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Times have changed

Posted at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2006 by Bill Wareham

Warning: An old codger ramble follows, which you'd be advised to ignore in the proper fashion. If you are under 25 years old, please roll your eyes now and adjust earbuds for maximum tuneout. If you are older than that, just nod your head politely every 30 seconds for a couple of minutes, all the while calculating retirement scenarios in your head.

Over on the right, my bio says I wanted to be a DJ and got into journalism by accident. That may be glib, but it's also true, and I was reminded of that last night watching the screening of First Avenue HayDay at the SoundUnseen film fest.

The bands featured in the first 15 minutes of the documentary read like a list of the first feature stories I did for MPR in the mid- to late-1980s: The Replacements, Wallets, Husker Du, Jayhawks. I haven't listened to those stories in awhile and I have no intention of doing so. Yes, they catapulted me to where I am now, but I'm sure like many of the performances in the movie, they were more earnest and awkward than good. (Memo to Acme Catapult Co.: Check guidance systems. Not that I'm complaining, but was I really supposed to land here?)

What I do recall clearly from those days is how I had to work to convince editors that a story on an up-and-coming band was newsworthy. The "peg" (newsspeak for justification) I ended up using most often was that the band had just signed or was on the verge of a major label record deal. Absent such a peg, the reasoning went, there's not much reason to do a story; after all, our audience is mostly made up of folks drifting over from MPR's classical music service. At best they wouldn't care about Replacements/Husker Du/Wallets/Jayhawks; at worst they'd be offended and turn off the radio.

But here we are, roughly 20 years later, and MPR's definition of arts and culture has broadened considerably. The company now has it's own eclectic pop music service, The Current. And my colleague Chris Roberts rarely has to play the "major label deal" card to get a band profile on the air on the MPR News service.

Yes, times have changed, but I'm glad they did.