Ten years ago today, February 6, 2005, was my first show as an intern at Mountain Stage. I drove that morning from Radford, Va. to begin officially logging hours for a 460-hour internship to complete my Music Business degree. It was a Super Bowl Sunday - Eagles vs. Patriots - and Mountain Stage had a characteristically diverse line-up for the live audience in Charleston that night: Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, Hot Club of Cowtown, Chuck Prophet, The Duhks and Amos Lee .
At that time, Mountain Stage was just two years removed from publishing a coffee-table style book, “20 Years of Mountain Stage,” and later that year we would record episode #600. I remember working with Executive Producer Andy Ridenour, my supervisor and co-founder of the show, to convince the higher-ups that it was important for our show to have a presence on MySpace. I wrote the show’s first blog, which wasn't much of one, in June 2008. There was a podcast, but it was not that easy to find and not nearly as popular then. If memory serves me well the most popular episodes enjoyed around 1,000 downloads.
However, it was clear that the days when Mountain Stage only aired on FM radio and then disappeared into thin air were officially over, never to return again. Prior to that “on demand listening” meant listening demanded that your radio be on or you missed out. The only barometer for “Digital Engagement” was who put you in their Top 8.
A lot of things are still the same with the show ten years later. While there have been two retirements, there is remarkably little turnover in our small but dedicated staff. The average age has lowered slightly, as we’ve added new support staff and even a new band member. Our host and artistic director Larry Groce is still leading our team, including our Chief Engineer and co-founder Francis Fisher.
Mountain Stage has been recorded on every commercially available format, including reel to reel, DAT Tape, MINI DISC and CD. We’ve settled on our fifth and sixth storage formats, recording the show in multi-track format directly onto portable hard drives and USB thumb drives. FINALLY no more MiniDiscs.
It’s exciting that now there are more ways than ever to hear Mountain Stage. Individual guest segments are at npr.org/mountainstage. Now our podcast is heard by thousands each week on iTunes. We get to engage with our listeners in lots of different ways that didn’t exist in 2005. While we have resigned our MySpace page for the time being, we share exclusive content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and most recently SoundCloud, just about every day. Lots of people still “listen every week”on radio. But they are also listening at any time, all the time, in one way or another. Even when they aren’t listening, we’re doing our best to get our content in front of their eyes and to their ears.
Ten years ago no one was in charge of digital anything. Now, at least to some degree, we’re all in digital. Our web producer Josh Saul puts his fantastic photography on our Tumblr, as well as the occasional song, video or wrestling meme. Our Associate Producer Vasilia Scouras often helps Josh by sharing unique backstage glimpses on our Instagram, and we all work our hashtag magic on Twitter (except Francis).
In the radio world, Mountain Stage is called a “legacy program.” If you’ve been following the show for any amount of time, it shouldn’t surprise you that we are still marking “firsts” in our third decade. In December 2013 we offered live video of our 30th anniversary show via YouTube for the first time ever.
Last year we launched a 24 hour stream of classic Mountain Stage content- just go to radio.mountainstage.org, sit back and enjoy. We doubled the amount of programming on West Virginia Public Broadcasting by adding “Mountain Stage After Midnight,” where we highlight classic episodes overnight on weekends. We also had ALL ACCESS, our first fundraiser to help make our 30+ year history available to everyone. Find out more on that here.
I am proud of what we’ve been able to do in the last ten years and the opportunities for us to continue to grow are exciting. If you have never been to a show, or if it’s been a while since you went, I encourage you to come see us, make a weekend of it, and bring a friend. You’ll be glad you did. If you can’t come see us, I hope you’ll listen Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. here in West Virginia, on one of the many stations that carry the show across the country, or get a podcast. However you listen, look or like, just know that we are grateful for all our listeners and each and every audience member. Without you, there would be no Mountain Stage, and we never forget that.
Here's to another 10 years and then some.