4kq

Demise of 4KQ: one week on

So, it’s been 8 days since we woke up to the non-stop sports yap-trap that we were promised would be coming on the 1st July. Not that I heard much of it. I made a point of staying up and listening to the last of the old station before it went. The final few hours of the broadcast were ad-free and the final things heard on the station were:

  • Don McLean’s American Pie
  • The Beatles The End (from their album, Abbey Road — minus the secret track Her Maj)
  • crickets sound effect — fading out to silence

Then, shortly after… it cut over to the new mob. They just had a playlist going for the first 6 hours, with the cut-over about a minute into Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger. I put the radio on mute shortly after and got some sleep… at 5AM they were still playing music, but with occasional cut-ins with various announcers mentioning what was coming after 6AM. When 6AM rolled around, I listened for a minute, then switched off for good.

The old website changed to being just a blank page.

Radio personality moves

Not sure where everyone has gone, but here’s what I do know:

  • Bob Gallagher, who some might know from 97.3’s breakfast program, and who chaired 4KQ’s last 4 morning on air… moved over to 4BH.
  • Vanessa Gibson (apologies if I have spelling wrong, I’ve never seen it written), who was one of the more promenant morning news readers at 4KQ has stayed with the 693kHz frequency on SEN-Q
  • 4KQ’s breakfast crew have moved to 4BC — an odd match if ever I saw one given that trio’s love for music and 4BC being a talk-back radio station

Station changes

4BH have switched formats to a “classic hits” format like the old 4KQ with a subset covering 1960 ~ 1989 (inclusive). I say subset because 4KQ in their final days were already playing Seal Crazy (released 1992), Natalie Imbruglia Torn (1997) and Savage Garden The Animal Song (released 1999).

Whether they’re playing any of Brisbane’s “historic” bands remains to be seen.

4BC’s program seems to suggest they’re still sticking with their “news talk” format. Maybe music in the mornings, then the gab-fest begins.

97.3 still don’t acknowledge the existence of anything prior to 1980.

River 94.9 is still a very weak signal into Brisbane — if you’re in the right spot you can get them but otherwise they’re practically inaudible. Odd, since they share the tower at The Knobby with VK4RAI, and I both hear that and can work that repeater quite reliably with far less power than what River 94.9 would be transmitting. Clearly they are still beaming west, and what we hear in Brisbane is just what’s coming off the back of the beam.

How things have changed for me

Well, from my perspective… that Friday morning was quite disorienting. You get used to the time-calls and regular news updates which give you an idea of how time had passed. I put my own music on that morning… and yes, was a minute or two late for my workplace morning stand-up because I wasn’t watching the clock!

A week on, and apparently I’ve broken one of my own music listening records according to Last.FM:

I had gone from listening to just 17 songs in total (most of those would have been the Friday afternoon), to over 1300. In the last 6 weeks of 4KQ I actually stopped listening to a lot of my music: I figured there was plenty of time for that once they went — I wouldn’t have 4KQ to listen to much longer, enjoy them whilst you’ve got them.

I also didn’t do any channel-hopping: previously if Abba came on (it’s a long story, but basically you didn’t want to be found listening to that group in a late 90s high-school), I’d switch stations or switch to my own music, sometimes for hours.

At mid-day I’d ordinarily flip over to Triple-M Classic Rock as they have a Essential Vinyl show which is often an interesting deep-dive into a particular iconic album from past decades, and is often interesting from the perspective of getting to know songs from an artist I might not otherwise know much about. Obscure entities like Buckingham Nicks (basically the precursor to the modern Fleetwood Mac) are in my shopping list thanks to that show. Just like a lot of my present collection can be tracked back to special features put on by 4KQ as well.

This last week… I didn’t do any of that. So where my music listening might’ve at most started at around 10:00AM or later… now basically I’ve been listening to my own music collection from 5:00AM through to to around 7:10PM. I have a cron job that manages it:

# For more information see the manual pages of crontab(5) and cron(8)
# 
# m h  dom mon dow   command
0 5 * * * ( pulsemixer --unmute --id $( pulsemixer -l | grep -F qt-dab | awk '{ print $4 }' | sed 's/,//g' ) )>/tmp/unmute.log 2>&1
0 5 * * * pidof strawberry > /dev/null && env DISPLAY=:0.0 strawberry -p
0 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -36dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -33dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -30dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
30 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -27dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
40 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -24dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
50 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -21dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 6 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -18dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 6 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -15dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -15dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -18dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -21dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
30 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -24dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
40 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -27dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
50 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -30dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -33dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 19 * * * pidof strawberry > /dev/null && env DISPLAY=:0.0 strawberry -q
10 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -36dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -192dB )>/dev/null 2>&1

The amixer calls were there before, and would control the volume. qt-dab would sit on the desktop and receive 24/7. Now, strawberry sits on the desktop, and I’m using its CLI to start and stop: strawberry -p to fire things off in the morning, then strawberry -q to finish playing that last song before going silent.

It’s got a lot to be desired… maybe if I get creative with a text-to-speech engine, I might get some time-calls and a bit of news headlines to replicate some of what I’ve lost, although it’ll be a very poor substitute to what I had on the old station. It might just be “good enough” though… it’ll give me a time reference.

My feelings on this

While I’ve been able to largely “replace” 4KQ on my own stereo… I’m still a bit peeved by the whole experience. There’s a lot of music that’s very hard to get / impossible to get, that they used to play. Railroad Gin’s You Told The World, Do Ya Love Me and The Academy Rock being three that used to play on 4KQ… but so far have proven unobtainium. Other bands like New World, Moscos and Stone, among others… are similarly buried somewhere in record company vaults, never to be seen again.

We’re just left to fight over what few second-hand albums exist in circulation… or pirate.

As to the mess that started this: so the ACMA have a rule that limits the number of radio stations a company can control. Fair enough, they want to promote diversity, and having all the eggs in one basket does not help this. I get where the ACMA is coming from.

Here, There & Everywhere own the Australian Radio Network, who until this year, owned 4KQ. They also own 97.3. Some bright-spark at HT&E saw dollars in buying up rival network Grant Broadcasting who owned various regional stations such as River 94.9 (Ipswich) and Hot Tomato (Gold Coast), and merging them into ARN. That meant ARN were now over the threshold.

That decision to chase the dollar, on the surface of it, seems to me to be nothing less than a complete slap in the face to the Brisbane radio listenership and the staff of 4KQ, the latter of whom had given their working lives to the station. 30 years for a single announcer to work a shift is an Australian record that 4KQ and Laurel Edwards broke. This is how HT&E pay her loyalty. I think that speaks volumes.

Plans now

Immediate plans

The morning crew I used to listen to are back on air on Monday, so perhaps I’ll set up the radio for 4BC, and see how they go.

I expect there’ll be quite a few gaffs from a trio that have been used to saying “4KQ” and “32230693” for decades (Laurel Edwards has been doing that on-air longer than anyone else). Mark Hine got so used to saying 4KQ he accidentally (as ground announcer) blurted “… on Classic Hits 4K-” to the audience at The Gabba… cutting himself off when he realised which workplace he was at.

It’ll be interesting to see how they work music into their news format. That’ll be a deciding factor as to whether I continue listening after the morning stand-up, or whether I switch to my own music until the next morning.

Radio station ideas / aspirations

So to be clear, I’m not going to rush into starting up something myself. While I do have some music knowledge, and that’s probably the subject about running a commercial music radio station I would rate as being strongest — my knowledge has gaps so large a sperm whale could swim through in comfort! If that’s the state of my knowledge in that field, this does not bode well for other critical-knowledge areas.

Really I’d need to team up with people who have some media experience. I have some technical knowledge, but there’s a big difference between a 100W SSB amateur radio station which is small enough to be bicycle-mounted, and a honking big 10kW broadcast MW AM station. I’d also need very deep pockets to commission said station.

Requirements for digital-rights management being imposed by the PPCA make Internet streaming impractical. That would basically just leave DAB+. There may be room there… seems channel 9B has a little more space than 9A does, but who knows? I’d have to ask, find out what their fees and technical requirements are. Then, I’d have to then figure out what the going rate was for advertising slots, and work out the finances from there.

I don’t know how the music needs to be obtained at this point. I’m guessing purchasing MP3s from legal sources (the same that we might as individuals) may be acceptable since they’re fundamentally the same recordings — and we’d have a separate content license that would cover their broadcast. This is a guess though, I might be wrong.

It’s a big job — and not one I’m particularly suited for. I’m happy to sit back and let someone who knows what they’re doing go ahead and do it.

The idea of such a station would be a very loose copy of 4KQ in so far as we’d be playing similar music. Not the same, because to be honest I actually do not know what songs were “hits” in this city. I have some recollections of what I’ve heard, but likely this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I did manage to grab some feature playlists (e.g. Sizzling 70s, Easter Count-down, all-sorts… etc) from 4KQ before the site went offline. Those, when de-duplicated, amount to about 3500 songs, about 70% I already had. I can’t publish these as they belong to the Australian Radio Network (I have contacted ARN about this but not heard anything — I’ll take that as a “no, do not publish”) … but nothing stops me picking through the listings and incorporating the artists mentioned into my library where see them. If I see collections that are readily available, I’ll make note of them here.

What would the format look like? Well, musically it’ll be a mix of the heavier rock that you’d hear on stations like Triple M, and the softer stuff of 4KQ. Not exclusively focused on Brisbane hits, as I don’t have a record of what was popular… I just have a “rough idea” of what artists were popular, and would likely work on that basis. That might change if someone who does have records of this came on-board and could basically guide me on this or take on the music-director role properly.

The first days would likely be ad-free as we try to build up an audience and attract advertisers. Those booking advertising slots would have to organise their own recordings since we wouldn’t have studios to help them with that. The station would be “automatic”: no announcers, news, weather… just music, and later we’d get ad breaks in to help pay the bills and start building up a revenue stream.

If revenue picked up enough, then maybe we could organise to hire studio time and do pre-recorded shows, or perhaps live ones if we can figure out how to link studio and transmitter.

Some ideas for shows that’d work pre-recorded:

  • Classic Artists Today: a look at artists we know from the 60s~90s that are still producing music and what they’re doing these days… for example Jeff Lynne is still doing music with Electric Light Orchestra, The Who and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did a few new songs in the early part of this century, Fleetwood Mac are still active.
  • Sunday Spotlight: a deep dive into an artist’s work (e.g. a show about George Harrison would start with his role in The Beatles, but then cover solo work and his work in The Traveling Wilburys; Graham Gouldman might cover his early songwriting for The Hollies, The Ohio Express then his later work with 10cc, solo work, and his team-up with Andrew Gold in Wax; Brian Cadd could have enough material to fill several hours I think with Axiom, The Groop and solo work, along with producing for other artists).

This is better done by someone who knows what they’re doing, and I know right now, that is not me, certainly not as a solo act. I suspect this will be at least a year off, likely longer if it happens at all.

A lot will depend on demand. I have a day job that’s paying the bills, there’s no sense of rushing off from that into the great unknown, no matter how much I might feel like a career change after some 20+ years connection with (and subsequent frustration with) the IT industry in one form or another! Time will tell.