All about Three D Radio and Kpopalypse’s Radiothon

Astute and observant caonimas who regularly listen to the Kpopalypse radio show will note that every year I do one particular show where I talk a lot about listeners giving the radio station money and on that show I also give away a ton of my k-pop collection to people who do so.  If you’ve ever wondered what that’s all about, this is the post for you!

[Note: all views expressed in this article are Kpopalypse’s views only and do not represent those of Three D Radio as a whole.  Also it’s well-documented that the Kpopalypse website is full of shit very subjective and sometimes satirical.  Please read with this in mind.]


A QUICK AND DIRTY AND PROBABLY COMPLETELY INCORRECT HISTORY OF RADIO IN ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA

Until the recent advent of digital radio, there were two types of radio signal, AM (Amplitude Modulation) and FM (Frequency Modulation).  AM radio has been with humans since the 19th century, and FM is slightly newer, having been developed in the 1930s.  You can read about the differences in more detail here if you care, but the basic differences that matter the most in practical terms from a listener’s perspective are:

  • AM (Amplitude Modulation) radio has poor sound quality and only broadcasts in mono (one channel), but has a very long broadcast range that can stretch for hundreds of kilometers depending on radio tower positioning, weather, time of day or night, etc.  This makes AM signal ideal for transmitting information where the sound quality isn’t critical, but reaching the maximum amount of listeners is beneficial.  Therefore AM radio tends to get used these days for talkback radio, sportscasting, emergency broadcasting, and so forth – broadcasts where the primary content is the spoken word.
  • FM (Frequency Modulation) radio has a crappy range and one poorly-placed hill or concrete tunnel between you and a radio tower is enough to fuck your signal.  However FM radio has the advantage of much crisper sound quality, plus the benefit of being able to broadcast in stereo (two channels).  This makes FM signal ideal for transmitting content where range is less important but sound quality and crispness of radio reception for those in the receiving zone is the most important factor.  Therefore FM radio tends to get used more for music.

Once these inventions gained popular currency, most major cities in the western world had solidified their radio format so they had broadcasts on both AM and FM radio.  Back in the 1970s, in the rusted out snake-ridden dustbowl lovely sunny city of Adelaide, Australia (where I live) the radio landscape therefore looked like this:

  • A crapton of radio stations on the AM band devoted to sports, talkback, religion and other boring shit.
  • The FM “commercial pop” radio station that played western (and rarely, Australian) pop music
  • The FM “commercial rock” radio station that played western (and rarely, Australian) rock music

In 1979 some people decided to start Three D Radio, as an alternative to all of the above (except that it was called 5MMM back then for some reason and changed its name to Three D Radio later, that’s a long story which I won’t go into here but I’ll keep calling it Three D Radio for simplicity’s sake).  It was decided:

  • There’s a lot of weird interesting new music that other Adelaide radio stations won’t touch, let’s play some of it.
  • Australian artists never get any fucking airplay, so let’s make an effort to play some more of them.
  • Other radio stations also play very little female content.  Let’s play some music that women make.
  • Local Adelaide artists DEFINITELY get NO FUCKING AIRTIME ANYWHERE AT ALL EVER so we’ll play that too.
  • If people in local bands give to us “demo tapes” (unreleased recordings), we’ll even play those, even if the sound quality might be wanting.
  • Because this is a cause that’s in the public interest of expanding musical culture, instead of carrying tons of annoying advertising, let’s try to get the government to pay for all this.  That way, we wouldn’t have to play what record labels and advertisers told us to, thus defeating the purpose of this project.

Crazily, the government of the time actually agreed that this was a good idea (would never happen now amirite), and thus Three D Radio was born to much fanfare and general happiness as we were all saved from complete radio boredom and the people of Adelaide actually had something to listen to that didn’t suck.  All the musicians in Adelaide were also happy because finally they would get on the radio somewhere.  At this time I was barely a toddler so I only cared about coloured block play time, but I would care about this more later.

HOW I GOT INVOLVED IN THREE D RADIO

Fast forward to 1996 and I’m in one of those “indie pop” bands that plagued the 1990s like a herpes sore on a grunge singer’s lips.  My band is being interviewed on Three D Radio, on a program called “Rock & Roll High School” (yes, probably named after the Ramones song).  On this program – you guessed it – high school kids were the DJs.  It was a cool program because although young people’s music taste sometimes does suck a llama’s smelly ass, the young people drawn to the Three D Radio environment were more erudite and woke individuals who were more into groovy emerging stuff like my band of course.  However as really young people with little to no public speaking or technical experience, they were also awful at actually announcing songs, driving the desk, and all that other basic DJ kind of stuff.  I looked at these kids and thought “it’s really awesome that they’re having my band on and I’m very grateful, but they’re also really bad at actually being DJs… in fact, I could probably do a way better job than this and I’m not even a DJ myself… hang on, why aren’t I?”

After the interview was over, I went up to some of the other staff there and said “hey, how do you become a DJ in this place?” and I got the response – “sign up to this list, wait several eons, and when we’re ready we’ll do an information session with you and then maybe put you through a training course”.  Several eons passed, and then the planets aligned and I eventually did the information session and training course required.

During the training course and subsequent “get your feet wet on someone else’s show” period, I got to know the person who was doing a weekly late-night radio show called The Vanishing Point (no, probably not named after the movie), which was devoted to “experimental music”, which was a concept defined loosely but basically meant “imagine the most batshit fucking insane crazy music you’ve ever heard, and then go several steps further, that’s what gets played”.  The regular DJ liked having an offsider and so I just kept doing his show with him, and then occasionally without him as he wouldn’t show up some weeks.  His occasional non-appearances gradually became more and more frequent until the point where he effectively phased himself out of the show and it was essentially mine.  Except it really wasn’t – the show was never my idea or concept, I was just the latest person in a fairly long line of DJs to take the show on board.  I felt a duty of care to uphold the values of the show so I never changed the format radically.  The Vanishing Point was active since pretty much the birth of the radio station (it was originally called “Osmosis” according to internal Three D Radio folklore) and I helmed it from 1997 to 2012 – 15 years of late-night radio, and due to my high determination levels I think I only called in sick or couldn’t make a show during that period on maybe half a dozen occasions.

In 2012 I decided to stop doing the show, as I was starting to lose interest in the music genre, mainly because it wasn’t producing much new of interest to me anymore so I’d keep diving back into “old favourites”, making the shows probably less interesting to listeners.  Sensing that I wasn’t upholding my duty to be an awesome DJ, I handed control of the show over to someone else.  The Vanishing Point now continues under the helm of Three D Radio’s Mike B and is still going strong at the time of writing, weirder than ever!

THE BIRTH OF THE KPOPALYPSE RADIO SHOW

Looking for something different to explore, I started the Kpopalypse radio show in April 2012, a show that couldn’t be more polar-opposite to The Vanishing Point in musical genre and style.  I modelled the new show loosely on another Three D Radio show, The Doo-Wop Corner, a show devoted to the “doo-wop” pop music movement of the 1950s.  This show, helmed by Carmen, has lots of rapid-fire short songs and lots of talking, you can’t help but listen to it and get an education in the music, it’s an interesting show even if you don’t like the music style whatsoever.  As k-pop and doo-wop are similar styles (think of doo-wop as what k-pop would sound like if it was in made in the US and Europe in the 1950s and vocal performance actually mattered) I thought that a similar brisk format would work for my own show.

In terms of fulfilling the “social contract” on Three D Radio, Kpopalypse has the following aims:

  • People who are not aware of the breadth of k-pop (most non-Asian Australians know “Gangnam Style” and little else) get to find out more about how there is this parallel universe of pop music that they have never heard of before, and which sometimes has good songs.
  • People who are aware of k-pop but NOT aware of Three D Radio get to find out that there is a radio station that isn’t ad-encrusted bullshit, where DJs actually get to choose the songs that they play (you wouldn’t believe how rare that is globally in radio) and that has specialist shows that will cater to their special needs as listeners.  Who knows, some of these listeners may also find other shows on Three D Radio to be of their liking, but if not, they’ll at least remember that someone is out there doing it differently, just for them.

The show has surpassed all expectations and will continue until I die, I get bored of it, Adelaide becomes uninhabitable for humans to live, or someone in position of authority pulls the pin on it.  All of these events are probably inevitable at some point but my incredibly reliable and infallible super Boram ESP powers don’t see any of them happening anytime soon.

RADIOTHON, WHAT IT IS AND WHY YOU SHOULD SUBSCRIBE (OR NOT)

Nowadays the landscape of radio is different to what it was in 1979.  Back when Three D Radio started, there were relatively few FM stations, and governments liked to be seen to be nice folks and to fund cool things like radio station alternatives.  These days there are many many more FM radio stations in Adelaide, plus radio podcasting on the Internet, and governments don’t see it as a huge imperative to fund what is now just one out of a vast selection of radio stations.  Furthermore, there is a lot more Australian and female musical content being played in Australia on the radio now, even on the most commercial stations, so Three D Radio’s aim to “diversity the airwaves” is arguably less relevant now than it used to be, with the battle for demographic diversity having largely been won (although the almost total ignoring of local Adelaide music by Adelaide radio definitely remains a reality).  As a result, government funding to Three D Radio is minimal and isn’t enough to support the radio station’s activity.  However we still don’t want to take advertising, as this would heavily compromise the airplay content (Three D Radio does take a few ads but usually only for local venues and events related strictly to local Adelaide music).  Hence we ask listeners instead to subscribe to the radio station, by giving a yearly donation, and in return we give those listeners some cool stuff:

  • The latest “Depth Charge” CD, a compilation of Adelaide artists, many of whom meet required standards
  • An awesome Three D Radio sticker (no really, it is awesome)
  • A hard copy of the program guide
  • A discounter card so you can get discounts from local retailers if you live in Adelaide
  • A warm fuzzy feeling, knowing you’re helping to keep Three D Radio on the air
  • Oh and you go into a draw to win some shit, the content of which changes each year

I acknowledge that these cool things, as awesome as they undoubtedly are, may or may not be relevant for you.  If you are one of those one-eyed freaks who only cares about k-pop and nothing else, you probably won’t want the local band CD (you sad, sad person – I pity you).  If you’re not living in Adelaide or planning to visit, you definitely will have absolutely no use for the discounter card.  The program guide is online so while a hard copy is nice, do you really need one, probably not.  Maybe you’re a complete nerd so you don’t care about the incredible cachet of cool that rocking a Three D Radio sticker on your car, skateboard or computer laptop will give you.  Maybe you’re also a loser at life who never wins anything so you have no need for a competition draw you’ll surely lose, plus maybe you’re a nihilistic scumbag who doesn’t care about warm fuzzy feelings because no amount of niceness and k-pop aegyo GIFs can penetrate the depths of your dark, tormented soul.

Because I acknowledge this may be the reality for many listeners, each year on top of the above, I also give away large chunks of my k-pop collection to each listener who agrees to subscribe to the station during Radiothon but only if they do it by ringing the station, while my show is being broadcast (don’t use the website’s form, you actually have to ring up to get my giveaways).  The subscription is expensive, but often the combined value of what I’m giving away to each listener is actually more expensive, so this way each willing subscriber actually comes out with a net profit, especially once all the other stuff listed above is factored in.  This way, people if they wish can choose to subscribe out of their own rational self-interest as k-pop fans, rather than the goodness of their heart (which can never be relied upon, especially with k-pop fans).  Keep in mind however that if you do choose to subscribe, getting the goodies takes a long time, as volunteers are posting it out bit-by-bit, so be patient.  The chances of your favourite k-pop group disbanding before you receive the package of stuff is actually pretty high, but do follow up with me if you haven’t gotten anything after a few months, because admin is good but it is once again volunteer so it isn’t perfect, but I don’t mind chasing them up on your behalf.

More information about exactly what you get and how to subscribe is always listed at the Three D Radio website during Radiothon time, and I also talk about it extensively on-air during the Radiothon edition of the radio show.  Should you subscribe?  That’s up to you.  The money goes to the radio station, not to me personally, it has no bearing on the Kpopalypse blog itself (this makes it different from the Kpopalypse Patreon which goes directly to Kpopalypse for caonima action purposes), and while I think that it’s definitely good if you do subscribe, I’m definitely not interested in forcing anyone to – do it only if you really want to, and see personal value in it for yourself.  This post isn’t about trying to persuade you, it’s just background information so that people who wonder why I turn into an annoying human advert for one week of every year on the radio show understand what the fuck is actually going on.  Hopefully you enjoyed this post, and Kpopalypse will return with more posts soon!

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