This week we talk with Max Bowen about his great show and podcast “Citywide Blackout”, his take on the indie world landscape and what makes him tick.
Ghost: Hi Max, could you tell our readers about you and what you do?
Max: Sure, I'm the host and founder of Citywide Blackout, a weekly podcast focused on artists of all kinds. My guests include writers, filmmakers, and authors from around the world. I also cover a lot of the cons and festivals around the New England area, including Boskone, Rhode Island Comic-Con, and the Boston Asian American Film Festival.
Ghost: When did you start Citywide Blackout and what motivated you to do it?
Max: I'm friends with a lot of Boston musicians, and saw how they struggled to get any media attention for the work they did. I have a background in journalism and a love for radio, so when I saw an ad for an online station looking for new hosts, I jumped at the chance to try something new and help my pals. I started the show in 2009 and it grew over the years with new co-hosts and an expanding array of guests. What started as a 15-minute music spot is now a two-hour program featuring artists of all kinds.
Ghost: Did you have prior experience in radio before that?
Max: None and was in fact almost pathologically shy through high school. It's ironic that I have hosted a show for so many years.
Ghost: What is your first radio-related memory?
Max: In 2009 I spent some time in the Philippines as part of a professional exchange program. As I said before, I have a background as a print journalist, and so got the chance to check out a lot of media in that country. I went to a couple radio stations and even got interviewed on a show. That planted the seed and when I came back, I knew I wanted to work in this field.
Ghost: Do you do live shows, or do you pre-record?
Max: My show used to be live but is now pre-recorded.
Ghost: Do you have live acts during your shows?
Max: Not right now, since it's all done over the phone or Skype, but back when it was a live show I did. I plan to get a sort of home studio set up and once that's done, some acoustic acts may be possible.
Ghost: Do you do artists interviews?
Max: Yes. I take time to research each guest to provide an in-depth interview. I focus on what's new, such as a tour or album release, but I ask some background questions as well.
Ghost: Is your show purely internet on WEMF or do you also air on FM/AM? Where can we find you?
Max: WEMF closed in 2018, and the show is now on Boston Free Radio at 10 pm on Saturdays, as well as Podbean and iTunes.
Ghost: Are you alone running the show, or do you have people helping?
Max: Right now, it's just me, but I'm always looking for new hands.
Ghost: Is the show in a special studio or are you running it from home?
Max: From home. Transitioning to a podcast forced me to learn a lot about audio equipment and I now have much of what I need for a proper home studio.
Ghost: How much time do you spend preparing your shows?
Max: About two hours per guest.
Ghost: Do you play unsigned music only or also commercial music?
Max: A mix of both. I only play music submitted for the show.
Ghost: What kind of music do you play?
Max: All kinds.
Ghost:What kind of music do you like?
Max: Again, all kinds. My Spotify playlist is varied, to say the least.
Ghost: How do you find the music you play?
Max: Mostly people send me music, but I go to shows a couple times a week and will often ask the artists if I can add their music to my program.
Ghost: Do you have sponsors? How is the show funded?
Max: Since it's a podcast, funding isn't really an issue, though I bought most of my equipment. I'm always looking for sponsors, though, as that would help me grow the program.
Ghost: Could you tell us about your typical radio day?
Max: That's a tough one. I do the show here and there, so there's no real typical day. But each day I go through my e-mail and schedule interviews or add music to my show library.
Ghost: What is your feeling about streaming platforms, like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.?
Max: It opens the doors to discover new music, but it also hurts artists, since they don't get paid properly. It's a decent idea that needs work.
Ghost: How much presence do you have on social media? Do you think it's important to be there and what do you do to promote your radio?
Max: I'm pretty active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I post a lot of photos, updates on the show, etc. I think it's essential that one have a social media presence.
Ghost: What advice would you give to unsigned artists who would like to submit to your show?
Max: Be professional. Don't just send me your song, tell me who you are, what you do, and include relevant links to your site and social media pages. Sending me a song and barely any info is the best way for me to ensure I delete it.
Ghost: What advice would you give to unsigned artists for their career?
Max: Just keep working. It's hard to make your art into a career, but if you love it, you need to keep plugging away.
Ghost: Do you have any issues with the world of unsigned music, or the world of internet radios, things that bugs you and/or you'd like to talk about?
Max: No, not really.
Ghost: Do you think you get enough support from your listeners and the artists you play?
Max: They often share my posts and talk about me on their own pages, so I'd say yes, I do.
Ghost: Any band/artist that has impressed you last year that you would like people to know about?
Max: My friend Otto's band Dust Prophet. They're new and amazing. Check them out on https://dustprophet.com/
Ghost: Any plans for Citywide Blackout and Max Bowen in 2019? Or beyond?
Max: Now that the show is a podcast, I'm going to work to see what else I can do in terms of growing the program or maybe making it into a paying gig.
Ghost: Anything else you'd want to add?
Max: Yeah, my hands are sore from all this typing. But seriously, keep checking out new art. It keeps life fresh and interesting.
Links to Max Bowen