INTERVIEW // Melodic Distraction Radio - Five Years On.
Five years ago, a small Radio Studio popped in the Baltic Triangle, it was to be the home of Melodic Distraction and a hub for a city-wide Community bound by the love of music and creative expression. Right up until Lockdown set in, you could stroll down the ever-lively Jamaica Street, and see a radio host doing their thing through the small window that has become a staple to the Music Scene of Liverpool and the wider reaches of the UK.
We virtually sat down with our good friend Nina Franklin, the Studio Manager at Melodic Distraction to see how life is during the Pandemic and to share their incredible story of adapting to the current situation by not only keeping the schedule alive but even expanding their roster to fit the demands of our new listening habits.
For those who don't know Melodic Distraction, What is it you do, and what was a normal day to you like before the Pandemic?
Melodic Distraction is an independent internet-based radio station based in Liverpool. The roster is made up of nearly 190 shows each month, with hosts from across the North West. We try and celebrate every corner of the local music scene, with shows from up-and-coming producers as well as stalwarts of the scene. In the studio, DJs, music producers, podcasters, promoters, record store owners, record collectors, venue owners, festival coordinators, and record label heads all rub shoulders and swap ideas. We like to think of Melodic Distraction as a big melting pot of all of the beautiful sounds found in and around Liverpool. Melodic Distraction began broadcasting three years ago from our tiny studio on Jamaica Street, and since then we’ve taken our radio hosts to stage takeovers at national festivals, international radio swaps, and various showcases. Plus, we run a music magazine online, throw our own parties, and run a (small) clothing line as well! Day-to-day before the pandemic was fully focussed around our studio in the Baltic Triangle. We’d come in early in the morning - may be having sleepily grabbed a coffee on the way in from the Bagelry or Mother - throw open our shutters and stick whatever is our favourite record of the moment as we get the studio ready for broadcast. What we do every day can be really varied - one day we might be conducting an interview for the magazine, spending some time mastering down a show recording or meeting other organisations to help them with digital content.
Roughly mid-afternoon, normally from about 3 pm until the evening, radio hosts would start to pour through the doors, and then it’s showtime! Once we’re live on air, it’s all about keeping the music rolling and the hosts happy! Then at around 11 pm, we’d wind down, close down our shutters, and probably pop into Buyers on the way home...
How have you adapted to the change since the lockdown?
The biggest change for us was the fact that we had to close the studio. As the news in early March rolled in about the development surrounding COVID-19, we quickly became certain that it was time to close. The studio is our physical hub, a home-away-from-home but also the place where all the tech equipment was housed. As such, we suddenly had to set about effectively recreating 170 remote studios from people’s houses and homes across the city.
As we were stuck at home, we also realised that our listening habits had changed quite substantially. In the first few weeks, we realised that we were barely listening to albums or mixes but instead listening to live radio constantly in order to hear other voices and connect with them in real time.
We realised that even though it felt adventurous, optimistic, and challenging, now was the right time to start broadcasting even more - even without the studio. Artists need a platform to show their craft, hosts and friends needed something to fill their time and express their creativity in this time and people at home wanted more things to listen to! First, we added a suite of morning shows so now we’re broadcasting more than we’ve ever been. Broadcast now kicks off at 9 am every day with the Wake Up With Melodic Distraction show, taken by a member of staff of the station, then rolls into MDR’s Breakfast Club at 10 am, hosted by a rotation of some of the station’s friends and family, and straight into a weekday lunchtime show Red Brick Picnic at midday. We also added a regular live session stream Lockdown Live Lounge, broadcasting twice a week from our socials, which is a streamed live set from artists and musicians nationally.
What challenges have you faced when adapting to this change and what has been the key to its success?
Setting up our roster to broadcast from home was challenging. We were also racing against the clock, as we were determined to have this achieved before the lockdown came into effect. We rang every host on the station to see what their home setup was and whether it’d be feasible to broadcast from home. We made video tutorials, trained people on equipment, and also called in some favours to furnish folks with the ability to broadcast. Huge thank yous have to go out to Total Control Sound, PAHire Liverpool, Loft Audio, and everyone else that donated equipment to our radio roster to keep the music playing! We couldn’t have done it without everyone pitching in to help and our hosts being up for the challenge of broadcasting from home.
"It’s been really incredible to watch. The way everyone came together has been astounding"
What are your thoughts on how your community of show hosts have adapted to the changes?
It’s been really incredible to watch. The way everyone came together has been astounding. There really has been a sense of unity through the whole thing. When we were searching for equipment to distribute to the roster, offers of equipment and help came pouring in and it was really heartwarming to see. I think it offered a little glimmer of inspiration to some folks that instead of us closing down and waiting, instead we pushed on and did more - I think on a low-key level it has inspired people to continue to create, continue to explore and continue to connect with people even if we have to think outside the box on how we go about it. Such a beautiful community has only strengthened through this even though we’ve all been separated. Catching up with everyone in the chat room every morning has been reason enough to get out of bed!
Whether we like it or not, we will be in this situation for a substantial amount of time, and we now see more DJs using live stream platforms to reach fans and express their art. How much of a role does Community Radio play in today's climate and where do you see it going now events and club nights will see a slow rise to what they were?
I think we’re probably all in agreement that music and events are going to be one of the last things to open up again. You can be socially distant in a shop, for sure, or a cinema maybe, but a club? It’s a little more tricky. We’re still in that ideas stage where a new vision of how it might look pops up every day or so online - will clubs reopen with vastly lower capacities and designated circles on the floor where you can dance? Or will open-air events take pride of place? Will thermal imaging be used on the door? There’s even a few irresponsible folks saying this is the time for house parties and warehouse parties to make a comeback. It’s still very up in the air, and we’re not really sure when we’ll return to clubs. Though, playing to a half-empty room might not be such a change for some of us…
Community radio is going to continue to be important because it transcends having the ability to just Livestream from your house. If you’re playing on community radio there’s a little bit of friendly pressure - you’ve got the chat room to talk with for a start! It’s all about connecting with people through music, the experience of sharing and talking - and that’s never going to get old.
How does one go about getting into it? If a DJ, for example, came to you to set up a show, what criteria do you look for?
A great speaking voice, a collection of interesting stories to tell, and impeccable taste in music!
When we look for new hosts, we don’t necessarily look for people who are already DJs or producers- in fact, many of our hosts didn’t start off as DJs and it’s been amazing to watch them grow - but we do want people who are passionate, excited about what they do and wanting to share themselves and their tales with their audience.
What are the benefits for DJs, Promoters, Labels to have a show?
It’s all about being part of a family. As much as a DJ or label might benefit just from having online content if they’ve done a show with us, the benefits and connections go far past that. It’s a space for artistic expression and growth. It’s a place to try new ideas and reach new audiences. But it’s the people that make it - perhaps you become good friends with the folks who present a show either side to you. Perhaps you end up making songs together, working together, or starting up a project together! Suddenly, a whole network of people who are deeply invested in the scene in Liverpool are around you, and you’re a part of it.
Where can People tune in to Melodic Distraction, where can we find you?
Anything else you would like to add?
Stay safe and look after each other! Thanks very much for having us.
From delivering nearly 200 live streaming kits to creating visual resources and even adding in new shows such as The Breakfast Show, Red Brick Picnic, and the Lockdown Live Lounge. It is clear to see the passion for their craft and anyone involved with the Radio is in great hands!
It seems the power of community has played a vital role in helping the radio station continue their schedule. This wouldn't have been achieved if all those who came together simply stood by while the world changed near overnight, instead they pulled together in order to continue the expression of creativity and provide great music to their fans and following. While MDR leads the adaptation, this is a true testament to the community they have nurtured over the years and a showcase of what can be achieved under seemingly uncontrollable change.
In celebration of being on the airwaves for 5 years, MDR has teamed up with some top-notch artists and released some brand new merch, from t-shirts to tote bags! 10% of profits are going directly to Stop Hate UK.
You can find their online store here!
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