Greg Kampf, Prog Rock Relayer, Pt 2: The Internet Effect

My interview with Greg Kampf was both enlightening and wide-ranging, covering a lot of unexpected topics and taking off on a few tangents.  Part 1 can be found here, in which we talked about the history of Greg Kampf’s radio show, La Villa Strangiato, and the roots of what we now call prog rock.

In Part 3, we talk about how to define prog rock in the 2010s and prog rock’s effect on pop culture.

Part 2: Prog rock in the Internet Age

So without getting you in any legal trouble, how did the internet age help with your discovery of new prog rock?

I’m still very much a believer in purchasing physical products. I’m not a huge downloader. I have downloaded materials that were either out of print or almost impossible to find.  There are some albums from the Québec scene from the 1970s that have never seen a CD release, and there are some aficionados in Québec who were making these great LP blogs these long-lost prog recordings and they were making them downloadable, so I did download them, heard them, and now some of these albums have been given an official release through great organizations such as Prog Québec.

La Villa Strangiato - CD Collection
A sampling of Greg’s CD collection.

Since then, I’ve actually been able to purchase them. They’re all cleaned up, they’re beautiful. And so if you were to see the size of my CD collection, you would probably be a little bit alarmed. I know my wife constantly reminds me that from time to time it’s maybe not a bad idea to cull a little bit. But I’m still very much about the physical medium and making sure that the artists are compensated for their efforts. A lot of artists actually reach out to the program, too, and they’re happy to send along promo items to the station and sometimes in person at concerts, as well.

I guess that really helps since you have a lot of contemporary artists on your show.

A lot, and I’m finding now as we’re moving through the 2010s with the rise of Bandcamp, a lot of bands are just putting their material up on Bandcamp for free downloads. They’re not expecting to be paid for it, for better or for worse.

If they’re expecting any kind of remuneration at all, it would be through merchandise sales, at gigs, through the gigs themselves, via gate receipts, and they may or may not even produce a physical CD/LP for sale.

They want to be heard and they’re making their albums available online. It’s actually been a great avenue to discover some new musicians as well — new bands that are doing some cool stuff in progressive rock and progressive jazz.

That’s great. You’re based out of CHUO FM, which is a university/college radio type thing. Who do you find listens to your show and has this changed at all in all the time you’ve done it?

la_villa_strangiato-studio2Interesting question. There’s kind of two eras of my involvement. There’s the late 90s era when I was still a student, and then I was out of the country for a few years teaching in Japan. The earlier era was before the rise of internet radio, so the audience was very localized. This was very much an Ottawa/Gatineau/National Capital Region program that didn’t extend any further.

By 2004 in Japan I was able to tune in to the program, so let’s go back ten years when the streaming technology came online. That basically turns what had been a local audience into a global audience.

So I do know that, at least in terms of locally here, my listenership tends to skew a little bit to the male side. That’s common with prog rock, but generally an older audience as well, maybe 35 and up, maybe even 45 and up. I know one of my most diehard listeners, who lives in Hull — he’s in his early 60s and he records the show every week on cassette tapes, so that he can listen back to what he liked and that helps him with his own journey of discovery.

My mom is a regular listener, too, wherever she happens to be, using her iPad, whether it’s at home in the Toronto area or anywhere in the world where she might be traveling.

Do you have any idea what kind of reach you have since you’ve expanded into the podcast version of your show?

That’s the other interesting part of broadcasting, because yes, there’s the live program that happens every Thursday night, but I take that digital archive file, and I produce a podcast version of that file, which is then published on PodOmatic.com. They have a metrics tool that lets you see, on a daily basis, who is listening to your show and what geographical location they’re listening from, whether they’re just listening to the stream or they’ve downloaded the program altogether and actual hits to the actual PodOmatic site itself.  It’s a site that I maintain. It’s a site that requires an annual fee to maintain. But I’m happy to do that, because I feel that it’s kind of a value-added proposition. And it also helps those who can’t listen on Thursday night listen whenever they want, on demand.

Through these metrics I’ve learned that there are listeners from all continents. Europe especially, because I play a lot of bands that are European bands and I play a lot of bands that are from Japan as well.

OK.

One thing I will do is I will often contact the groups after I present their music — usually on Facebook. And I will send them a link to the actual archive of the podcast, and that tends to generate a lot of hits in those specific markets for listenership. It helps me to expand the listenership as well.

That’s cool. So, hypothetically speaking, in 10 years, the way you’re doing all this, you could have a very broad – but focused – niche market throughout the world. Or you already do.

It’s hard to say. I mean, if you were to say, how many people listen on a weekly basis, I couldn’t tell you whether it’s 50, whether it’s 25, whether it’s 177. I don’t know. I can’t put my exact finger on a number.

For example, just this past week, a listener reached out to me with a direct email to my gmail account, asking me a question about some of the bands that I played. That very rarely happens. So, that’s just one guy that may have been listening on a given night. How many other similar fellows or ladies are out there listening who may think, “Oh, I should fire off the DJ a message, I like what you’re doing.”

Either they can’t be bothered or it’s not the way that they experience radio, or it may be more personal for them not to have a relationship with the host. I think when it comes down to it, what had been local is now international, and that’s a great opportunity.

One tool I’ve been using to really try and expand the reach of the program is Twitter. Through Twitter, I can make contact with people who have expressed an interest in progressive rock in their own sort of tweeting activities. [Ed. Note: The Twitter handle for the La Villa Strangiato radio show is @lavillaCHUOFM]

It’s easy to find who’s interested in prog rock. I tweet about it a lot. You go find them, you favorite their tweet, you engage with them, and all of a sudden they follow you back and…

So to speak in buzzwords, we’re kind of at Radio 2.0 now.

We’re getting there, if we’re not already there. We’re closing in on 1000 followers on Twitter, which has surpassed my wildest expectations.

This ends of part 2 of my conversation with Greg Kampf, DJ of CHUO FM’s La Villa Strangiato radio show.  Part 3 will be published next week at this time and will cover how we define prog rock in the 2010s.

Greg Kampf, Prog Rock Relayer, Pt 1: History

Greg Kampf, Prog Rock Relayer, pt 3: Prog Rock in the 2010s

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