Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Radio, Television, and YouTube

I have informally extended a project about Croatian internet radio in which I was invited to participate by Nenad Bach and which we talked about on the last post. There is a lot of information floating around which suggests that many people are moving away from traditional radio / television to the internet. Google's whole business model is based on the notion that this move has already been underway and is substantial.
Over the years, I've had a few modest experiences with broadcasting on radio/television in Southern Illinois, Central Tennessee and in South Texas.  In each case the population within the reception area amounted to about three million and the stations presumed from their studies that the audience might be around 300,000.  The fact is that for any particular broadcast we didn't know how many listened.  We knew that some people tuned in because they wrote letters.

It is difficult to compare "traditional" transmissions to internet transmissions where we can have hard data. On YouTube for example - we know how many times a video was clicked and we know in the aggregate how many minutes people stayed on that video.  The algorithm which YouTube currently uses to "rank" a particular video takes into account "engagement" which includes "comments","like / dislike", and now its important to somehow keep the viewer on the video all the way through.
On YouTube we do not actually know where someone is located.  We know only where they say they are located so I did not take location into account.  My specifications were simple:  channels which broadcast a fair amount of music by Croatian performers were included.  In this group were channels operated by what appear to be Croatians in the same five continents where we found internet radio, as well as Slovenia and Serbia.  A few I know to be operating from France, Germany, and Sweden.
A few channels have dropped out in the last few years.  A few more have been hit with DCMA complaints and have been dropped from YouTube.  If memory serves, those may have amounted to as many as forty million views between them.  I did not take into consideration channels with under a hundred thousand views. 
Among the remaining top seventy Croatian/Croatian friendly channels the views amount to about 300,000,000 since 2006.  I've informally kept up with the top 20 or so channels for several years and I'm aware that the vast majority of those views have come in the last twenty-four to thirty months. 
This sounds impressive until you realize one Korean fellow made one video with one song which has gone over a billion views.  If you discount that one as a fluke it still sounds impressive until you look around just a little.  As a "group" we've accomplished a lot but we have a long long way to go.
There was a time when all one needed was a killer song to get a lot of views.  That's still important, but now it works best with a video which keeps the viewer "engaged" throughout the song.  It is no longer sufficient just to have a lot of music on a channel and it is no longer sufficient to have a wonderful piece of music and a killer video although all that is important. Now it requires that the broadcaster continually "engage" the audience and it requires that we find ways to find and engage our potential audience.  It also requires that we engage the performers and that we engage the companies which distribute the music.
Can I tell you how to do any of this?  No I can't.  I am still learning, but there is plenty of help.  Lisa Irby  has information on YouTube for us.   You will have to follow your nose among her extensive information and you will have to adapt it to suit your style but her information is solid and a good place to start. Lisa  also has a blog with a world of information on it for us.  This isn't about promoting Lisa, this is about learning how to promote us and our performers.  YouTube  provides us some help also. 
We have to out perform radio.  We have to out perform Television.  We may have to use FaceBook, Twitter, blogging of some sort, or whatever is available to us.  Oh yes, we might even have to somehow use some radio and television along the way. We have to use every legitimate means at our disposal to accomplish this task. 
We are broadcasters. We are DJ's at the party. We have a product to sell.  That product is the music of our beloved Homeland and her singers where ever they are in the world.  Its our job to sell this product and not the job of the performers and it is not the job of the Record Houses.  The performers task is to compose and perform.  The record companies job is to make the records and count the sales. We are the sales people.
We are closer to the people, we are closer to the market than anyone else could ever hope to be at this time.  If we want to keep our jobs and continue to have access to the product, then we must succeed at our task.  We must  engage as many Croatians in Croatia and in the diaspora as we can.  We must engage other people as well. The Japanese already know "U boj, U boj," so we have a good start on this project. 
Along the way we must discover and help our performers know how to make a little money on the work we do to promote their efforts.  The record houses must see an upswing in sales.  We must put the music out there so people of  all kinds want to hear it and want to buy it.  That's the task.
Yes, we are competitors but we also have a common goal - our Homeland, our culture.   We can either play around with this or we can get after it and have a great time doing it. Are you ready?
Za Dom, Spremni!!
do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac
14 svibanj 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Music from Home

Sixty-five years ago our music from Home was at home in our house.  Sometimes on a Friday night, Mama and Tata would take out their harmonike from the closet and they would play and sing to us.  Sometimes they teach me to sing along with them. Tata made puppets from wood and plaster and mother made clothes for them.  They presented little shows for people as a hobby. To dramatize the shows, Tata would play music the way he liked to play it.
I remember when the leather broke on Tata's harmonika how he cried.  Tata did not cry very often.  Mama had already tried to fix hers with artificial leather. Leatherette they called it - it was a good covering for chairs but not for use in Harmonike so it had not worked very well. They cried together  because sister needed money for piano lessons and so at that time we did not have the money to buy the material to repair any harmonike.
Now there was no music anymore that could go around places with the puppets and soon they went away in the closet forever.  Mama and Tata are gone now but I still have two or three of their puppets.
Sister wanted now to go to college so Mama and Tata had to sell her piano for the money for college.  Some years later when Tata had more money and he bought piano for mother, sister became angry and she would not sing anymore with us.  Too bad for her, we sang anyway when she was not around.
In High School I played clarinet.  Sometimes then we had a clarinet / piano duo playing while Mama and Tata would sing.  We had a little record player which would play big records.  We owned a few good records and when people came  from Home many times they would bring new records.  We would share records with other families we knew and they would share with us.  Mama controlled the record player.  When it was time to listen to music she would say to me what she wanted to hear and I was the "disk jockey."
In those years I bought a little radio.  Mama and Tata were afraid at first about what kind of music I would play on this radio.  When they discovered  that I tuned into KFRD Rosenburg and KULP in El Campo they were pleased.   These stations had early morning shows which were for all kinds of Slavic people.  One of the Disk Jockeys at KFRD was Croatian man so we heard good music now in the morning. 
I went away a long time to college, to the military, to work.  When I came back, KFRD is gone from the air. But KULP is there still in the morning with a Polka Show but for many years I was too far away to get even their broadcast. Lots of years went by when I was busy just trying to make a living.  I missed the old ways and the old music but there wasn't much time to do anything about that except just miss it in my heart - until I was at the end of the earth down here in Brownsville where the only radio or TV is Spanish or
Then I had a terminally ill wife on my hands who dearly wanted to hear the old music.  Somehow it was comfort to her - and to me. We had a few cassette tapes and then we bought a few CDs from Home but with all the medical  expense we did not have money to buy very many. 
I set out to discover what to do.  On the internet I found Dennis Svatek. He is not Croatian but he plays a lot of good music and he makes it freely available to download and listen to it. 
Then I discoved Radio Narodna on the internet.  On Easter after Carole died, they played on croatian a song same as in Lutheran Hymnal "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."  I shall not forget that Easter.  I stayed awake all night for Easter Vigil and was rewarded at the top of every hour with the recording of those wonderful women singing that song.  Someday I will find that recording -
I want it.
Along the way, I discovered many other internet radio stations with croatian language broadcasts.  Most of these stations are based in Croatia but many  are or were based also in North America. 
I discovered YouTube and the world of croatian music to be found there. The ladies at Croatia Gifts in Ohio once asked me how I choose the music I buy and I answered that I go to YouTube and listen to a singer first. If I like the sound, then, when I have the money, I buy the CD so I can hear the music in my car when I am away from my house. Eventually I learned a  little about making videos and I am now a "broadcaster" on YouTube. I am grateful that almost all of the Croatian performers are friendly about the promotion of their material I try to give them there. 
If the performers can figure out how to do it, they could even run
advertising on my videos with their music and make a little extra money for themselves.  Right now the Germans are trying to claim their material and make this money but I keep chasing them away.
The learning curve on YouTube is interesting.  I've had an account on YouTube since 1999 but it was a couple of years before I understood the potential there.  Now I'm getting over 3,000 views each day and that number is growing rapidly.  I've been learning and experimenting with various things and I expect that number to be over 10,000 views a day by the end of next year.  So, in fact, I am broadcasting to a fairly large and growing community.
Recently, Nenad Bach asked me to work on a project with him. What an honor to be asked to do this!! The project was to discover all the Croatian language radio stations in the world outside of Croatia.
I discovered there are some broadcasts I knew nothing about before.  There is even a broadcast from China on croatian language.  There are internet broadcasts from Australia and New Zealand, and from Argentina.  In fact, there are broadcasts from every continent except Africa and Antarctica.
I discovered some changes in North America which surprised me, although I should not have been surprised at all.  These changes reflect the lives of  Croatian Americans and the changing realities of an interconnected world. Radio Stations like my old KFRD are gone now from the air because we all grew up and went away somewhere else.  I remember broadcasts in the southern Wisconsin area.  There was a "Radio Club" there, organized to raise the money to see to it that Croatians had at least a little sound from Home.

In Ohio there are still broadcasts but they are mostly one hour  "packages" from Home.  One is carried by a mostly Afro-American station which views us as a "minority," which of course we are, I suppose.  I would guess that over the next five  years most of these one hour a week broadcasts will disappear.
I found nothing at all in Seattle where there is a sizable Croatian community.  There is a station from Vancouver however, and one in Toronto and Ottawa.  Down in California where there is a large Croatian population, there are no longer any broadcasts. St Anthony's Croatian Catholic Church used to broadcast their mass on a Sunday, but no longer.  I spoke to a priest from  there and he was not interested in the idea even that I could help him either broadcast or rebroadcast the service for free on YouTube.
On the Gulf Coast region of the USA there are no stations that I can find broadcasting either on the air or on the internet in Croatian even though Croatians can be found strung out all along the coast line in various  communities.
When I put out an appeal on both YouTube and FaceBook to help me locate Croatian Radio Stations around the world, Marijan sent me a list of Croatian radio stations accessible in Germany - all are based in Croatia.  Ana wrote "David every Monday at 14:00 your time on Radio 105 songs on request and calls live from around the world for the Croats at Radio 105! [Selnica]"
Does the diminishing presence of North American croatian radio indicate a lack of demand for croatian language material?  As Croatians are assimilated into an english speaking world do we want less material on croatian?  I think that these would be incorrect conclusions. The demand may be higher than ever before. The fact is that now we are connected around the world via Facebook, YouTube and other media.  The radio stations, and some TV broadcasts, from the Homeland and various locations are only a few clicks away on the internet and the streams are usually reliable. At this very moment I'm connected to Vox Croatica down in Argentina, FaceBook, and YouTube simultaneously and my cellphone is right beside me so I can talk or text anyone anywhere.  I don't need a broadcaster located in my backyard anymore.
That leaves open the questions surrounding the unique needs concerning Croats in the diaspora.  I don't have an answer except that as always we shall make good advantage of all the tools which come available and keep on scrambling like we always have. There are new tools just now available on YouTube and G+.  Other technology will come along.  Mama and Tata's harmonike went away years ago, but we have what we have and we shall find how to make our way somehow.
If you don't mind, keep your ears and your eyes open for croatian language broadcasts of any kind outside of Croatia,  and let me know what you hear and see. Also, let me know what you would like to hear and see.  There are a lot of us Croats out here in the world away from Home.  What do we want available to us?  Talk to me.  

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac
9 svibanj 2013