Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Like you, over the years I have attended many, many radio conferences: NAB, Radio & Records, Public Radio Programmers (PRPD), The Conclave, even NRB, praise the Lord. My favorite is the NON-COMMvention – the annual meeting for folks working in noncommercial Triple A radio, music and related industries.

The 16th Annual NON-COMMvention is being held May 18-20 in Philadelphia. It is hosted and produced by WXPN, in association with media sponsor The Top 22 [link]. (Scroll down the see the definitive history of the NON-COMMvention.)
Dan Reed
Like the previous NON-COMMventions, conference founder and producer Dan Reed is planning meetings, guest speakers and live music showcases. The NON-COMM is held at WXPN’s World Café Live, adjacent to the station’s studios. They will be serving tasty music from breakfast until lights-out. This year’s headliners include Bonnie Raitt, The Jayhawks and Big Head Todd & the Monsters.

There are so many things to like about the NON-COMMvention: Industry panels are purposefully relevant and informative, networking is easy and collegial and it is affordable! Folks from Triple A stations pay as little as $160 and other industry folks pay $200. Complete conference details are available at [link]. 


The first NON-COMM was held in 2002. TripleARadio.com co-sponsored the NON-COMM with WFPK from 2002-2007. In 2005 conference producer Dan Reed moved to Philadelphia and WXPN.

The late TripleARadio.com writer Mike Lyons – his column was called The Forest – captured the early essence of the NON-COMMvention in 2007. The following are Mike’s words courtesy of TripleARadio.com:

Mike Lyons, Radio & Music Hero

"Hold this" asked singer-songwriter Tift Merritt.

"As you wish," I suavely replied, witnessing the lightning search for a capo in her purse. Which I was now holding.

I had been simply walking around the riverboat Dixie Belle on the Ohio River at the second NON-COMMvention when Tift and I ran into one another in a small room near the bow of the Belle.

Tift was to perform for the programmers on the boat and was rapidly trying to get herself prepared when she ran into me.


After I helped her dig the capo out of her purse, she thanked me graciously and then knocked out a terrific 20-minute set.

Her first ever performance done while bobbing up and down on a boat in the water. She nailed it.

That was how I spent my first two hours in Louisville.


Two hours just wasn't enough for Gerry Weston and Dan Reed however. Especially at a radio convention.

Gerry Weston

Dan was the PD of WFPK. Gerry was the head of the Public Radio Partnership, a homegrown Louisville operation that ran the three non-commercial FM's in the city. WFPL-FM was the NPR/All-News station. WUOL was your classical station. And WFPK was one of the best non-commercial AAA stations in the country.

But when the radio programming and trade conventions were held - the non-comm's were only slated perhaps a single two-hour panel discussion at best.
It was almost as though the increasingly successful and booming non-commercial portion of the radio business was an afterthought.

It was. To the old guard and the old habits of the radio business.
So, in 2001, Gerry and Dan established the NON-COMMvention in Louisville, to be held every May. Triplearadio.com came on board as a co-sponsor immediately.

This would be an opportunity not only for the music programmers to see and hear work by new and established artists, it would enable people to exchange stories about their funding, equipment, legal matters and trends in the field of non-commercial broadcasting. And it didn't have to be crammed into two hours on the last day of the Boulder AAA Summit.
Seelbach Hotel

The first NON-COMM in 2001 attracted just over 100 folks. It then increased dramatically during the next five years until it peaked at over 600 when the convention took place in Philadelphia in 2005. By then Dan Reed had become the MD/APD of AAA non-comm leader WXPN, the home of the successful syndicated AAA program "The World Cafe".

Now, the NON-COMMvention permanently moved to Philadelphia starting in May 2008.

Before we go - let me gather some memories of my annual trips to Louisville:


Norah Jones
Those were the words of, then newcomer, Norah Jones when the registration for the convention was, unfortunately one year, set up in the bar of the Seelbach Hotel concurrent with her debut performance on the Seelbach bar stage.

My god, you know how loud radio and record people can become, especially when reuniting for the first time in a year for many. Jones' soft, contemplative ballads simply weren't in sync with that social roar.

But after letting off her young steam, she dazzled the crowd. And made me a fan of hers forever.


The most charming rush of a performance came the next year when Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze simply went unhinged while performing his solo songs and tunes from the Squeeze catalog while dancing joyously, guitar in hand, the spirit just flowing out. Pulling mussels from a shell, sure, but Tilbrook pulled us up and down 4th Street that afternoon across from the Brown Hotel delivering one of the best, unexpected surprises I ever experienced at a convention.

Then there were the revelations. Unknowns who impressed immediately. From Tift Merritt to Mindy Smith to Nellie McKay to "who is that?" girl, Ingrid Michaelson.

Patti Smith
Oh, and then there was Keller Williams, who opened with Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta", Patti Smith, T-Bone Burnett and Patty Griffin's little poocher scrambling into my hotel room. Woof. I've had a great time with the talent in Louisville.

Weston and Reed had been on the right track. Listening to non-commercial radio in America doubled between 1994 and 2004. Fund-drives started to become shorter and more effective every year. Rotations tightened, tempo became more important and by 2004, led by the major market signals at WXPN in Philadelphia, WYEP in Pittsburgh and WFUV in New York City, AAA Non-commercial radio stations had developed a more flowing daily music presentation, away from traditional block-programming.

By 2004, commercial AAA programmers were showing up in droves to the NON-COMMvention!

One reason was that non-commercial radio was the only part of the radio industry showing growth.

Ratings were up. Fund-raising was up. New facilities were being constructed. Non-commercial AAA was playing terrific music and sincerely COMMUNICATING with a well-to-do, previously under-served audience. Baby-boomers with money and musical memories and an open mind for new artists and sounds. And it was the only radio format gaining listeners (other than Spanish).

Now, the NON-COMMvention [has moved to] Philadelphia. But we must all treasure the memories of Louisville and the people who worked so hard to make this AAA convention such a success. I'm amazed we didn't burn down either the Seelbach or the Brown.

Brown Hotel - at the corner of 4th and Broadway
For Dan Reed, he so enjoyed his life in Kentucky that he gave his, once, hometown several more years of his idea and never, ever forgot who to thank. I thank him for giving me a chance to see Churchill Downs, The Louisville Slugger factory, Hunter Thompson's boyhood home and the bridge from which Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) threw his 1960 Olympic gold medal into the Ohio river.

For Gerry Weston, one of the most talented managers in radio. (Westin is now GM of WICN in Worchester, MA.) For six years the AAA  non-commercial community has been meeting at the corner of 4th and Broadway in Louisville, what the city historians call "The Magic Corner".

—Mike Lyons

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