Mourning the Death of an Indie Station21:53
Today, Dublin-based radio station, TXFM, announced it would not be renewing its broadcasting license this year. Having played the best of alternative rock and indie to a loyal and devoted fanbase for the best of two years (formerly Phantom FM, the station rebranded in 2014), this October TXFM will be no more.
Upon reading of this via Twitter on my commute home, I silenced Spotify and opened up the TXFM app, to hear much-adored DJ Joe Donnelly discussing the news on his peak-time show. He talked of how this is ‘just how it is’, with the commercial music industry these days, the rise of the Internet and so forth. This is the new normal. I wish I had taken note to quote him directly now because his words were so moving and rich in passion and emotion. Hearing the heavy sorrow in his voice cracked my little heart.
Donnelly, having read an abundance of messages from the station’s most devoted listeners, then proceeded to play The Smiths’ Panic without a hint of irony. As I listened to Morrissey’s wailing refrains of “Hang the DJ”, I thought about the rest of the Irish radio industry, and our music industry at large, and couldn’t help but mourn the now gaping void in the airwaves for a station such as TXFM.
It was the one station I knew I could tune into and not be subjected to the same select songs dominating the Irish charts.
Our public service broadcaster, RTÉ, caters largely for adults, with some of Ireland’s biggest names hosting a multitude of talkshows. One of its stations, RTÉ 2FM, is a little more youth-friendly, but their playlists tend to stick to the charts. The directly youth-orientated stations, such as Spin 1038 and iRadio, are devoted to the Top 40. Growing up, I never listened to Irish radio, simply because there was nothing to suit my cravings for rock, punk, metal and indie alike. Alternative radio stations are hard to find in Ireland, and especially outside of Dublin. Instead, I relied on U.K. based TV stations such as Kerrang!and Scuzz, and sometimes tuned in to the more diverse BBC Radio 1, albeit online, or on the car radio on the odd trip to the north. Kerrang! offered an online radio station too that helped to fill the void, but I didn’t always have a reliable Internet connection at home in rural Leitrim.
Truth be told, I only discovered TXFM last summer, through an ad in Hot Press. I felt like I’d finally found my musical haven and tuned in as frequently as possible, via my dodgy home Wi-Fi and the odd burst of mobile data. I’d finally found a station I could connect with and enjoy, run by some cool and interesting folk I could learn a lot from — presenters who could teach, inspire and influence young music fans like me through the glorious medium of radio.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not implying that there’s anything wrong with liking or playing chart or mainstream music, either. But the Irish airwaves are crying out for a little diversity. For instance, Ed Sheeran’s second album, x, remained in the top of the Irish charts for 53 weeks straight — yes, an entire year — from it’s release in 2014 until June 2015. Check the Irish album charts today, in March 2016, and you’ll find x is sitting at number seven still. He’s a great and talented musician, but there’s only so many times an hour, let alone every day for a year, that one can listen to Thinking Out Loud on their lunch hours, or commutes to work.
We are slower than our neighbours in the U.K. when it comes to picking up new music. And with the music industry becoming a whirlwind of online streams and YouTube clicks, over actual record sales, the charts are falling victim to the same artists over and over, with only the biggest names making the levels of sales required to nab chart positions. Sure, there’s the odd new artist sprinkled here and there amongst the Top 40, usually accompanied by whatever the latest fad song is, but they seldom fall outside of the pop/dance bracket. The sad thing is, outside of homegrown names like The Coronas and Kodaline, there’s little room for other genres on the Irish charts.
The death of TXFM lies heavy on the hearts of Irish music fans today, because within it’s two years on air, it garnered a loyal and adoring following, and provided the hungry Irish audience with a go-to indie station. It was a breath of fresh air amid the abundance of Top 40 devotees. Not only that, but TXFM regularly championed new Irish bands that the bigger stations had yet to even hear of. So to have that taken away from us, and for that bleak void to burst open again, is pretty devastating indeed.
We can only hope another bunch of passionate music fans take it upon themselves to embrace the audience left behind, and keep the spark alive. So long, TXFM, and thanks for all the music.