10 Questions with ... Bob Boilen
May 7, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Born in Brooklyn ... lover of music ... spent a lot of time with a transistor radio under my pillow and records by my bedside. Started working in record stores (Waxie Maxies in Washington, D.C.) when I was 19ish. Became a store manager working 48 hours a week while a psych major and later a business major in college. Dropped out of college and became a warehouse manager for Waxie Maxie's and a buyer for imports. Quit my record store days to become a musician ... bought a synthesizer in 1979 and was asked to join a new forming band. Tiny Desk Unit was the band. I started a record label with friends and business partners, toured, booked show: we were first band to play 9:30 Club in D.C. and put out two records. Self-taught composer for dance and theater. Performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival. Wrote an early piece using sampling in the early '80s. NPR did a story on my music ... and five years later quit my TV production job and hoped for work at NPR. One year later I was miraculously directing All Things Considered. Conceived All Songs Considered in 1999 with some help from NPR staff. Show launched in January 2000. Started to broadcast live concerts in 2005 and a podcast of our weekly show later that year ... soon a blog, then Tiny Desk Concerts, a 24/7 stream and now I'm typing this.
1. Tell us about the evolution of All Songs Considered.
I used to pick music between news stories for All Things Considered, people liked it, then there was the Internet. I woke up one morning and thought a show on the Internet, based on that music, would be pretty great ... so that's how it started (January, 2000), evolving into a passionate show about all sorts of music with co host Robin Hilton.
2. How has that informed the broader NPR Music initiative?
NPR producers have always had a passion for music: the stories on the news shows over the years have, to some degree, kept our audience informed on new music and favorite legendary figures. All Songs Considered just took that ball and ran with it. But there's such a wide scope of music ideas out there from stations and within NPR, we needed a broader way to present it. NPR Music is the vehicle to make that all happen. At All Songs Considered, we try and turn people onto music they can fall in love with ... That's probably the NPR Music mission too.
3. What is the driving force behind your blog?
Our never-ending love of discovery.
4. You partner with many Triple A stations for content and for the live music experience. Tell us more about that.
The public radio spectrum isn't all just news and information. Several NPR members stations fall into the Triple A category, and we love to work with them to bring special concerts and festivals to the rest of the system. For example, WFUV in the Bronx and WKSU's Folk Alley play integral roles in our Newport Folk Festival coverage. NPR Music simply couldn't do what it does without the expertise and energy of our partner stations.
5. What aspects of the Internet have worked best for you?
You name it. We started our show as a multimedia show in 2000. We like live events, live chats, live concerts, weekly half-hour shows, video performances behind my desk in venues, social media and our quarter- million Twitter followers, blog writing, puzzles, audience-driven shows ... this list is only limited by our imagination.
6. How is the mobile dimension coming into play?
It makes it so we're everywhere and for our loving audience, that works out well.
7. What part of your job do you like best? Least?
I like finding new talent and putting them on All Songs Considered. What I like least is not having enough time to hear it all.
8. Do you foresee the online experience totally overshadowing music discovery on broadcast radio in the future?
That happened for me a dozen years ago. If you lived in Washington you'd know that music radio is all but dead. A few great shows on WAMU is about all I can pick up in my car. Some cities are lucky they have great noncommercial music radio and I think there will be a soft spot for that as long as they are leaders in what they do. I don't think anyone cares where the sound comes from as long as there's a strong voice behind it.
9. You are also a musician-- how has that informed what you do for NPR?
I can have a conversation with an artist and understand the creative process, understand the tech and I'd like to think I have a handle on the artist temperament.
10. What career path would you be following had it not been for this industry?
Last non-industry job:
First record ever purchased:
Meet The Beatles
A cover band in the Catskills singing 'Michelle'
Favorite band of all-time:
The band that made that cover song called 'Michelle'
What do enjoy doing in your spare time?
Quel est 'spare time'?