It’s a less filled room then before and there’s substantial amount of noise coming from the other side of the wall that separates the plenary from the rest of the conference.

David Shields takes the floor; he wants me to identify him so that we can have a drink later. When I say me, I mean the room, though I think I shall track him down anyway because that what you do at conferences.

Shields is a funny man, partially as he introduces Rebecca Barnard our first speaker of this plenary and the APRA Ambassador to the CBAA, he teases that Barnard may just sing a song for us, something that she soon will. Barnard takes to the stage and starts.

“My father was a musician, he started playing drums when he was 12 and played up until he was 76, when he died. “Barnard starts. I wont lie, I’m engaged.

Barnard then launches into a strew of strange jokes that get the audience laughing with an honest joy, they clearly hold Barnard dear.

“As a artist these days, it’s a lot of hard work, to put on a show nowadays, me with a band with three other people you’ve got to pay. You’ve got to pay the band, you’ve got to pay venue, you’ve got to pay lights. It’s tough, duh, you know all this.” Barnard

Barnard engages with the passion of the crowd, she loves that there are so many community stations present, amazed that people from Queensland and Tasmania have community stations.

“I’ve been given the brief to humanize APRA…. It’s so important to us Artists, I got a APRA check for $400 the other day, and it doesn’t seem like much, but it saved my ass.” Barnard 

“I don’t know how much you pay, but it seems to be that both you and APRA are working for the same thing. We are both trying to look after independent artist.” Barnard

Barnard sits casually on a stool next to the panel and not at all behind it.

She’s dressed appropriately for the day’s weather and looks comfortable on stage, but maybe not relaxed. It’s clear that the topic is one that truly means something to her and she wants us to care too. Often she makes a joke about the topic, half defensive half delighted. It’s hard to read her, but I’m enjoying the experience.

Once a little into her speech and brought her guitar the stage, she livens up. Casually joking off topic while strumming the cords with a peaceful glee.

‘I made 7 cents in Italy, but I don’t think that warrants a tour’ Barnard

Barnard then starts up on her first song ‘Born in a Shirt’. It’s about a Russian girl, who was born lucky.

It’s a simply folksong, but all the best ones are. As she starts to play I start to feel the air conditioning in the conference room turn on and I’m suddenly more relaxed.

Most people are watching, perhaps transfixed, perhaps not. It’s not for me to assume. Occasionally, one will turn their head as a keen photographer goes up for the close up pic, or as tweeter does their thing. Regardless of these few distractions, it is by far the most relaxed the room has been for the entire convention.

“She’s beautiful, she is beautiful’ Barnard

As the song is winding down I feel one last fresh gush of cool air from the air con. The crowd clap, more then a few cheer and some even hoot.( And for once they are not the people sitting next to me).

Again, clearly combatable with her presence on stage, Barnard makes a joke about how the single is recorded and that everyone should play it on their own stations.

The playing starts on her second number, which Barnard dedicates to the community broadcasters, they eat it up, as they would. Community broadcasters love any attention they get.

“You are loved, you are loved, You are really really loved” Barnard

The crowd, again, sits in silence, possibly enjoying the first moments of the conference where they can relax for more then a breath. It is good for them.

Barnard finish’s her second track with simply a rock ‘n’ roll cry of ‘APRA! Community Radio!”

And then she takes a seat behind the desk on the stage, others take the stage and the panel begins.

The Panel:

Phil Wales – RRR

Owen McKern – PBS

Rebecca Barnard – Artist

Seth Jordan – CBAA

Chris Johnson – AMRAP

The panel opens with the struggle that is befalling AMRAP right now and it’s funding dilemma. Perhaps Seth Jordan sums it up best when he says ‘It’s cultural vandalism at worst and gross ignorance and negligence at best ‘

Chris Johnson, the general manager of AMRAP, leads the discussion with a breakdown of what AMRAP is and what role it has played with community radio. His angry is freely shown and he wears the constant frustration of AMRAPs battle on his face. His speech is laced with what can only be described as ferocity and edged scorn. The man is clearly ready to get dirty to save the company he loves and he wants you to know it. I instantly respect him for this.

Johnson then shows off the AMRAP website, taking particular pride in their intensely wide and diverse catalog of local music. A slight smile crosses his face as he tells us that 1700 stations have downloaded over 10000 tracks, an undeniably impressive feat.

Johnson then plugs the AMRAP community services page, and searches for Barnard. More then a few hits come up. Barnard is quiet delighted by this. The services page also shows off a wiki of Barnard, a video of her performing and many other amazing features, all connected on this one page.

Johnson explains that he wants to give this service to every community radio station in the country that wants it, and that AMRAP only need $600,000 to make that happen. Currently they are not included in the budget.

‘We’ve got only really six weeks to go before we have to rap it up…’ Johnson

McKern expands on the $600,000 budget need. He tells us that the money is clearly there; throwing figures out to show that $8mil is going to orchestras, one with a German conductor. McKern then goes on to reiterate that one of the key reasons people listen to community radio is for local content and local music.

‘We do not get funded through the arts; I know many people think we do, but we don’t. We’re really starting to run out of time on this.’  Johnson

The conversation moves toward what people can do to help with AMRAPs

Jordan takes the mic again to ask, what can people do to help. Johnson explains the struggle tied into their methods. Telling us that AMRAP is being optimistic and not wishing to go negative, but with the indication that they will if they have too.

‘It’s the music industry; people are going to get pissed off…. I can’t hold back musicians.’ Jordon

The discussion of the panel then moves onto Australian music played on air and its exposer. Phil Wales leads with a breakdown of how a good music show is executed and crafted. Expanding further into the nature of how music lovers find the music they listen to.

“Studies show that people who bit torrent the most music, buy the most music…. But these services don’t focus on Australian music, and we do.” Wales

Wales moves the conversation onto Apps and how they present the challenge for shows to grow, to find marketable niches and to seek out content that no one else is playing.

As a listener, I want to hear people I trust and for them, holding my hand, to say ‘sure, you haven’t heard this before, but trust me’” Wales

The Panel shifts away from Apps and focus the conversation on the sourcing of new music. The Panelist don’t all agree on the same methods, arguments are given for using online sources like Last FM and Spotify. McKern believes that they can potentially bring an audience to you while Wales argues that they can limit content. Jorden simply points out that all they do is breed high rotation of limited tracks and that they have very little longevity.

“I don’t care how they’re seeking it out, I care that they ARE seeking it out. The music is the bigger picture” McKern

Barnard is asked if the growth of these web-based sources has changed the field for musicians. She speaks about the growth of non-traditional gigs like house parties, and moving away from pub and bar gigs.

“People would play 25 a head and they’ d get a album and you’d play for them in the living room’. Barnard

Barnard continues the subject of and speaks on how there is so much new music, and so consistently flowing in. She asks the panel how they deal with the constant stream of new music being sent to them.

Many of the panelists agree that they cannot keep up with the volume of music being sent to them and how it is potentially a bad thing. Examples are given of bands recording a poorly made mp3 and sending it stations to be played

“If they very first impression of a band I get is bad, if I receive something from them two years later, I’ve likely already formed an opinion on them and they might not get the recognition that they deserve.” Wales

“It becomes more quantitative and not qualitative” McKern

The panel opens up questions from the floor and immediately several people raise the question of radio quotas. The issue of, do community stations need to have an Australian music quota is made. Audience members given examples of their stations playing more then the quota demands and that they still would if the quota didn’t exists. Johnson takes to the defense of quotas, claiming that they challenge stations.

“I think they are relevant as a call to action” Johnson

Many examples are given of sources and techniques that various stations have used to meet their quotes, with praise going to local music festivals and artist run projects.

Panelists explain and expand that it’s not just listening to Australian music that helps community radio stations, but that it also builds a sense of community for the communities. A partial example is given about a band who played gigs in regional areas they previously wouldn’t have due to community station airplay.

“Your airplay inspires band to come to your area.”

Struggles of meeting quotas for genre specific stations are touched upon with examples of Christian, jazz and classical Australian content being harder to source.

A question from the floor asks what should define what is Australian music. Panelists raise the topic of new immigrants making music and whether that should be counted.  The issue of should track length tied in with quota is also explored.

“Community radio is perfect for artists who don’t fit the mold” Johnson

The panel ends.