10 Questions with ... David Christensen
July 18, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started at Oregon Public Broadcasting nearly 30 years ago, as a weekend host, later producing jazz and classical programs, training new announcers and eventually acting as MD. In 2007, I started an online music channel, opbmusic, which has grown into a multi-platform service (audio, video). It's eclectic, with a focus on Portland's music scene.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I was deeply into in radio as a kid. I loved Wolfman Jack! My seventh-grade-best-friend Dean and I would make "radio" programs on cassette, which were basically the two of us doing "play by play" about sports or narrating a disaster of some kind. Godzilla would always turn up. I stumbled into a part-time radio job in college and that changed everything I'd planned to do with my life.
2. Oregon Public Broadcasting is both TV and radio. What kind of resources does that kind of organization offer you?
OPB enjoys great trust and engagement from the community and that's probably the biggest resource to have. It's allowed us to explore and experiment. We have a great audio engineer who mixes our recordings. We have a full-sized television studio and opbmusic makes the most of that space. Some of our sessions and events have also been broadcast on our television network, which is exciting. Television still has a very large reach.
3. Tell us about opbmusic and how that came about?
Around 2005, OPB's COO started talking with me about creating a second broadcast channel for music. OPB was moving towards (and has now become) a primary source for journalism in Oregon; we thought there was an opportunity to create a contemporary, non-commercial (Triple A) music channel. There is so much interest - in Portland and elsewhere - about what sorts of bands this city incubates. When we launched opbmusic in 2007, it was around the same time NPR Music and The Current (KCMP/Minneapolis) began.
4. In addition to a streaming service and HD-2 channel, you also broadcast correct?
We're about streaming and mobile. We simulcast overnights on an FM station in Salem, about 50 miles south of Portland.
5. What is the programming philosophy for opbmusic?
It's a fantastic time to be a music fan as there is simply more new music than you can get to. And the number of choices is overwhelming. We try to present the most interesting, outstanding new music that loosely fits into the alternative/indie universe, put it alongside enduring music that brought us here, and keep it grounded in the Northwest. About a third of what we play is local or from the Pacific Northwest.
6. How would you describe the music mix?
It's a progressive, West Coast kind of Triple A. But to listeners that label means nothing. If you like Spoon, Radiohead, St. Vincent we're for you. If you mourned Prince and David Bowie, thought a new Sleater-Kinney record was a big deal, and like to keep tabs on bands in Portland, we're for you. We play rock, we play hip-hop, interesting pop-leaning acts, and folk-influenced bands which Portland has a lot of.
7. You are now part of the VuHaus network. How has that been going?
It's great. I love that public radio stations are curating this new online space, and that public radio is kind of inventing a new "look and feel" for intimate music performances in studios. That was unimaginable not too long ago.
8. I imagine the video production facilities available at OPB must be amazing!
Yes, but at the same time, what's happening is that work flows and platforms are changing to allow us to be more nimble. OPB-TV works with field cams rather than studio cams, and increasingly with other, lighter gear. With opbmusic, we're trying to do things with more of a film aesthetic using DSLR cameras, and it's all file-based so we can edit anywhere with a laptop.
9. What is your biggest challenge at the opbmusic?
It's a long road to build an online music platform from scratch. In a linear broadcast world, there's some truth to "if you build it, they will come." In an online environment, it takes volition - clicking a link or starting an app - to hear or watch your work. You never stop trying to reach new people, and building awareness for what you have to offer.
10. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
You never stop learning. It's also one of the best things.
Last non-industry job:
Ha! Coding (badly) software at a small manufacturing plant
First record ever purchased:
Wings Over America. Nothing better than a three-LP live record! It took a lot of paper route money to buy it.
Probably The Police, circa 1980.
Favorite band of all-time:
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Things that involve water: fishing, swimming, snorkeling, rafting ...