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NON-COMM 2024 Recap

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the 2024 NON-COMMvention for the first time as a participant as opposed to just a listener.  For those of you unfamiliar, the NON-COMMvention is the annual gathering of public (non-commercial) radio music programmers and managers, music industry representatives, and music media from across North America that setts out to uncover the very best in new music from emerging and established artists.  Produced and hosted here in Philadelphia by WXPN, NON-COMM brings all of these music professionals together for a week of panels, networking and live music.

As I said previously, this was my first NON-COMM where I was able to take part in the panels and discussions throughout the week. And the through line and theme this year was a focus on digital, which of course is something that has been of great interest to me. And it was fascinating to hear from stations and labels across the country what their approaches to digital are and what’s working and what’s not.  It’s a paradigm shift that we’re all dealing with in every aspect of the music ecosystem, and to bond over not just the successes, but the struggles is comforting in knowing that we’re not alone in our frustrations and excitements.

Every panel was uniquely informative, ranging from Audience trends, to how on air talent and digital work together.  Some of the ones that stood out to me: Alante Millow and Ashley Pointer from NPR Music held a panel on maximizing your social media impact, which was full of incredible tips on how to create social posts that will effectively get people to engage and not just scroll by.  Jim McGuinn hosted a conversation between program directors and label reps about the decisions behind discovering and deciding on what to play in an oversaturated world that I thought was illuminating.  And to me, there were moments where you could see the strategies of the labels butting up against the desire of the stations to bring their audiences the music that moves them.  And this may make me a homer to say, but probably my favorite panel was hosted by Bruce Warren and was a discussion about the future of music in a world where generative AI exists.  Bruce, with an assist by Kallao played a game of “Real or AI?” with station bumpers and songs that showcased both the strengths and limitations of AI in the state it is at today.  But the highlight of the panel to me came during the Q&A when Jordan Lee of Radio Milwaukee pointed out all of the positive uses there are for AI that can help in freeing up time from handling minute task that take away from being able to focus on more important roles in the mission of the station.

Of course, as awesome and amazing as the panels were, the live music was absolutely phenomenal.  I missed a bunch of the night time shows, but was able to catch Laura Jane Grace, Old 97s, Lizzie No, The Decembrists and Fontaines DC.  Just incredible performances all around and the perfect icing on a cake of being surrounded not just by people who love and enjoy music on a level similar to myself, but also are doing their parts to share and spotlight musician and their art and share them with others so that they to can enjoy in the art that may otherwise fall under the cracks.

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