The history of radio broadcasting in the Rock era lives online!
By now, most of you are aware that ReelRadio.com is going out of business. Off the air. Off the web. The news came by way of the General Comments section of ReelRadio, where Curator and caretaker Richard Irwin, “Uncle Ricky” as he is affectionately known by, made an announcement that the board of directiors (whomever they are) decided to close ReelRadio, citing difficulties with exhibits being copied and posted elsewhere online, at places like YouTube, Soundcloud, and such.
“ReelRadio was never meant to be stolen”, Irwin writes at the top of the ReelRadio front page. “You’re stealing from a sick man. Obvious copiers will be permanently banned!”
In reality, the concept of an online museum is a great one. How else better to preserve and keep the memories of music radio from the 60s, 70s and 80s (and beyond) alive so us old geezers, and a new generation of listeners who never heard the likes of Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie, Robert W. Morgan, John Records Landecker or Larry Lujack! can re-discover them, or discover them for the first time!
Now, honestly, Uncle Ricky is correct in saying that the online content is being stolen. His material, along with many of the airchecks I post at Airchexx.com find their way to other places including download rooms on the web. While Uncle Ricky is offended to the point of sorrow, tears and taking the site down because he feels that there’s no further need for it since so many of his exhibits have already been ‘copied’, I take a different view on that.
I have found, over the years, that the old adage, the best form of flattery is imitation, is quite true. It’s also rather beneficial. When an aircheck that I post appears elsewhere, people go searching for that one and find it on airchexx. Or they want something similar. Either way, it’s silly sometimes. In editing radio recordings (old tapes, really, that I record in real time into my computer workstation, then edit out the music so as to comply with copyright laws), I include an audio watermark at certain places that SAYS, “Airchexx dot com”. And the person who recorded it into their computer doesn’t bother (and can’t when the watermark is in the middle of the recording) to edit out the watermark! Thus, sending some listeners to my site! Hey, word of mouth is great advertising.
Back to ReelRadio. It’s sad to report the failing health of Richard Irwin. The man who began ReelRadio.com in 1996 has become very ill. He can’t get around well and can barely type. He really can’t do site updates any longer. He’s basically in home hospice, with a nurse who comes in to help him. He needs prayer. I feel a personal sadness in reporting this to the masses. Uncle Ricky made an enormous contribution to the world wide web, as we used to call the internet. It was one of the first places a radio geek and former, 38 year veteran of on air work, myself went to when I first got online… around 1996!
Back then, the only way to listen to a streaming site was through the Real Player. So, most of ReelRadio is encoded in Real Player format. The problem is, while the Real Player software is still available for download, practically nobody uses it anymore and that creates a terrible problem for ReelRadio. Two thirds of the web audience can’t hear the airchecks, because there is no compatible audio player that will stream in Real format. Two thirds of ReelRadio exhibits are in Real Format. And that, more than anything else, is what Uncle Ricky knows is killing the site. The audio needs to be completely re-mastered and saved in high quality AAC format, which is readable by nearly every audio player on the planet. A daunting task, since we’re looking at nearly 2,000 recordings in Real Format.
The bottom line is, ReelRadio is closing for good. The sign on the front door when you first go to ReelRadio says, “OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS VOTED TO END THIS SITE, BUT WE STILL HAVE MONEY IN OUR OPERATING FUND. SO, WE WILL STOP STREAMING MEDIA WHEN FUNDS ARE EXHAUSTED. WE CURRENTLY HAVE $7137. ” And that’s the stark reality of that beautiful repository of Top forty radio history.
The GOOD news is, when ReelRadio closes (assuming Uncle Ricky rejects my offer to take over maintenance of the site), Airchexx.com is open. It’s not going anywhere, and in fact, I’m getting more and more audio from the jocks who were on the air themselves. High quality tapes in both cassette and reeel to reel format. So, when ReelRadio does go away, the history of Top 40 (and Country and R&B) is safe and growing because of the generocity by the original folks who were on the air.