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Montana Homegrown Radio

Seth Ward  |  Friday Dec. 1st, 2017

Dirk Alan is on a mission to connect Montana’s musicians with local audiences. After spending years as a working musician and talent scout in large cities on the West Coast, he returned home to Bozeman to find himself “blown away by the plethora of talent” playing low-profile gigs at the now countless coffee shops, breweries and dive bars around the valley.

Those venues offer local players new outlets for their music, and the owners are often eager to be known for supporting unique talent. But, he knows from experience that “the pay is low compared to Seattle,” for example, and “there isn’t the population here” to regularly fill those rooms in a way that would encourage an up-and-coming performer to quit his or her day job.

Local radio is also diminished as a platform for promoting those acts. As a kid, Dirk recalls “my dad managed a local radio station called KXXL.” His father encouraged local performers and featured them on the air. “No one does that anymore.” The summer festival circuit is “huge, and there is real money to be made there,” but that can be a daunting step for performers who don’t yet have the name recognition and industry connections to make it to those stages.

After soaking in the realities of the current Bozeman scene, Alan decided to start a new platform for local musicians looking to expand their presence. This summer he put out a call for talent on Craigslist, and started recording a podcast he calls Montana Homegrown Radio.

While it takes advantage of the low-overhead of podcasting, the format is very much based on an older style of radio interview. The sessions are unscripted, and are “basically a bull session with live music in between.” It’s not uncommon for the listener to hear bottles of local brews casually clinking in the background. While he is personally drawn to what he calls “spontaneous, organic, hole-in-the-wall” type singer-songwriters, Dirk is quick to extend the invitation to play to any Montana musicians of any genre who is eager to expand his or her presence.

The program’s “non-commercial, non-profit, almost invisible” virtual footprint allows for more flexibility in what can be played and discussed. It also allows him to take a chance featuring acts that have yet to break on the local scene. The goal is to boost their own confidence and connect those players with potential fans who might not be the type to pay a cover to see an act they have never heard before.

Alan hopes that as the show’s reach grows, the audience will include the very club owners and festival planners that could help his guests make the next step, finding more ways to sustain themselves as musicians. “I’m not going to make anyone a star,” he admits. But, if he can “build one more little bridge to another level,” then Montana Homegrown Radio will be a success.

The program is recorded weekly in Dirk’s home studio and posted to his website, using the free streaming service Soundcloud to host the audio. Local and regional musicians writing original music and interested in being featured on Montana Homegrown Radio are encouraged to contact Dirk through the website (montanahomegrownradio.com) or through the call for talent posted on Craigslist. 

About the Author(s)

Seth Ward

Seth is a first-generation Montanan, navigating fatherhood, marriage, business and downtown life (on a budget) in the New West. He is a freelance photographer, web designer, and aspiring artist.

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