Monday, July 30, 2007

Portofino Network makes Adult Contemporary Fresh Again

Several years ago, Martin Short (a well known Canadian comedian/actor) was asked why there were so many successful Canadian comedians in Hollywood (e.g. Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, John Candy, Dan Akroyd). Martin Short responded by saying "Americans watch television. Canadians watch American television."

In effect, Mr. Short was saying that an outsider's perspective is sometimes a better perspective.
I think Italians get this too, and to their testament one of the greatest comedians of all time - Roberto Benigni - hails from this great country.

Which brings me to... Portofino Network ( Based right in Portofino (as its name suggests), Portofino Radio sticks to what here in Canada would be described as "Adult Contemporay". This is often referred to as "middle of the road" fare, and I'll be the first to admit I'm not in this station's core audience. However, there are always those songs we'll hear from time to time which can best be described as a "guilty pleasure". For me, Portofino has managed to pull out and spin those gems, which has drawn me back to into this genre, where my local FM stations pushed me away. It shows you what a great DJ is capable of, and why DJing truly is a creative form. If you'd have asked me if I'd be interested in listening to Gloria Estefan, Simply Red, Phil Collins, and Christopher Cross, I probably would have shrugged my shoulders. But in reality, I do have a soft spot for the particular songs that Portofino has chosen, and it all sounds kind of fresh to me even though some of these are older songs. Sure there are times where I'll hear a song and roll my eyes a bit - but to get Neil Hepburn to actually enjoy Adult Contemporary is no mean feat.

I was about to blog on Portofino this earlier, but another neat Italian station flipped on the TUN3R Dial: Lolliradio Happy Station ( I haven't spent as much time listening to this station as I have Portofino, so I can't talk with any authority about the music itself. However, what caught my attention was its niche. Namely, Lolliradio just plays "happy music". I think on its own, focusing on emotions is pretty cool concept, and one of the reasons I love Internet radio. There's so much trailblazing going on. Heck, I'd also be interested in a station playing "sad music" (not to be confused with "melancholic music"), another playing "angry music", and of course "sexy music". The cool thing about such a concept is that you could easily cross genres and languages and still keep to that same emotional theme.

By the way, I've talked about stations from Italy, but not Italy itself. If you haven't been to Italy yet, this is a must-visit country. Oddly, my fondest memories were skiing in Canazei in the dolomites, which is not what you would normally think of when you think of Italy. Who'd of thunk that some of the worlds best skiing (especially if you like touring) could be found in Italy. There are so many other great places I could mention but that would be a blog post on its own But I think another reason why I love Italy is the food. There is just this incredible attention to freshness of ingredients whereever you go. It makes you realize how processed and bad the food is here in North America.

Well that's it for this week. My friends James says he's got another blog post he wants to put up, so in all likelihood you'll be hearing from him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 has a Nose for Cool

A while back when I lived in Copenhagen Denmark, I knew a guy - Lornts - who worked with the fashion industry. He wasn't a designer. Rather, he worked for himself as a distributor of new international brands that he would introduce to Denmark. When Lornts wasn't pitching these brands to Danish retailers, he was on the lookout for the next trends. Although he was too modest to have described himself as this, he was basically a Cool Hunter.

I asked Lornts how he did it, and how the fashion industry knows what's fashionable. He explained to me that the fashion industry (while appearing to be in control), were in fact slaves to the unpredictable, and generally would respond through copying and selling for a cheaper price. He showed me that in spite of how hard the fashion industry would try to guide the direction of fashion, the latest tends would always emerge from a grass roots level. This intrigued me, and I kept asking Lornts how he could tell what was coming next. He admitted that he was wrong a lot of the time, but explained that he would just observe people on the street, what they were wearing, how they were positioned, what they were doing, how they were talking, and so on. Beyond that he was unable to give any specifics. This intrigued me further since the whole thing seemed almost mystical in that we couldn't dissect it, but at the same time he was always pretty successful, so there was definitely something real and tangible going on - just impossible to pick apart.

Which brings me to

We recently were contacted by to put their station on our Dial. I always take a listen to new stations going up on our Dial, and this one really caught my ear. These guys really have their ear-to-the-ground. In their own words, plays a "mix of Dub, Downbeat, Funky breaks and cold sweated House". For me it just sounds authentic. When I listen to I'm reminded of some of the best bars, coffeeshops, and parties in some of my favourite European cities like: Amsterdam; Copenhagen; Berlin; Paris; Krakow; Prague; and Jaun les Pins.

For me, this music is pure zen. Much like the station's gorgeous surroundings located in Bern Switzerland.

I'll be honest though, I don't recognize the names of over 90% of what these guys play, but it's all really really good! The genius of appears not to be entirely an accident. In their own words:"After collecting records for years and spending hours in bars and clubs around the world, the time has finally come., a brand new webradio, is ready for Blast off." So, clearly there is a genuine pedigree here. The fact that they have been able to mix together such distinctive and silky sets can partly be explained by this experience. How they do it. We'll never know. At this point, science must take a back seat, and we should all kick back and enjoy the music.

We are very proud to have stations like on the TUN3R Dial.

In my next post I'll talk about another station that recently joined The Dial, but that which appeals to a totally different mood.

Stay TUN3D.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The State of FM radio. All Praise the Sounds of Mediocrity

The radio DJ used act as a portal for the listener to discover new music. The DJ was somebody who was passionate about music and willingly to take risks with the kind of sounds that they would play. Listeners would gravitate to the show because it was a way to become informed about what was happening out there in the musical landscape. Radio would provide a listener with both the surprise of hearing the familiar (I love this song) and something new. DJ’s had a great knowledge of music and felt a responsibility to share that knowledge with the listener. The DJ I believe that most exemplified this attitude was the late John Peel. Mr. Peel had possibly one of the most receptive attitudes towards new sounds in the music industry. His ear was constantly to the underground. He played Kraut rock and dub reggae in the early seventies, when no one was familiar with those styles. He embraced the punk movement right from the beginning. He was even open to playing the early grind core bands such as Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and Doom. He would never dismiss a band because of the genre they were associated with. Mr. Peel loved music that was passionate. I also personally have a great love for Mr. Peel because he championed my favorite band of all time: The Fall.

Outside of College radio, every time I listen to the FM dial, I hear the same formulaic sounds. The latest “alternative” band who sounds like the same batch of Pearl Jam clones or Green Day clones or Smashing Pumpkins clones that have permeated the airwaves for the last fifteen years. I’m not quite sure what aspect of this music makes it “alternative”. I think the majority of it sounds so similar that it all seems to blur together like the hum of a radiator. I find it depressing that Nickleback is the soundtrack for the current generation. Then there are the classic rock stations. Don’t get me wrong. Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath and Hendrix are my gods, but I hear the same songs day in and day out. And they wouldn’t dare play groundbreaking artists from that era like Can, The Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Rocky Erikson or The Silver Apples. You can’t even hear any Frank Zappa. And god help me if I ever start listening to adult contemporary. Pass me the Celine Dion and the Prozac. And unfortunately, we don’t hear many political messages from the world of hip-hop anymore (at least on contemporary radio). No Public Enemy or KRS-1. Just lyrics about making money, treating women badly and the glorification of Gangsta culture.

Thank god for internet radio! Finally there are options out there for the true music fan! Due to sites like TUN3R, I can listen to a whole variety of music genres. I can flip back and forth between Techno, bluegrass, death metal, free jazz, Goth, punk and
numerous other sounds. And I’m rarely interrupted by ads or mainstream DJ’s with their patronizing marketing voices. I can just listen to the music. I always have believed that radio should be this way. I never could accept the mediocre and passionless sounds that fill the mainstream charts were what the masses really wanted. I also like the fact that many of the stations don’t confine themselves to one genre of music. I have never met anybody who ever just liked one form of music. But if you want to hear something really specific (such as sixties garage rock), you can find it with TUN3R.

It is for all the above reasons that people who are passionate about music should support Internet radio. Internet radio represents a challenge to the main stream music providers and that’s why they’re so scared. It’s time music fans started to subvert the system.

Here are some of my current favorite stations:

1. Sky Fm Modern Jazz- For the free/experimental jazz lover in you
2. Radio Hidebound- A must for any hardcore punk fan
3. Technicolor web of sound- A place to hear rare psychedelic and garage sounds from the sixties.
4. Flux 4- a great eccentric station.
5. Aural Moon- Prog rock geek heaven.
6. Doom; Dark music for tortured souls- the same says it all
7. Radio Bira/R1A- The heaviest of metal sounds
8. Dandelion radio- A great station that named John Peel’s own record label. The station plays a great range of music and keeps with the philosophy of the late DJ.

-James Wallace (

Monday, July 9, 2007

We Came, We Launched, We got Swamped

Well, I'm sure this is not the first time this has happened, although it's always embarrassing. We made a formal announcement this morning launching TUN3R, press release and all, and things started out pretty modestly.

Then, we got blogged on TechCrunch. I'll admit we were completely taken aback by this as TechCrunch is in many ways the "holy grail" of tech blogs. Well, okay, it's not as mainstream as Walt Mossberg or CNET, but in many regards TechCrunch is more influential. Don' believe me, check out this article in this month's Wired (the Transformer issue):
So, needless to say things have been a bit hectic, and admittedly this post, and the last post were a bit dry.

That said, starting with our next post, I'd like to get to something a bit more down-to-earth, and actually interesting to read about radio and music itself. So, this brings me to... James Wallace. I'm lucky to know Mr. Wallace, one of the biggest music geeks I've ever known. You've probably never heard of him, but the man is one of those walking encyclopedia's that never ceases to amaze me with his depth and breadth of knowledge of music. He also opened my mind to numerous bands, genres, and sub-genres, and has left me with a lasting interest for new music. However, having a healthy skepticism for all things corporate, he doesn't like to work for "the man", and is instead a respected middle school teacher, so I'm fortunate that he's agreed to write a blog post or two for us.

Stay TUN3D.