and cd’s and try to give the listeners a vast selection of music to listen to as well as the hits of the time. I felt my job was to open the minds of the listeners to new types of music and new bands. Nowadays if a band doesn’t have a contract with the big record labels they probably won’t be getting their air time on the radio.

Another big problem with these big media mergers is that the local areas have lost their local stations. Sure in the morning you get some local news and traffic but you don’t have a station that is giving back to the community in one way or another. The owner is located in another state or town so the bulk of the money spent on advertising is leaving the community the station is in. Or worse as Gabriel Harrison said in Brian Liberatore of the Press & Sun-Bulletin’s article BU disc jockey contends radio giants inadequate in serving some markets.

“You get these stations that advertise themselves as top 20 stations and some of them are run by machines,” Harrison said. “Some have gotten rid of the DJs. Now they just have sales positions. Used to be when you called a radio station they’d say, ‘Hey, what song do you want to hear?’ Now you get a secretary who says, ‘What business office can I connect you to?’ “

The listenership of radio has been dropping for a few years now..due to poor music selection, internet radio, and satellite radio. Internet radio is giving the listener what they want to hear variety in the music and not the same 40 songs that the local radio station is playing.

So what can you the listener do about all this…let your voices be heard?
Every radio station in the United States gets its broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission for free — on the condition that the station serves “the public interest.”

This license needs to be renewed every eight years. If the station isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, people can file objections with the FCC during this renewal process to let federal regulators know.

These “informal objections” establish an official record of dissatisfaction with a poorly performing station. The more citizens who participate in the license renewal process, the more likely it is that the FCC and the station itself will take notice.  License renewals provide a good organizing opportunity for media activists. You can use the license renewal as a chance to analyze your broadcasters’ service and educate your
community about broadcasters’ public interest duties.

Here’s how to file an informal objection:

Step 1: Time It Right
Find out when stations in your state need to renew their licenses. Plan to submit your comments two to four months before the license expires, though you can file any time between when the station submits its renewal and when the renewal is granted. You can monitor the status of a station’s application via the FCC’s Consolidated Database System.

Step 2: Get Your Information together
Every station is required to keep a public file, which includes documentation of a station’s political, educational, children’s and community affairs programming. You are entitled to look through this file upon request. You can also gather information on a station by monitoring and documenting what the station is broadcasting.
In particular, you may want to examine the station’s news coverage and public affairs programming. Does the local news programming reflect the concerns, needs and values of the community? Does the local news provide adequate and thorough political coverage (both local and national)? Is the station’s political coverage balanced? Or are certain
people or viewpoints being treated unfairly? How does the local news portray different segments of the local community? Does the station air enough community affairs programming? Is the local news actually “local”? Or is it produced and taped elsewhere?

Step 3: Sending that Letter
On the first page of the letter, include the station’s call letters, city and state, the station’s facility number, and the station’s license renewal application file number (you can find this info in the FCC’s database).
In the body of your letter, provide specific information about the station’s performance and why its license should be revoked. Point out the things you found during Step 2 – and any actions by the station that aren’t in your community’s best interests. Remember that the FCC doesn’t monitor stations’ programming, so provide as many specifics as you

For radio stations, address your letter to:

Audio Division, License Renewal Processing Team
Mailstop 1800B
FCC, Office of the Secretary
445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554

You must also send a copy of your objection to the station’s general manager. Filing an informal objection isn’t the only way to get involved in the license renewal process; you can also file a formal “Petition to Deny,” which carries more weight but requires more work (and usually the help of a few lawyers). See the FCC site for more information.

In Binghamton one Dick Jockey and a handful of listeners sent a petition to the FCC asking the agency to deny the license renewals of 11 local radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications. The local group contends the nationwide corporate takeover of radio stations has limited local production, lowered the quality of broadcasting and nearly destroyed the medium.

Remember the airwaves are in a public trust and we have handed it over to these companies.