California public radio station KCRW's video podcasts are like an indie rock antidote to American Idol. (kcrw.org/podcast).
You may not be familiar with KCRW or its radio show Morning Becomes Eclectic, but chances are some song you love got played here first.
The Santa Monica-based show is notorious for breaking new artists and is widely monitored by film industry types who crib its music for movies and TV programs.
Because of the show's reputation, it is able to get live, in-studio performances several times a week by artists who live in Los Angeles or who are passing through the area.
In January, KCRW began making some shows available via free video podcasts, to the delight of music geeks everywhere. But check back often: Each podcast expires two weeks after it's posted.
A native of Birmingham, England, Nic Harcourt, KCRW host and producer of Morning Becomes Eclectic, came to listener-sponsored KCRW in 1998. The 48-year-old was one of the first to expose U.S. listeners to heavyweights like Moby, Coldplay, Norah Jones and Sigur Ros.
Why was Kate Earl your inaugural video podcast? I really liked her session. It looked beautiful, and I thought it appropriate to launch with an independent artist. Why the decision to have each podcast up for only two weeks? It makes it more exclusive, and it's easier to get the bigger labels to agree to a limited availability. Will the video podcasts always be free? That's the plan for now. Is there any artist or band you haven't had in to do a performance that you'd really like to get? Well, I always wanted to get Johnny Cash. Which bands and artists are you especially excited about right now? Three acts that we've supported since last summer: KT Tunstall, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Arctic Monkeys. All look poised to break through this spring. Who are some under-the-radar artists you've found that you are proud of having discovered? A couple of recent ones would be Alexi Murdoch and Goldspot, both L.A.- based. But we've also supported people like Damien Rice and Imogen Heap long before the rest of the world found them.
You cull through much material for your show. Do you have a system? No system. I listen to at least 10 seconds of everything I receive (over 400 CDs a week) and play what I like when it occurs to me. You do some music consulting for commercials and TV shows. Why? I've been really lucky to have the opportunity to work on several TV shows where the creative people involved have invited my input on music. There's something very fulfilling about helping a director or writer find a piece of music that helps them tell a story. Can you talk a bit about the role TV has played in breaking new bands? TV shows like Dawson's Creek and The O.C. have had a major role in helping expose new talent, as is the show I'm currently working on, Love Monkey. But I think TV commercials have had an even bigger impact. It's tough to get new music played on the radio - MTV hardly plays videos any more, so TV and TV advertisements have become an important place to expose new music. What's the most exciting trend in music you've seen in recent years? I've been really happy to see guitar rock come back with bands like the Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. Also, insightful young songwriters with something to say like Conor Oberst and Sufjan Stevens. And the most depressing trend? It has to be American Idol.
Jessica Berthold writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.
In a word:
Video podcasts of in-studio performances by emerging indie musicians
Arctic Monkeys, The Elected, Stellastar, Goldspot
Kate Earl, an emerging 22-year-old singer-songwriter from Alaska often compared to Joni Mitchell and Bjork (Posted Jan. 10)
Making It Happen:
Nic Harcourt, host and producer of Morning Becomes Eclectic show on Santa Monica radio station KCRW
Sporadic. So far, averages about once a week
KCRW's podcasting page is too busy, but it's in the midst of a redesign
10,000 downloads in one month