The arse is heard throughout the land …

… or at least in Beantown.

(Almost) every time I come out with a new Bandcamp recording, I canvass the websites of Massachusetts college and community radio stations, thinking:

Somewhere out there is a DJ who delights in declaring his complete independence and freedom from conventional radio restrictions, and his commitment to playing music you won’t hear anywhere else. I will find this guy and make him regret he was bor– … er, I mean, I will support and enable his self-declared crusade by providing him with left-of-center sounds that will truly set him apart.”

I don’t have any illusions about the amateurish and unappealing quality of the noise I make, and I’m not looking for either money or stardom.

Still, each time out, I make these modest efforts to get the “music” played. That just feels like the natural next step: Once you’ve put something out, you want to find somebody with access to a transmitter.

I have one or two inquiries out that I suspect will go nowhere. But I have already hit paydirt, from a familiar source:


A couple of days ago I sent three songs from Unlimited Pleasure (that’s the new Bandcamp jawn) to WBCA, the low-power radio station partly operated by the city of Boston.

WBCA invites Massachusetts-based artists to submit their songs, as long as they’re airplay-clean (as “Bargain Arse” is — despite its outre title, the song is an instrumental.) The station accepted three tunes from 2019’s Watts and, in fact, continues to play them at a rate of roughly two a month.

I expected they might, y’know, at least send me an email to verify I was who I said I was.

But perhaps their previous acceptance of Watts opened the door and made me a known quantity there, because “Bargain Arse” — the first of the three songs, at least alphabetically — marched right onto the airwaves last night and made itself known, only about a day or two after I submitted it.

(I suddenly have an urge to wake up James Michael Curley or Honey Fitz Fitzgerald or one of the legions of stiff-backed high-collared Cabots and Crowninshields and tell them that, not only does the city of Boston own a radio station, but it’s playing a song called “Bargain Arse.”)

The latest encounter with WBCA has rekindled a long-burning question in my mind: In a city full of terrestrial radio stations, and a world full of online broadcasters, just how many people actually listen to this particular low-powered outpost, anyway?

I’ve never found an online record that tells me. I did, once upon a time, find a terrestrial coverage map — I think in one of the station’s FCC filings. The coverage area was basically Boston, with a few chunks missed in the city proper and a few chunks of neighboring communities added. The folks whose tax dollars pay for this are the folks who get to hear it while they doze off at night.

But terrestrial coverage maps only count for one piece of the action: In the age of Internet radio, little WBCA’s potential listenership is infinite. (Sure, there’s no reason why anyone in Ho Chi Minh City would tune in to the livestream. But there’s nothing stopping them.)

So, again: Just how many ears are out there at any given moment in time?

Presumably the city of Boston tracks listenership as a means of defending or evaluating its ongoing involvement in the station. I should figure out which municipal agency controls WBCA and see if they issue an annual report of their activities. Perhaps the answer, or at least a hint of it, is there…

… or maybe not.

I have read that the city acquired its share of WBCA after the Boston Marathon bombings, intending to use it as a tool to broadcast information in case of public emergency. So maybe the station’s potential role in case of disaster is enough to justify its continued operation (on a shoestring, no doubt), and it does not need to defend its existence by reporting how many people tuned in to hear “Bargain Arse.”

That’s probably a good thing.

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