Letter from Woodstock Nation: Community Action

Gary Chetkof with Gregg AllmanMountain Jam was never meant to be a big music festival—it started out with four bands, as Radio Woodstock’s 25th Anniversary. Yet here we are with the festival named after that great Allman Brothers’ song, on the eve of our tenth anniversary, and the end of the Allman Brothers era.

Festivals and radio have a lot in common: they’re both about community and discovery. A concert is like going out to dinner: you leave home for a few hours and then you’re back in bed. A festival is like a vacation: festivalgoers spend long days and weekends interacting with friends and other like-minded people, and it’s a whole new social experience. It’s the old-fashioned social networking that all human beings are inherently geared toward.

Terrestrial radio is a community, too. With the consolidation of radio by big corporations, for a while, radio just let the ball drop. They stopped or reduced exposing listeners to new artists, and started homogenizing the sound, playing just the hits and a lot of old classics. Other radio groups are now reacting differently and focusing on radio’s strengths, which is breaking new bands and being a source of local information and events. Radio’s getting back to its roots. At Radio Woodstock, we’re committed to live, local DJs talking to and interacting with listeners. That’s what makes radio special—the community, the special bond between the listener and the station that makes listeners want to wear the station’s T-shirt and come to its events.

Radio is still the number one way of breaking artists and making hit records, and everyone in the music business still knows it. There’s nothing like a hit single on the radio—the amount of attention it gets, and the number of new fans it can pick up. Festivals help in exactly the same way: artists play to audiences who are not there to see them, and they get exposure to a whole new fan base that they can win over.

Having music presented to you from a credible source is really important, whether that source is the radio or a festival bill. In addition to a good song, at Radio Woodstock, we want to know that that band is serious, with commitment and resources… which could be a van with gas in the tank. If we put a band on the radio, we are investing our radio resources, that coveted four-minute slot 20 times a week, and telling our listeners, “Hey, we’re playing this because we think this is special and we want this band to make it in the world.”

We’ve always focused on a real bond with our listeners and the Mt. Jammers who fork over their hard-earned dollars and commit to spending their weekend with us. We’ve never taken any of that for granted. — GARY CHETKOF

As president and owner of CHET-5 Broadcasting and Productions, Gary Chetkof owns WDST Radio Woodstock and acts as one of the New York Hudson Valley’s largest promoters of concerts, typified by Mountain Jam, where the Allman Brothers will play one of their last concerts.

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