The radio on TV

Suddenly local music is all over the airwaves
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  May 12, 2010


Way better than MTV: What to watch, and when
THE ACADIA SESSIONS | MPBN, Channel 10 | Saturdays @ 11 pm |
GOOD DAY MAINE | WPFO (Fox), Channel 23 | 7-9 am weekdays |
LIVE AND LOCAL | WPXT (The CW), Channel 12 | Sundays @ 3:30 pm |
207 | WCSH (NBC), Channel 6 | 7 pm weeknights |
There is nothing new about bands playing on television. Whether you’re talking the Beatles on Ed Sullivan or Elvis on Milton Berle, the history of television is filled with seminal performances that changed the course of popular culture. But those are famous people. And you can see more where that came from on Austin City Limits or VH1 Classic or Ovation or even that cool newish all-HD music channel Palladia.

But local bands and local channels? Lately there’s been something of an explosion of local bands getting play on Maine channels. While WCSH’s 207, on at 7 pm weeknights, has made live bands a staple of its programming for the seven years of its existence, we now have Good Day Maine on Fox 23, which features bands a couple times a week and launched a month ago from 7 to 9 am weekdays; The Acadia Sessions, which started May 8 on MPBN and features documentary looks at bands in the recording process every Saturday night at 11 pm; and Live and Local, which filmed a whole season’s worth of shows a couple weekends back at the Empire and will be airing every Sunday afternoon on the CW, WPXT, over the next 12 weeks.

Add all of this up with the long-running No Hit Videos on public access and the variety of music you’ll find from time to time on channels 2 and 4 in Portland and it’s hard to miss local music on local TV. Why now?

You guessed it: the Internet.

“The Internet has changed everything for local musicians,” says Becki Smith, executive producer for 207, who’s been booking bands roughly three times a week for the past seven years. “If you looked at doing a show like 207 even 15 years ago, I don’t think it would be this same show with the ability to commit to music the way we have.” Finding the bands, vetting them, communicating back and forth — all of that was exponentially more difficult in the days before e-mail and MySpace and Google.

“I literally get pitched with 200 or 300 e-mails a day, by people wanting to be on the show,” says Smith, “and lots of them are musicians, and they all get the same answer: ‘We’d be happy to take a listen. Send us a CD.’”

Sometimes, it’s even easier than that. Mark Sayer, drummer for the relatively new heavy-rock band Whitcomb, has been playing in bands in Portland for all of those 15 years Smith is talking about, and he recently found himself on television for the first time, waking up before dawn to be on Good Day Maine last week at 7 am.

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