Dave Cutbush: RTRfm

Altering the Sound: RTRfm.

Community radio station RTRfm has been a part of the Perth media industry for over 30 years. From humble beginnings in 1977 out of studios at the University of Western Australia, RTRfm has since grown into one of the most well respected media organisations in Perth and a driving force behind the local music industry.

Based in the heart of Mt Lawley, RTRfm is the station on which many local bands get their first taste of radio airplay and exposure. Local music makes up roughly 20% of the music played on the station. It also hosts numerous live music events throughout the year showcasing local acts while also raising money to keep the station on the air.

Dave Cutbush is the station’s music director, local music producer, events manager and one of the hosts of ‘Out to Lunch’.

“I started doing on air stuff in the mid 90’s with ‘Homegrown’ and some overnight programs and then progressed on to doing ‘Out to Lunch’ in the late 90’s and then did a couple of stints on the Board of Directors.”

He continues: “Then a part time position came up for an events manager and I started doing that about four years ago and three and a half years ago I got a full time position as local music producer and music director.”

The music played on RTRfm is chosen by the presenters. Dave says he will recommend CD’s for presenters to play but, the decision on what they play is up to them.

“I pull out CD’s for people, they can play them if they want to [but] they don’t have to…I help certain programs more than others. Like the ‘talks’ programs like ‘Morning Magazine’ I’ll pull out CDs for them because more often than not their skills are more interview based and not music based.”

He continues: “On the whole, presenters select the music they want to and that’s the beauty and the non-beauty [sic] of being the music director here. It’s great that people bring their [music] knowledge to the station. Sometimes I disagree with what people play but that’s the decentralised nature of the music that’s played on the station.”

By having one of his roles specifically as the local music producer, Dave has been able to increase the amount of local music and interviews with local musicians on the station.

“I’ve let them [the presenters] know how much local music is in, what’s good, what they might like and their style…There’s now far more space for local musicians to come in to play and be interviewed to promote their gig etc. People have been – on the whole – relatively receptive to me coming in and selecting local stuff to them. I didn’t want to crack the whip with people [but], I’ve been pretty firm with insisting that they play a high amount of local music.”

And in facilitating an increase in local music, bands are able to get a leg up in getting their music to a wider audience and dealing with the media.

“Young bands that are inexperienced and never really dealt with a radio station before can come to me and have a bit of practice I suppose in how they get stuff on air. It’s easy if bands are really good or really professional or they’ve got their act together or they’re confident. That kind of thing makes things easier for me to deal with and [the] presenters [too].”

He continues: “If they’ve got a product that looks, sounds and feels kind of good it’s kind of easier. If people are disorganised – I mean I’ll tell them they need lift their game to a certain extent and in time hopefully that will make it easier for them to approach other media outlets in Perth and over east and maybe even overseas so they can get more exposure with their music.”

On a wider scale, Dave also helps with interviews, CD launches and choosing the station’s weekly feature albums including the local feature. The station has also been able to increase the number of live music events held throughout the year.

“When I started we only had a couple of events. We had In The Pines and a couple of sporadic events but now there’s a dozen really good fundraising events throughout the year that don’t only help out the station but help bands promote themselves.”

He continues: “I get calls from bands and solo artists all the time wanting to play at our events. They’re great things; they great exposure on the station and through the press etc. So that’s a really good spring board for young bands.”

For three years, Dave’s position as local music producer was partially funded by a grant from the Department of Culture and the Arts. The funding ceased in April this year.

“The nature of that funding was that it was a sliding scale downwards and we [RTRfm] worked it out so that I could continue in this position without funding from the West Australian Government. They did a great job in trying to build my position and also encourage me and the station to get more local music on the station.”

He continues: “It was a great initiative and it worked really well and I’m still here and my position is [wholly] funded by the station.”

Dave says he does not believe his position could have been developed had the station not received that initial funding.

A lover of West Australian music Dave says he sees a great future for it and its place on RTRfm. With the progress the station has made over the last few years, the only way is up.

“I’ve been supporting West Australian music for as long as I’ve been allowed to go to pubs, and even before. I see a great future for it and I know that RTRfm will continue supporting local artists more than any other radio station.”

Official RTRfm website…

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Copyright (C) 2008 Christina Ballico.
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