Scott Morfitt Interview




Scott Morfitt is the manager of Blugold Radio. In this Oral History, he discusses his interactions with music at a young age and his attraction to radio. Additionally, he talks about managing a local radio station and how the music scene in Eau Claire interacts with the station.


Interviewers Daniel Hamann and Chue Tue Her


April 4, 2017


DH: I’m Dan Hamann, this is Chue Tue Her, we’re interviewing Scott Morfitt in Scott’s office in Schofield, 214E, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It is currently 10:08 AM, on April 4th, 2017, and this is for the Sounds of Eau Claire Oral History Project. So, just some general background to understand Scott’s role for this grander scheme of the Sounds of Eau Claire Project. Scott, you have an extensive history, just looking back, in, kind of the Chippewa Valley and surrounding West Central Wisconsin, specifically, from early education to postsecondary, from what I was able to find. So, I guess, with that in mind, and just understanding more, like, your early life and education, my question was more related to, if you could describe, how that tied into, maybe, early music inspiration that you had?

SM: Yeah, I’d totally be glad to share that. So, I grew up specifically in Amery, Wisconsin, which is about 75 miles northeast of here, and, oh, sorry, sorry, northwest, my bad [laughs], and it was a typical, kind of small town, like, we had a really prominent arts community, so there was some strong music traditions in my high school, for like, band, choir, all of those kind of, really typical things. But one thing that really brought me around to learning about music was a radio station that was in the Twin Cities between roughly ‘95 and ‘99 called Rev 105, it was a station that predated, kind of, like, things like 89.3 The Current which is there and a lot of the alt stations, it was the first, kind of like, alternative station that I’d ever encountered that wasn’t Top 40 formatted, or had some, so they were playing some deeper things, some, some new music that I had never heard of, things now that are, like, commonplace like Radiohead, Bjork, etc., but at that time just weren’t receiving airplay. So, honestly, and that station, it’s kind of humorous, it,
they had massive signal problems, so they even gave us like, they gave me a little antenna for my radio, that I attached to my radio to extend it, and then if I pointed it in the right directions I could get that radio station. But yeah, that one, really, it both showed me that, like there’s cool music nationally, and granted it was a Twin Cities station so it was, they were also playing Twin Cities Music, but it did, it just enlightened me that, like there’s not just like national music happening or people out of, like, New York, L.A. making music, and this is in high school, like, people in my own back yard were, and that music was accessible and, like, musicians had faces and stuff. So, that lead to me in high school, with my friends, making a lot of eighty mile treks to the Cities to get re-, to get CD’s and magazines and all of that stuff to learn a lot about music and go to shows, very early on. And so, yeah, music was a huge part of my life, like, I was into
all types of genres at the time, I was into, I guess what we call indie now, [laughs] um, a lot of hip-hop, some techno, some ska, like, just kind of across the board in the late 90’s, because there was such a plethora of new and exciting music, like, this, this was really an era that was after the 80’s, which was so commodified and full of what a lot of us call “butt-rock”, like, the typical AC/DC, hair metal thing, and so, yeah, that early, that early inspiration from that radio station coupled with, like, learning about stuff in the Twin Cities really did build my, who, who I am as a music fan.


DH: Right, yeah, so, that kind of leads really well into kind of, where I was thinking next. So, with all that in mind in terms of, you know, an early personal music, kind of education, did you have any indication from there, and obviously you we’re discussing, you know, the importance of some of the local radio, did you kind of have an indication that you were interested in radio work and journalism as a specific, you know, target down the road?

SM: Um, I’m not sure, like when I was a little kid I would always, like, play radio, like I had a radio recorder and I would, like, play songs and then record my voice, saying what the song’s were, like hosting, and that was something I did as a little kid. Where it lead me into my early adult years, because I didn’t go to college out of high school, I actually ended up working in record stores for a few years and then coffee shops, yada yada, but it, yeah, it just lead me to be more into the music, and then also, to do a lot of DJ’ing, I, since, like about 1999 or 8, I, I forget which year, I’ve been actually a vinyl DJ, so like, the two turntables and mixing and like, I think, so learning about music taught me a lot about blending music and making it a thing. So that was kind of, so, yeah through my early adulthood, like, from around age nineteen to twenty six I lived in Minneapolis, like I said, worked in record stores, and as a result I got to meet a lot of, I was working in Uptown and St. Paul, those areas, and I got to meet a lot of the musicians from that area, and then we also did, I learned a little bit about Eau Claire, but to be honest, and this is a weird, peculiarity of living, growing up where I did, Eau Claire and the Twin Cities were equal distance, but because we only got Twin Cities media, like, I didn’t really know too much
about Eau Claire at that point. So, yeah, I mean it lead me into, not so much maybe doing radio, but just like, being part of the community, and I think one of the things that it also made me comfortable with was just being around musicians as like, a normal person, without an agenda, just like, I was just hanging out with them and learning about what they do and stuff, and I think that that, I think that element really helps, helped build kind of what I do now, like, just being comfortable with them and talking to them as people, and like, also having an approach so egos on both end of the spectrum don’t get in the way, and like, it’s kind of nice now because I’m not, like, I really dig talking to musicians, but I’m not like, super taken aback if someone is like, a rock star or something, so, yeah, it’s, it’s been kind of a holistic journey, that way. [laughs]

DH: Yeah, so you discuss, obviously right there, kind of, interpersonal connection with a lot of musicians, that sort of stuff, as, you know, something important to your early understanding of music, between, kind of, early education and postsecondary, which came later.

SM: [laughs] Yeah!

DH: And, like, I looked through quite a few of your VolumeOne pieces, listened to some of the Local Independence pieces for WUEC, and there’s definitely, like, a consistent trend of, now, an intense local focus, and kind of, unique perspectives on local music, and, I mean, can you kind of describe how that journalistic perspective relates to your focus and direction, specifically for Blugold Radio, which you’re now the station manager for?

SM: Yeah, wow, that’s a lot of questions in one. [laughs] I’ll kind of, what I’ll do is I’ll tell you about, kind of, my history of coming into this community and maybe that will help your ques- find the answer. So, I’m in Eau Claire for two reasons, like I went to school here. One, the campus seemed nice and I heard the books were free so that was awesome, but then second, I was friends, like, from lifelong friends since I was like four years old with John and Jason Sunde, who were in a band that’s over with now, but they were called the Daredevil Christopher Wright, and they were like my first friends moving to Eau Claire, and since I was a non-traditional student I didn’t have a ton of, like, not that I didn’t have a ton of friends in class but let’s face it, when you’re twenty six you’re not hanging out with nineteen year olds a lot, mostly because they’re underage. [laughs] But, so, one of the things with being friends with them, and having my previous experiences, I was very welcomed in by this scene and realized how deeply collaborative it is, like, it’s, if you go to a place like the Joynt you can see like a filmmaker talking with a band and maybe they come up with a project or maybe they have a few too many
pitchers, one of the two. [laugh] But, there’s that very unique drive to collaborate across genres and, across genres and mediums around here that I find so unique. So, I, so finding that and like being, and doing my early journalism work, and, and realizing I wanted to be in journalism was all, or journalist, and I don’t even know what that is anymore, but, like, it really, I did want to share that story of how this community works together and grows and has a very unique place in the musical landscape. I’ve been to a lot of cities about this size, you know, that sixty to one hundred thousand person city, and there’s so many elements here that just aren’t other places, like, yeah some cities have, like, some really good bands, like four or five good bands, and maybe they work together, but not to this degree to really make things happen because one of the things I’ve realized over the years about the Eau Claire music scene versus other scenes, is, it really happens because of this town and because of the promoters here. We, and like,
maybe, like St. Cloud or something, you would have like, touring acts come through, with local openers supporting that, we don’t have that here so we’ve had to, really, have the musicians working together to build the cohesive scene it is, and to have shows and also motivate new musicians, both through a lot of educational experiences in our schools, and through things like the Eau Claire music school, and then also just, you know, giving that mentorship to new bands and stuff, so, I don’t really remember what the question was but I hope that was kind of an answer.


CH: So, that actually kind of leads into my next question, which is, how would you define what local music is, compared to like, you know, the mainstream kind of music, because, the question I’ve really had for a long time was, so, if a local musician does make it big, like, let’s say, OneRep-

SM: Justin, oh, yeah yeah.

CH: or what was it, two, or, Twenty One Pilots.

SM: Yeah

CH: For a long time they were a local, mostly in the Columbus area.

SM: Right.

CH: Then they found big success, but are they still considered local music?

SM: Well, I.. I think that that’s a broad question, and, and I’ll give you a few answers. It depends. It depends.. With a band like you cited, if they were playing a lot in the area and still carry strong pride for the area, then yes, they’re local. To call a spade a spade, Bon Iver. Bon Iver, like, worked around here, like, you know, in Carolinas too, but, like, built his thing based on Eau Claire. Got famous nationally, but is still very much local because he is very much about this place, and I think artists can be dualistically that way. I look at like, the Rhymesayers, like Atmosphere and Brother Ali and stuff like that, I definitely define them as local. So, that’s kind of my broad definition. What I call local for the radio station is a little bit, it’s a little bit specious, because one of the things when I’m making this local music, or when I’m playing this I’m also realizing it has a local audience. So, we, we’ll kind of do, there, there’s a really funny thing in this movie Saving Silverman, where there, where Jack Black is eating nachos and he says “If one nacho.. Or if, you know, cheese sticks a bunch of nachos together it’s one nacho” and that’s kind of my feeling for local, for the radio station. If there’s people that really started their career here, and then, still collaborate with people back here but have lived in the, or live in the cities or
elsewhere, I still, but they have that local connection, I consider them local for the radio station. But, then again for the radio station I’m programming for a broad audience that still likes those bands, and also, frankly I need to have a lot of music, because you need a lot of music to have a radio station. That’s why we mix it with the national indie rock. Now, the question of what is mainstream, I think that’s a really important one for what we do, because mainstream to me, is Top 40. Like, it’s not about success, it’s not about album sales to me, it’s about how it gets commodified on, like a station, like in our town, Z100, where it’s got multiple plays, it has Sony Music behind it, or not even, it doesn’t have to be a major label, I’m not against major labels. Macklemore is a mainstream artist who self-released all his stuff, just went through a promotions company. But, when it becomes more about the business and less about the music, and also when it’s getting commodified through the channels we recognize as mainstream, it becomes mainstream. Now does, now the question becomes “does that make it local?” I don’t
know. If something.. If something, like this is a good question, because, like, we did, like and that’s one that’s different with this Bon Iver thing. While he’s Grammy winning, you know, had the second best Billboard chart album, the last one, I think the first one and the one before, he’s still not, like, pushed through mainstream commercial channels. So, I don’t know what that would mean. Like, I would still consider someone that was mainstream like that local, but I don’t know if I would play it on Blugold Radio because, if it’s getting played on Z100 multiple times a day, people come to us as an oasis from that, not that that’s a bad, like not that mainstream programming is necessarily bad, but we’re just another oasis from it, we’re just programmed differently from that. And, I am political. [laughs]


DH: I’m trying to think of how to tie that in.. I think that’s.. What you’re discussing there, with you know, Justin and stuff like that, the duality between local music and more mainstream stuff, and kind of, the importance of, how do I put it.. Like, the Eaux Claires festival obviously features local music, but we’re also bringing in, you know, national headlining acts, and stuff like that.

SM: Right.

DH: And that’s an obvious balance that you need to find..

SM: Right. Yeah, and I can say that the very first Eaux Claires fest.. This can totally be on the record, that, in this music community, was extremely controversial, because the bands that were played there, and it’s got better in the last few years, but the bands who played here, there, weren’t the quote unquote “local bands”. They weren’t the bands you could see playing at the Mousetrap, House of Rock, Acoustic Cafe or whatever, all the time, and there was, from the working scene here, from the people that put on those shows every week and do all that like I talked about, there was some animosity towards that. Now I think that the festival in recent years has become very cognizant of that, and very intentional with how they’re bringing the music scene in and how they’re bringing our local bands to the table with that. But yeah, I mean, like the Eaux Claires fest, one of the things we have to remember too is, like the audience of that is us, but it’s also, like, the world. It’s people in the Cities, but, it’s also, again, people throughout the world. Like that same crowd that goes to Coachella, but maybe wants more of a curated Coachella goes to Eaux Claires. So, I mean, they’re, they’re doing an extreme balancing act between having a festival that’s really important, and then that’s very true to the
town who.. Their name bears all the letters and then some. [laughs]

DH: So yeah, we kind of discussed it.

SM: What do you got?

DH: Actually, yeah, I just had written down, like, sharing your perspective on a responsibility, as a station manager, to balance local and national, or international talent.

SM: Yeah

DH: But that you kind of already.. You know.

SM: Yeah, I’ll tell you what we do. Because we’re an automated station, we can, we can see the percentages of tracks going in. So, we like, literally put forty percent of our daily playlist as local stuff. So, we, we do that through programming but then we will also mix in, through every, our playlists, we mix in national songs. So, we have a very intentional mix of that, but, as far as my responsibility to the community, I feel the utmost responsibility to the community, we’re just now launching, so I haven’t gotten to do.. a fifth of my goals for the community, and I don’t, and one of the things I wanted to say, when I view Blugold Radio, it’s such a unique thing for the music community because I don’t see it as just part of the Eau Claire community, we broadcast north of Rice Lake, and out to Thorpe, and to Menominee, and to those areas, so it’s sharing the music of west central Wisconsin and building something for that. I think, like, not that this is a
definite thing, but I think, like, the risk that we could have would be, maybe becoming to Eau Claire-centric at times, and really, like, one of the things with sharing the broad message is that, and this works dualistically, like, we get musicians played throughout the region, but then the students that work for us get plugged into this larger area, in a way that I don’t know if you always get in the student experience, or, you know, was there through other means, because like, why, why would you be interviewing someone in Chippewa Falls otherwise, or whatever, like, just out of the blue, I mean, not that Chippewa Falls is disinteresting, but it builds the larger scene, and, so, we would like to, in the future, really foster more new bands and more new music in this community, provide, maybe, different outlets through our radio station, but also maybe performances and stuff like that where we could build this scene, and I think that we feel, it’s really a symbiotic relationship with the bands, like, and we want to do as much on our end to provide them something that’s of worth, because it’s important. [laughs] It’s the key to what we do, and it’s also being good to our fanbase, because our fanbase is also the people in those bands, and their friends, and then people that just like good radio on 99.9.


DH: Kind of relates to the same question, uh, [laughs].

SM: Well ask it to me and maybe I’ll just re-word my answer. [laughs[

DH: Yeah, I mean, so obviously, you know, you, you’re broadcasting to the local scene, and then broader Chippewa Valley and West Central Wisconsin.

SM: And, theoretically, internationally on our stream.

DH: So..


SM: And then one thing I was going to say that we didn’t talk about, and it’s a very new thing, and I should say one of the things that is right down the line is, it’s on campus cable right now, and 99-9, there’s a channel that’s Blugold Radio, what we’re calling Blugold Radio on campus, and that one is actually tailored more towards the campus community, and blending things, like maybe TwentyOnePilots, Ed Sheeran, uh, whatever the else you all like [laughs] just kidding, but, blending that with, kind of our playlists and making something, that maybe, more, you’ll listen to in Davies Center and stuff because, and, and in dorms and all of that, and so, that one is very tailored towards building enjoyment on campus, and kids can tune into it on the dorms, so we want to have that be something that they like, but also maybe getting them into the shows in this community that all ages things, and getting them out from campus, and that’s another real passion of mine. I’m not someone that will ever rally against, like, house parties, and I think that there’s, I’ve seen some amazing bands at house parties, but I really do want to give, I really do want to give students here, and through this Blugold Radio on Campus, the opportunity to interact with this music community and go out to shows and know what they might like, and all of that. I suppose even with Haymarket Landing, I think our channel plays there too so, you know, getting all of those new students that are now living downtown, and I know for the music community, that’s a very exciting proposition, and, and one that, to be honest I’m a little specious of because there were students living directly across the river for years and years and years, but, this Haymarket Landing does really provide a lot of new, new opportunities for the scene, so, so we’re working with, sometimes, and, and, we’re still sorting out how this works, but we’re working on making something for two audiences that have different tastes and needs.

CH: So, what are the challenges of trying to appeal to younger audience to local music, as opposed to widestream music, because obviously like, wide-, wide mainstream music is always on the radio.

SM: Right.

CH: Listen to it almost every day, but, local music doesn’t have that big of um, I’d say

SM: Umhmm [agreement]

CH: -advertisement so, what are the challenges of trying to..


SM: It’s blending it, it’s, um, stylistically fitting the local music with the national. That’s one of the things that worked so well on the radio station, on Blugold 99.9, because we’re able to kind of look at the music that, that people are making throughout the community, and then find, find parallel things, like maybe Jeff White, who’s a country musician, we’ll play him and then a Sturghill Simpson track, who’s, you know, country, but an indie country, or whatever you want to call it national. So, it’s the same thing would happen with the.. With the campus one, where we, where we kind of look at what local we’re playing with the national, we blend it together. So, it’s a challenge but one of the things for me with the on campus one is that I can rely on my student staff a lot more to understand that demo, one, because they’re part of that demo. And then make it something really, that campus will enjoy, and you know, long term that one’s going to
be extremely interactive with students too, like, we’ll let them have spots for requesting songs and doing shout outs and doing all of that stuff, so I mean, I suppose the challenge today is me drawing up, and actually like literally today I’m drawing up some org docs and some dream docs for how this all works and how it all fits together. And then it will be just finding students to make it happen, but that’s the exciting thing, because people really seem like they’re into what we’re doing, and want to be a part, so. Yeah, it’s, it’s, I mean the thing with radio, and this is the biggest piece of advice I’ve ever given, and its the K.I.S.S. rule- Keep It Simple Stupid, and I always come back to that, like, I think that one of the things with how Blugold Radio approaches what we do, is we do look at, maybe not the simplest approach, but the most straightforward one. We have tons of recommendations from people for things we could potentially do, but we want to look at the complexity, and like making sure we’re doing the simple things very, very well, and then getting to those broad, like, other ideas people love to, to share with me freely.

DH: Not really relating, I guess, to anything we’ve discussed but I took a look at the Eau Claire Sounds Studio for Volume One, you were apart of…

SM: Yeah what did I talk about that?

DH: A lot actually what we talked about, but I had a specific question, you discussed an
increase in, like, polished recorded music and, I guess related to the creation of new studio spaces, you know in town and then the wider Chippewa Valley area, I guess relating that to, if it bodes well to, or, well, you know, Eau Claire music as a whole, does it give promotion or the ability to promotion to smaller bands?

SM: I think it does, I think that, and I can say that there’s three people with studios I’m thinking of right now at the top of my head. You have Evan Middlesworth with Pinehollow, Bryan Joseph with Beehive Studios, and Justin Green with Toy Car. And they’re working with both national artists and then opening up their spaces to local artists around here and I think, yeah, having that consistent, really high quality, like, polished under the recording, not necessarily that it’s changing the dynamics of the music but just presenting them very well and well produced. That is a huge step, or, huge thing for the community I mean one of the huge things, especially getting into the national community, is getting things to play on, like, Spotify, Pandora, whatever
now and you can’t really have -- to get those recordings you have to be at the same production quality and have tonal balance as things that are heard on the radio both mainstream and indie or whatever. You have to have a high quality recording because that’s your calling card now and that gets people to your concerts which is where the more bands make money at this point. So bands aren’t -- so the recording is, and it's always been a promotional but it’s even more so now, in a way, and so yeah I think it’s about having both the music scene and then people that can really, really capture it. It’s intrinsic to the growth that we can have here.


DH: I think that’s related to that and kind of what’s on the opposite end, would you think that there’s any reservations to maybe having a threat to, like, the sanctity of strictly local music, like, does it almost alienate local, I guess, producers in music or bands that, I guess, are relying mostly just on local stuff as opposed to maybe, you know, local shows as opposed to a grander, larger audience? Or is it--


SM: Well, no I like the question because, like, that speaks to the question of what bands want to do to be successful because there are bands that just want to play in the area and, you know, not to get broader and I mean that there’s a ton of reasons that, one of them, is music pays shitty and you have to work your ass off. Look at a band like The Millennium, in town here, who tour around the country and work their butts off every single day. Moving around, getting those tours, like -- and making a little bit of money in exchange. But then I look at a band like Pit Wagon, here, that’s made up of some amazingly talented musicians who are also, like, school teachers in Chippewa Falls, at Delong and such and just want to have a fun outlet. But what I’m seeing is both of those bands actually recorded with the same people. And so I don’t know, I mean, I think for the band that just wants to record and be a local band, if that’s, like, a thing, and I think it is, but I think for those bands, just having quality memories of what they did is great
and also still, you need to get your music out there some, even in the community if you want to be a working band in the community.

CH: So, do you think, with these local bands, do you think these, like, these special events, like the Eaux Claire Festival or maybe even Country Jam, do they help out local bands or do you think it harms them more than they do good?

SM: Well I definitely don’t think it harms them whatsoever. We got to split it because, like, and it’s not necessarily in the indie but I look at, like, Rockfest and Countryfest out at Cadott they always are booking slots for local bands. And so those ones are really built the scene in that rock/country community. In Eau Claire’s I think it’s getting better. One of the things to remember with Eau Claire that is so cool with this community and, I think [with] that debate I talked about earlier that happened, one of the things that people need to acknowledge in this community is there’s a lot of musicians who were in bands for years; and through getting to know some of the bands who are playing at Eau Claire’s, and stuff, have gotten jobs as guitar techs or drumming doing whatever. And thinking about Matt Haapala, who is a drummer for The Heart Pills, who worked for Talls Mannorth??? For the last couple years just doing tours or, like, Ben Lester who’s played Petal Steel with a ton of bands who have played throughout the country. So I think that with Eau Claire’s you really see, and with Justin and with this whole April-based whatever thing, and I should’ve mentioned April-based actually, in those studios too, like that’s a very important studio as well. That is a little more used nationally. I think that you’re seeing a coalescing of hardworking musicians from the area, maybe not their band becoming big, but the musicians themselves getting lucrative positions, and by lucrative I mean a little bit above minimum wage.

CH: So what has the overall response been from the audience that listens both from the young audience and the, let’s say, the older generations?


SM: Yeah, you know, I’m going to be honest [who] I get a lot of response from is women 25 to 65+ through our Facebook, through our emails, through that and, like, that, and males in that community, but, like, predominantly females, they just love it. Like, I think about, like, the moms every once in awhile that I talk with, “Yeah, this is all I listen to as I’m running errands all day long.” It’s great. One of the things with Blugold Radio, although we do have a unique programming, we’re still very formatted and sensitive to our audience. So, while we play a lot of obscure indie tracks we don’t play anything that, tonally, will scare people away. I’m not going to play a death metal track at 8 in the morning but I’m probably not play a syrup, country track like I’ll play at 8 in the morning, [or] at 11 at night. Yeah, so, I don’t know if that was an answer.

CH: No, I think that perfectly answers the question, so…

DH: So, you’re in a unique position, you know, in terms of having a job understanding, compiling local music, local talent. And, I guess, do you have any insight based on what you know [about] local promotion and stuff that you’ve been involved in the past, kind of where you think music may go, kind of, in the Chippewa area from here?


SM: Yeah, I think music’s a really interesting point in the Chippewa Valley and it’s because, like, a lot of the musicians who were stallworth's of the scene have children now who are, like, in their teen years. And I don’t know, I see in the next few years a resurgence of new, young talent and I really hope the...about that and we really just talked about the indie scene here but I see more people getting involved with things like the Masters of Singers or going to the Blues At Night thing. And this community has been really great about having those opportunities to celebrate music. One thing I think that this community does need is more shows that blend national and local bands. So we have, like, a national headliner band and then a local band that people will learn about at the show. I think that that kind of thing is the next stuff that we really need to build a prominence in the greater community. Then the other thing that really needs to happen is an increased focus on paying musicians. We have a lot of free concerts like Sounds
Like Summer, or the Blues thing that I mentioned, which are a ton of work for the organizations that do it, but they’re also the bands playing for free or for very low money. Maybe sometimes, like, 100 dollars split five people and that’s after you’ve logged all the things down and when you think about it all comes out to, if you have five people in a band, maybe $6-7 dollars an hour? For doing the gym at work. So that leads to people in this market not being as adept at paying to go to concerts and that’s something that’s really needed here and I think that’s one of those things with the national act with local openers we can do that, like, we’ll build things that have draw that way. I don’t know though, I see the scene going. I think that, I do think that Blugold
Radio is a part of that too. I think that people knowing that, “Oh my gosh I can get my song on the radio!” And that’s one of the big feedbacks, I forgot the other piece, is just musicians are, as you probably would bet, in love with it and loving the thing so much. And I hope that that spurs people on.

CH: So, my other question is, with concerts, you know they’re a really big part of bands
obviously, I’ve had a lot of people that I’ve talked to say they went to these local concerts and they didn’t even know who the band was but then they listened to them and fell in love because their concerts are really enthusiastic and really great to listen to. So do you think the problem there lies in the venues because a lot of the venues here in Eau Claire, obviously it’s a small town, they’re smaller, do you think they need to have bigger venues, like, let’s say the Cities? They have [the] Target Center, they have various other places they could have concerts at. Do you think that’s the main problem with this?


SM: It’s interesting because you asked me two questions which is just fine. You asked me a promotions question and then a logistics question that is fed by promotions. I’ll say on people not knowing about the bands, that’s probably on us a little bit. This point we’re getting a concert calendar going and hoping that more people interact with that. But then it’s kind of three parts; like, it’s one, the bands need to get their name out there and promote more. The venues need to get out there and promote more, but then the audiences need to search for stuff more, like, that’s one of the biggest things. Like, so my last gig I was the marketing director the state theatre and I would talk to people in the community and they would be like, “Oh, I didn’t know about your show!” And I was like, “Well, I advertised it on TV-13, 18, Volume One, Leader Telegram, WPR, and through online. And if you’re not going to any sources to find out then you’re not going to find out. I think, and it’s the same with us building, especially building, this Blugold Radio too and getting the local music in there. We just need people to want to go to it and then we need to make it palatable and that’s one of the things even with how we program the station, we want to get as many people as we can to listen and learn about these local
bands. So, yeah, so that --the promotions are -- there’s a lot of different levels and we’re also in an era where people, statistically, across the country are going to less shows, bars, whatever and so it’s figuring all that out. Now, the larger venues, that’s a bigger question, I do think that that could help some. I think, though, that we have large venues here, like here being the UW-Eau Claire campus, and there’s been some disconnect between this side of the river and the other side of the river, quite literally. And I think, campus promoting stuff needs to get beyond campus. And this is one of the things about Blugold Radio that makes us so unique, we, although we are student produced and probably student produced, we’re autonomous from the University. We’re a LLC that’s separate from them. We have a very high budget and we don’t receive any student [segregated] fees or any tuition dollars. So your tuition is not being raised by us being here like other campus stations or media outlets where student [segregated] fees go. And so, because we have these, we are by our very existence in keeping alive and
becoming a self-sustaining station focused on these areas and you can have a couple of these, (hands us a card of Blugold Radio broadcast strength map) that gives our kind of broadcast radius and also little bit of our sales pitch. But when we need to focus is, as a station, on those communities and making sure that Blugold Radio is relevant to them so they’re listening so then our underwriters and supporters know that it’s a good place for them to work with us as well.

CH: Sounds good, so do you think it’s also good to try and advertise your music to bigger cities also, being Twins Cities, being the closest one?


SM: Yeah, and I mean, I think that the Twin Cities has been very good to Eau Claire. I mean I have to say The Current and Jim McGuinn, The Current, their programming director, has been an amazing force for getting Eau Claire music out there, I mean also getting the Twin Cities bands out there, but they’ve played, like, recently ‘Laska but then in the past, like, Idol Empress, Daredevil Christopher Wright...and a whole host of other Eau Claire bands. And I think getting to them is good I think getting out there is definitely good as far as having your music received in a larger market place. So yeah I don’t think, like, a band should just send their music to Blugold Radio and think that they’re done.

CH: So what other places have Eau Claire music been to also? Have they influenced Chicago or Milwaukee at all, further cities?


SM: Yeah they have, I mean, like, I look at Johanna now, who lived here, now she’s a musician in the East Village in New York now and she’s received some national acclaim and really is working with people in that scene. Yeah I think that there’s several stories, I think about Field Report being a band that started out of Milwaukee and Conrad Plymouth is as well, and featuring local musicians. I think one of the things about this scene, and we kind of talked about the beginning, is so deeply collaborative that people that come out of this scene just want to work with others and be influential. And not even being influential just, like, help.

DH: Not exactly related to anything but, I guess, like, just for your sake, what local promotion methods are you using for Blugold Radio? I know, you know, you’re saying you’re trying to branch outside of campus specific, you know is it social media predominantly is it--


SM: Yeah, social media predominantly and then, I mean, the fact that we have a radio station that goes so far and is legitly sitting at 99.9 at the center of the dial. The high part radio station is a lot of what we’re using and that’s, well, again, part of our brand. So, how do I say this correctly? We’re not trying to reach those areas at this point, we are. Our biggest challenge is probably more reaching y’all and, like, reaching students and becoming relevant. But again, like, it’s a relational thing. You know we’ll be working on promoting ourselves this summer to all of these little tourist towns here, like Birchwood, Ladysmith, Rice Lake, Chetek, and of course there’s, like, Thorpe and those areas and getting this out to, maybe, people who are from the Cities and are coming in. And I don’t think that we’re the most popular thing ever at 99.9 but I think that one of the very unique things about us is we’re out in the community already. We did a crowdfunding to pay for our brand new studio in the McIntyre Library. We received $7500 dollars in donations from 105 donors and I looked through the donor list and there’s maybe
about 25% of the donors that had any sort of UW-Eau Claire relationship. Like, so, we’re--I think one of the challenges we need to get out to the community, though, is that we are a self-supporting entity that, although we’re proudly produced by students, we’re funded by ourselves. We’re funded by the revenue we generate. So, it’s more getting that part out of there and, like, that’s the kind of tricky part because it’s saying because, “We would not happen without the University!” But at the same time, like, we function to not cost the University any money. So it’s -- that’s our biggest challenge and I think our biggest challenge to say, “Yeah, we’re college students making a station but we’re not the college radio thing you’re necessarily thinking about when you think about college, the paradigm of college radio.” Or you know that free form, play whatever at whatever hour and just hope people are listening. We can’t afford to be that. So, yeah, I think this is a really unique thing though because our students, the ones that are already
working with us, are already focusing on those communities and looking outside in a way that they haven’t and not doing it as, like, as necessarily as a university initiative but just as what Blugold Radio is doing in our day-to-day work. So it’s a unique paradigm I think.

CH: So you had experience at Yale University I believe?


SM: Well, so I didn’t work at Yale I taught at a summer program at Yale. Like, it was a rich kid summer camp, especially, and so I taught both broadcast journalism and DJ-ing actually. And that was more like the turntablism, techno, DJ-ing thing that I love to do but don’t have enough chances to anymore. But yeah, that was a fun experience meeting, again, rich kids but from across the world, like, this probably -- so the camp cost like, gosh if I remember, three weeks was the same as one semester of my college. So it was, like, interesting because I met a ton of kids at boarding school throughout the world who were -- yeah, I don’t know if I have too much abot that.

CH: Yeah, I was your experiences there and what did you learn from teaching your
broadcasting journalism to them?


SM: Well, yeah, so teaching it to them was interesting because I also did the same program the year after, the same curriculum I used for Yale because I used that curriculum I used for that program. I used it with students in this region and it's interesting because the students I was doing it with in this region had barriers to education or employment. And so they were learning how to make media in a different context but I think with everyone you just learn like, once people, if they’re passionate about it, learn the means of production. You’ve really built someone who can make media and can communicate with the world.

CH: So did you use what you learned there to what you’re doing now?

SM: I don’t know.

DH: So I guess returning to here, you know we talked about some promotion methods, are you doing any, still a relatively young entity, have you looked into [or] are you planning any collaborative efforts with, you know, hopefully local--


SM: You’re lucky you asked today and not two days ago because now I can talk about it. This year we are the radio station for the Eau Claire’s Music Fest. So we will be working with them to do a broadcast takeover of our station, like, we’ll be playing their bands throughout the week, getting interviews, really working with them and also having a radio studio setup on the fest grounds. So that’s going to be some amazing international attention because, like, not only will we be there and broadcasting in this region and streaming but we’ll also potentially have the opportunity to meet people from like Spin and Pitchfork and those mega music outlets. So that’s one thing we’re working on and another thing we’re working on, more locally, is doing some Volume One morning updates on the air talking about different things going on the art community. And so that’s a unique collaboration. We’re working on a really fun project with the Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild right now to a bunch of radio dramas which are super random and super fun. And bringing together, then, actors from the community theatre and from
Downstage Left Productions and so we’ll have a new outlet for that. And then one of the things that we’re also excited with is this project that we’re on right now because we’re working with the Historical Society to share these and I think, from what I know, the philanthropy community, because we haven’t talked about that much, and we don’t need to go into that, but I have about five years experience before that in grants and grant management, public relations, marketing and all specified to the nonprofit and philanthropy community. So, I mean, it’s not even about promotions working with these but it’s about doing the right thing but then also letting potential donors know that we’re doing the right thing as well. Those are some promotional collaborations. We also do, like, some direct trade deals with Volume One for like this last weekend we did a bunch of messages about their April Fool’s pillow fight and maybe doing other events like that. But then we’ll, on trait, do ads on the magazine. So there is some of that.

DH: That’s one of the things that was really interesting to me was just hearing that.

SM: Besides that I was just babbling about shit--

DH: Is there anything that comes to mind for you that we just haven’t covered that would be specific interests?

CH: Or anything important that you’ve learned through this whole experience?


SM: I think one of the things I learned through this experience is actually how talented the the musicians are through this region in a way I never thought of before. I mean when you’re a music fan you have maybe a roster of ten, twenty, thirty bands that you just love and you’re into or whatever and then the whole world of other music you like. And with this station because of our local focus we’re able to look at a lot of local artists that, and not in a bad way, but just never listened to, ever. And listening to them and getting them into the context of the bands that I have listened to in the past then mixing that with the national is super exciting. I’m not going to name any bands here because that part gets weird on that part but one of the [most fun] things I have, a couple times, is people coming up to me and being, who are musicians and, like, lead singers and stuff [say], “Dude, I played a couple shows with X band but I’ve never realized how good they are ‘til listening to them on Blugold Radio!” So I think that that is so cool and I hope that just builds the collaboration here more and more because I think that is what’s important to this region. Yeah, I think the one thing with us that I keep returning to, mentally and in my job, is the having to pay for this ourselves, the self-sustaining part. And that does hold some eccentricities, people may want us to promote things for free because we’re seen as a community thing. And I think that going into the future our goal is to show, we’re a professional radio station, sure we’re run by students but students do the tech for Eau Claire, students aren’t a pejorative whatsoever, they’re workers who do good work. We’re a station with workers on campus, we’re using great capabilities and collaborating across the board. Oh yeah, we have a coffee coming up that’s with Blugold roast so that’s cool too. We’re really doing our best to use the resources we have but also trying to build this recognition of our professionalism.

DH: I don’t think I have anything else super specific.

CH: Yeah, you covered most of my outline also.

DH: The understanding of student responsibility and the whole deal and not thinking it as explicitly or essentially as a student but you’re an employee is interesting to me. I don’t really have a question on that it’s just a statement.


SM: Yeah, well I mean I think that that was something I learned not in the music community but working for event services here on campus for years doing sound and lights and stuff. When I was running sounds for a band it wasn’t, like, “Oh some students!” It’s this guy that’s trained at his job who’s running sound. I think that being a student is an interesting time and I think it’s embracing it’s good while you’re embracing student experience. But I mean we’re about going into the world here at this University and I think that if at least Blugold Radio can this thing where we’re working with students on, even if they’re employed or even if they’re volunteer still working on the show, we’re doing it and yeah it’s awesome. Yeah we know there’s indie rock and you love it but it’s a thing we’re working on and I think that, I just think that it’s so interesting
to the good we can do in the future because, again, we’re building a product the community loves but we’re still building a product together. And we’re still working on one focus and one-minded effort.

CH: My only other question is, what are your goals for [the] future of Blugold Radio and the local music scene in Eau Claire?


SM: Yeah, I think we kind of touched on that but increasing our collaborations with venues, looking at different ways we can promote shows and build awareness of concerts in the area, fostering new talent through both air plays and then maybe one day doing a battle of the bands. And then I don’t know, I feel like that’s a good two years of goals right there.

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