Ready To Raise

16 August 2012 | 10:04 am | Andy Snelling

"If you are in two minds about why you should support this place, have a listen to other media, commercial media - if you’re okay with that, then that’s okay, but if you’re not, that’s the reason RTRFM is so important."

That time of the year when Perth's local-music-loving radio station RTRFM goes into overdrive is one day away. After bringing us staple music festivals and events such as In The Pines, Fremantle Winter Music Festival, Seriously Sound System and the forever-popular Quiz Night, the time is now upon us to offload some coin for Radiothon. It's a tough gig asking your listeners to hand over their hard-earned cash, and the RTR office is all heads down, butts up as the wheels grind into motion and the presenters practice their convincing tones.

Yet during these times of strain, the forever-affable Peter Barr seems as relaxed as ever. After all, he's confident the station's listeners love RTR as much as he does. “There are loads and loads of them [listeners] - it's growing every day, they're brilliant, wonderful people. I know each and every one of them personally by name; there's Aaron… Aarom… and it goes on from there… down to… Zyclops Zyclopsian.”

You might think that the man who arrives at the station at 5am every morning to produce and bring you high energy, get-up-and-go breakfast radio from 6 till 9am before producing the three-hour Morning Magazine talk show from 9am til midday, would be feeling a bit harrowed and over-worked with the added pressure of gearing up for Radiothon as well. Well, if he is, he doesn't let on as he sits opposite me in RTR's studio B, complete with trademark ear-to-ear grin and constant giggles. It's pretty clear from our chat that Peter Barr loves his job and believes strongly in what RTR does.

“We are the only radio station that plays as much local music as we do - more than any other radio station in this town,” he says, growing serious momentarily. “It's not just a matter of being community radio either. There are community radio stations in WA that don't play local music - there's no law that says you have to, but part of being on RTR is that you want to. It's part of the whole schtick of the place.

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“It just comes from within the station. It comes from the presenters themselves digging the local sounds and wanting to support them. So it is imperative for RTR to survive. It's imperative for the local music industry's success for RTR to continue as well - the two are inextricably linked like Tom and Jerry, like Jekyll and Hyde, like Laverne and Shirley, Like Mork and Mindy… for example… like Calisi and her dragons… What was the other part of the question?”

Barr's tolerance for solemnity obviously exhausted, we press on. The reason for Radiothon's existence becomes apparent when considering the figures. RTRFM employs ten people. Those ten people run the station along with around 300 volunteers who give up their time in the office and as presenters, some of them remaining at the station long enough to earn long service leave a couple of times over if they were employed. Weigh this against a 14 percent increase in power bills and a fifteen-thousand-dollar-a-week operational costs, and without any form of consistent funding, and you begin to get the idea.

“All year 'round, but particularly during Radiothon, is when listeners get a chance to subscribe and contribute financially,” Barr explains. “The other ways that RTR makes money is through fundraising events, sponsorship announcements and through some occasional government grants, which, like any not-for-profit organisation, we occasionally apply for, sometimes successfully… So that's it; our income is totally capped through the ways that we can raise funds. Subscriptions are a major part of it. We wouldn't be anywhere without our listeners. To be honest, we'd be broadcasting into a vacuum.”

In fact, listener contributions make up for a third of the station's funding. In an effort to convince you to contribute, the station, as always, has a bunch of prizes on offer as well as throwing the much-talked-about opening party to celebrate local music and get everyone involved. If you're thinking about becoming a subscriber, Barr has you covered with the deets.

“If you do subscribe during the 'thon you are subscribing to a certain program, depending on when you subscribe. So you're contributing to that program, which is contributing to the station as whole, but that program will have specific prizes allocated to it,” he begins. “That's what you'll be in the running to win, apart from the big ones. If you subscribe anywhere you go into the running for the big ones.

“You know what you can do? You can subscribe during Breakfast With Barr, for example, [subscribe] online, gold, and make a donation on top of your gold donation, and that puts you in the running to win the Breakfast With Barr prizes, the online prize, the gold prize, the donation prize and the overall major prizes! You'd be a big greedy guts, but you're giving a bit extra, and you'll go into the running to win one of those!”

Packing out the list of prizes are a trip for two for four nights to Broome, a scooter, all RTRFM feature albums from the past year, tickets to the This Is Nowhere festival, a bike, a cruise, tickets to every gig at The Bakery… the list goes on. And the party? Well it's had a bit of a change up this year. “We decided that come the end of Radiothon everyone's just too tired to party anymore, so we're just smashing out a huge one at the beginning; pretty much taking over Northbridge for the Saturday night,” Barr enthuses. “There's a bunch of bands playing, all local, all the time, and different diverse styles, and DJs as well.”

Ending our talk, does the king of local breakfast radio have any final words for RTRFM listeners before it all kicks off? “If you have stopped subscribing over the years, I'd ask you to ask yourself why. You've probably got totally legitimate reasons for doing so, however I'd ask if you could re-evaluate and have a listen to the station now in the spirit of the place,” he implores. “It's got flaws, it's got some glitches because it's made up of humans - volunteer broadcasters who are doing it for the love and because they truly believe in the independent and alternative spirit that this place embodies.”

“If you are in two minds about why you should support this place, have a listen to other media, commercial media - if you're okay with that, then that's okay, but if you're not, that's the reason RTRFM is so important. There's room for everyone, certainly RTRFM and what it does, and I hope it continues for-fucking-ever, and subscribing makes that happen.”