Kelley Martin Takes Back the Airwaves with Acoustic Pie
San Diego Troubadour, December 2006
by Simeon Flick
It's hard to describe exactly how or why, but the music industry has changed and continues to change at a rapid pace. The music itself has evolved in some ways, devolved in others. . . some would say it died long ago, while a few see it as having merely gone underground to reclaim its relevance. The album as an art form, like the recording industry that produced them, is also becoming obsolete in the new commerce of the post-payola iPod era. Developing technology has shifted the balance of power away from struggling major labels and into the hands of the common man; music fans can now download or trade exactly the songs they like from any particular album (often for free, to the further detriment of the artists), while others, exasperated with modern radio's subsequent inability to meet their listening needs, are stepping up on a local level and starting their own Internet radio shows and podcasts. Riding the cresting wave of a grassroots movement here in San Diego, leading an increasingly visible one-woman revolution that is successfully touting local acoustic singer/songwriters alongside well-known national favorites, is Kelley Martin and her streaming online radio station, Acoustic Pie.
"It all started out selfishly enough when I couldn't find the acoustic music I like on the radio," Martin related recently via email. "My favorite broadcast stations kept getting bought out by corporations and converted to Top 40 formats, so I started listening to Internet radio at Live365.com. Then came the digital copyright scare of 2002 and my three favorite Internet stations all stopped streaming in fear of increased licensing fees. So I did a little research, decided the situation wasn't so dire, and jumped in myself as a rookie broadcaster."
Acoustic Pie Radio launched as three repeating hours of music on July 17, 2002. The name Acoustic Pie is a hat-tip to Don McLean's American Pie, the first album she bought with her own allowance money. Martin's inaugural act of defiance was to put the nine-minute all-acoustic solo version of "American Pie" into daily rotation.
"I was so excited when I realized that other people were listening and enjoying the music as much as I was," Martin continues. "'Almost immediately I started getting fan mail, requests from listeners, and promotional CDs from artists and small record labels. Now the station has a 20-hour playlist, logs 8,000 listener hours per month, and is on track to double its listener hours within the next year. It is also the number one rated singer/songwriter station on Live365.com, which is the world's largest Internet radio network with over 6,000 independent broadcasters and a slew of professional stations covering every imaginable genre."'
Martin was also feeling concurrently dissatisfied with the lack of intimacy in the majority of mainstream live milieus, so she decided to dig deeper and find out what San Diego had to offer in the way of low-key acoustic venues.
"My first house concert was a real revelation; I went to see Berkley Hart at Meeting Grace House Concerts on June 21, 2001. They played and sang completely unplugged, with no mics or speakers, and it was pure magic. There is no better way for me to listen to live music and I was addicted. I started going to every acoustic show I could find."'
She subsequently discovered other singer/songwriters and realized that San Diego had a plethora of fine solo artists, bands, and venues whose apparent dearth of logistical consolidation was something she could, for her part, attempt to remedy. The acousticpie.com website was constructed to serve this end.
"In January of 2004, I finally started the online show calendar, which has become the most popular part of the site. I started it with the intention of supporting the station's listeners in conjunction with the local scene. It was hard work digging through all of the different newspapers and email lists and websites, so I decided that as long as I was doing all the work to identify the best singer/songwriter shows in town I might as well share the results with other fans.
"Acoustic Pie is a fan site really, an online resource for people who love the genre and who want to find high-quality shows," Martin explains. "On the site you can find a calendar of recommended concerts, links to all of the artists ever played on Acoustic Pie Radio, a featured artist, lists of Top 20 songs, links to acoustic venues with descriptions and reviews, a photo gallery of local performances, and a blog."
Over time, Martin has become aware of many others who were and are acting independently toward the same end, adding her voice to a steadily intensifying chorus of other benefactors whose aim is to attract global attention to San Diego's local acoustic scene.
As far as Martin can tell, and regardless of her own selfless efforts, the San Diego singer/songwriter scene "just keeps getting better and better." Dozens of local fans have caught the house concert bug and are hosting their favorite artists in their own living rooms. Carey Driscoll's AcousticMusicSanDiego.com series is attracting national touring artists who never used to put San Diego on their itineraries. ListenLocalSD.com's Cathryn Beeks is providing regular, well-run, citywide showcases and benefits for neophytes and veterans alike, as well as regular monthly podcasts (hosted by Idynomite.com) and online radio shows featuring local artists. Coffeehouse emcees like Hot Rod Harris of Hot Java Cafe are inspiring a steadily growing gaggle of returning fans with A-list treatment and early-running, top-notch, professional shows.
Martin is proud of the growth and consolidation that has transpired on the local music scene over the past six years, and although she is hesitant to take any credit for her contribution it is doubtful that it would be as vibrantly visible or cohesive without her steadfast efforts. Her impetus to continue running the online radio station is now less about the initial act of rebellion against an unaccommodating industry and more of a selfless return of the favor that local artists paid to her frustrated ears.
"What I really want more than anything is for San Diego to continue to grow its fan base for singer/songwriters and to see more San Diego artists getting national attention," she concludes. "Every penny and every minute of time that I invest into Acoustic Pie is directed toward that goal of generating more fans for the genre. I can't believe how lucky I am to live in a town that boasts a Carlos Olmeda and a Gregory Page. I want other people to know and love their music as much as I do and to discover the scores of other talented singer/songwriters in San Diego."
There's a revolution happening in San Diego, and thanks to people like Kelley Martin taking back the airwaves, the revolution is being podcast, broadcast, and experienced live by music fans everywhere.
San Diego Troubadour