Local music on radio? Well, sort of

The live-music scene in Sacramento

isn’t what it used to be. By most accounts, audiences are sparser than they once were, and at least one live-music venue will be downsizing its weekend live-music offerings in favor of dance music. It’s a strange and difficult situation that perplexes area musicians.

Many observers of the local scene blame problems that clubs have in drawing audiences on local radio. Although some corporate stations have dedicated local-music programs, there’s little or no chance of area musicians getting any exposure during those stations’ regular programming slots. Thus, the public is unaware, uninformed and uninterested in local music. To the average reader, looking through the weekend’s live-music listings in SN&R can be like trying to read a foreign language, an indecipherable list of band monikers.

Enter a man who has single-handedly provided a radio outlet for Sacramento music. Well, sort of. This man is responsible for the Skirts, Freight Train Riders of America, the 77s, the Beat Officers, David Houston, Freakza Nature, Elena Powell, Las Pesadillas and Nolan having a presence on local radio. These artists, and many other you’ve never even heard of, are playing—probably right now—and you, dear reader, are tuned into the wrong dial, in part because you have the wrong radio. Tune in, if you will, to the new radio: the Internet.

F. Vyan Walton, a member of local metal band Planet X, set up the Internet-based SactoMusic station to fill the need for local bands to be heard. “I had been involved in the local music scene in a variety of levels [performer, sound board, booker] for the last four years, and was just growing more and more frustrated that so many good local artists are so frequently ignored and go unnoticed,” Walton explains.

Begun at the suggestion of a member of Sactolist, a Yahoo discussion group that covers the Sacramento music scene, Walton’s project was to collect as many sound files as possible from Sacramento-area musicians and develop a playlist that would cover the various facets of the Sacramento live-music scene. To this end, the station divides its playlists by metal (Monday, the station’s most popular listening day), rock (Tuesday), alternative (Wednesday), pop (Thursday), and funk and hip-hop (Friday). The current playlist includes just fewer than 500 songs—a hefty collection of area music. Local bands can be heartened by the fact that this station will add them to the playlist. All they need to do is ask.

This makes SactoMusic such an interesting listen: It is Sacramento music, warts and all. At times, the station is surprising and invigorating; at other times, it is absolutely horrifying. Either way, it’s always interesting. If the song currently playing is terrible, you only have to wait four minutes for the next song to begin. At the very least, you can be assured that the music you are listening to was not made by some far-off corporate stooge but rather by a local, someone who got up off the sofa long enough to scream into a microphone for four minutes of glory. And you, at long last, get to hear that brief grasp toward stardom.

The station can be found online at http://groups.msn.com/SactoMusicStation. Inquiries can be directed to Walton at sactomusic@hotmail.com.

—Christian Kiefer