In 2014, I was bored with the music on my iPhone and I was still resistant to letting internet algorithms make recommendations to me. I’m less resistant to the algorithms now, but no less disappointed by them now than I was then.
Don’t even get me started with the radio. The constant commercials and the lack of variety make radio in the US unlistenable 98% of the time. Honestly, I’m not sure who listens to it anymore.
I was so frustrated that I was constantly listening to the same music I already owned, rarely discovering anything new. The only time I did was when someone I knew would say “Hey- you gotta hear this new band, you’re gonna love them!” Truth be told, even then the stuff my closest friends recommended to me missed the mark more than it hit. Maybe I’m just difficult to please. Still, I found this to be the only way to find anything that suited me.
I was determined to avoid falling into the trap that so many people fall in to during middle age: they stop caring about new music. I did some ruminating and eventually I landed on the idea of adapting the model of a book club to work for music.
For many of us, the term “book club” conjures a mental image of middle-aged women sitting on plush white couches drinking red wine discussing this month’s recommendation from Oprah or Reese. The concept is simple, someone organizes a group of folks who love to read. The group plans to meet periodically and discuss their thoughts & feelings about a particular book. The idea is elegant in it’s simplicity.
At first, I considered copying the format directly. I figured that I’d choose a new release album prior to the first meeting, tell a few friends, then we’d get together and chat about it over beers. I quickly dismissed that idea for a few reasons.
First off, it’s inefficient. Everyone would only learn about one album each month. Moreover, if the members didn’t like the album or the artist that I picked then they wasted money buying something that they didn’t like. If my taste was different than the other members they would eventually become disinterested and quit.
I considered having a rotation schedule so that each member could assign an album for each meeting. That way I could avoid being the single gatekeeper of taste. This improved the idea, but it was still problematic. It would reduce the probably of people getting frustrated or bored with my musical taste, however, it still meant we’d just learn about one artist/album each meeting. I knew there had to be a better format.
Eventually it hit me. The answer was simple: playlists. Each month a member would volunteer to host the next meeting. The host or hostess would establish a theme for the next meeting. The members would then each create a playlist based on the theme to prepare for the meeting. Then during the meeting, members would each take a turn sharing their a few choice songs from their playlists and describe anything interesting they learned while researching the topic. Members could then share their entire playlist with everyone for their listening pleasure after the meeting or all of the songs could be put on a single compiled super playlist.
Truth be told, the original Kill Your Radio club was short lived. Eventually my hobbies drove me toward other interests, but I still think this concept can work for a lot of readers. This is a simple event to host. Here is what you need:
- Creative ideas for topics: Try and encourage the club to do some research in to styles and artists that they may not already know. Remember, the goal is to find music that new to you. In our first meeting the theme was “great protest songs.” I was hoping to find my playlist, but I think it was stored on a computer that died years ago. This topic was wonderful because with just a little bit of research it was easy to find protest songs from just about any genre. I compiled a new playlist (below) with some examples that we listened to that day, as well as new songs I’ve heard since. We also came up with themes of “Sell Outs” and “Songs from Artists Who are Past Their Prime.”
- Virtual versus Real-Life Meetings: Hopefully the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but perhaps you’re in a part of the world that is still locked down. You could easily implement this idea virtually with friends all over the world using chat rooms, discord servers, or zoom. Maybe you just have friends in other parts of the world and want to use this as an opportunity to reconnect. Regardless, a virtual club is a great way to learn about music trends around the globe. However, maybe you’re itching to get back out into the real world and see people again. You’ll have to keep reading. There are a few more factors you’ll want consider for a real life meeting below.
- Consider the sound system you will use. We had some challenges getting everyone’s devices to connect to the speakers. Sure, that was before Bluetooth was a common feature on devices. You may still run in to challenges though. You may want to ask everyone to add their tunes to a single shared Spotify play list. That way the songs can be easily accessed from a single device.
- Snacks! Of course, you’re going to want your favorite treats. Be as bold or boring as you want, it’s about the music- but everyone knows music tastes better with a full belly. If you’re really inspired, try to make the treats correspond to the theme.
Have you ever tried to host a Kill Your Radio club or something similar? How did you do it? What worked and what didn’t? Do you have a great theme for a playlist? If so, please share your thoughts with others in the comments.
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