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As music fans get older, they tend to stick with the familiar songs that formed the soundtrack of their younger selves—basically the music they feel most comfortable with. With that mindset in the age of streaming, why bother to invest the time in new music from emerging artists when fans can listen to that oldie-but-goodie for the umpteenth time? (We see you fans of “Stairway to Heaven” and “Freebird”).
This is where record industry veteran Bruce Ravid comes in. A former exec who had worked at Capitol Records from the 1970s and to early 1980s, Ravid hosts Rave’s Indie Radar, a weekly music podcast in which he plays snippets of new songs by modern rock and indie acts. Some of the artists whose music has been featured on Rave’s Indie Radar include Arcade Fire, Courtney Barnett, Ezra Furman, Dehd and Foals. With a natural and relaxed voice tailored-made for a radio deejay, Ravid also offers background about the artists mentioned in the podcast, easily recalling the late Casey Kasem’s Top 40 radio countdown show.
“One of the common things that I keep hearing is, ‘Oh, music isn’t as good as it used to be,” Ravid, who is based in California, says. “I try to explain to people that the reason for that is if we’re comparing today to the ’80s, it’s apples and oranges anyway. Everything is so different in the music business. There was no TikTok having such a huge influence five years ago. So things change so quickly nowadays. What I try to do with the podcast is to show people that there is really good music out there.”
Unlike most music podcasts, Rave’s Indie Radar is really short—the length of each episode varies between just six and 10 minutes. According to the host, that format was intentional. “The reason being is that we live in such an ADD world. It’s really trying to give people something real quick, and we found the reaction to that is actually very good. People like the idea of it being short.”
In preparation for the podcast, Ravid does his homework on finding new music, whether it’s him scouring the Internet or being on mailing lists. “I’ve always been kind of an Anglophile, and one of my main responsibilities in A&R at Capitol was working with all of our British bands. I always go to the NME [New Musical Express] site every morning to see what they’re writing about. I’ve always made a point—whether it was back in A&R or now—[to] listen to everything that comes in. I believe everything deserves a listen and I have these kinds of favorite places I go to kind of see what’s going on, and then, of course, there’s a little bit of word of mouth as well.”
Among the newer indie acts that he has championed on Rave’s Indie Radar include Wet Leg and Fontaines D.C. “I don’t remember exactly the first place I heard of Wet Leg,” Ravid recalls, “but I remember hearing that song that became my number one song of the year, “Chaise Longue,” and it just blew me away.”
He adds: “I try to get to shows as reasonably often as I can, and the Fontaines D.C. show, for example, that I went to several weeks ago in L.A., was literally one of the best-rising band shows that I’ve seen in many years. I thought it was amazing. I think Fontaines D.C. could be an arena band if they just keep on the right track. They’re that good.”
Ravid is no stranger to broadcasting. Growing up in Chicago, he aspired to become a Top 40 deejay or a Cubs play-by-play guy. As a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he served as a deejay and then music director for the school’s radio station in the early 1970s. “So many of us who are in the music industry now really got our starts in college radio while we were supposedly getting our majors,” he recalls. “Some of the best advice I give to current students—and I talk to students all the time—is find something you’re passionate about and go and do it.”
His experience at the college radio station led Ravid to work in promotions at Capitol Records in 1973. “Capitol would call me every week to go over airplay,” he recalls. “At one point in the spring of my senior year, they said, ‘Bruce, you’re graduating, right? Well, we have a number two promotion position open in Chicago. Would you like to come down and interview for it?’ I was all set to come out to L.A. to USC to get an MBA, but of course, I went down and interviewed and I wound up getting hired for the first year.
“So here I am, 22 years old, getting paid to take radio people out for meals and talk to radio people about music and go to concerts, It didn’t even feel like work for a long time. Obviously, I never looked back.”
From there, he later made the transition from promotions to artists and repertoire (A&R) at Capitol, where he worked with such acts as the Knack, Iron Maiden, Missing Persons, Thomas Dolby, the Motels, and especially Duran Duran before they became the biggest pop band in the world during the first half of the 1980s.
“They were signed to EMI, which was our parent company,” Ravid says of Duran Duran. “They had already made the first album, and there were already rumblings of this incredible New Romantic movement in England, which I think there were four bands at the time, Duran Duran being one of them. So I had the advantage of getting an actually an album that was produced—their first album [1981’s Duran Duran]—and probably a video or two at that point had already been shot. I had the opportunity to kind of take that and see the buzz that was going on with Duran Duran. It was really a no-brainer to put it out in the United States.
“They were exciting,” he adds. “They were different, but at the same time, they incorporated some musical elements that of course were huge in the years leading up to that, whether it was dance music, whether it was punk. They kind of threw it all together, and then of course they have this amazing look.”
Ravid stayed at Capitol until 1982; he later became a corporate headhunter and started his own company Ravid and Associates. In the subsequent decades, the music industry has gone through major shifts from CDs to MP3s to streaming and TikTok. How does he feel about the industry today? “It’s kind of good news, bad news. I think everything is a lot harder, I’m also involved in management, and there are so many more boxes that you have to check now compared to even five years ago—not to mention a couple of decades ago. If we’re talking about the ’80s and get on the radio, you were most of the way home. And now, there’s just so much more to it.
“So it’s a lot easier for people to get this stuff out there, but how do you stand out? Without having a really strong game plan and team, how do you really get to get enough people to even hear what the music is? I think there’s also a big gap between all the brand new stuff, and then the stuff that radio plays, which is over and over and over again, and I think that’s a big gap between first stage and final stage.”
Bridging that gap is what Ravid, who also hosts a radio show called Go Deep, is trying to do. “I play a lot of familiar artists, but it’s not the song that people are gonna hear everywhere they go. So I try to be kind to the guy in the middle, trying to cull it down from the huge list. But it’s really hard right now. Blogs don’t seem to have the same pull that they had a few years ago. And there are a lot of artists who hate having to do TikToks, right? Like it or not, TikTok is pretty important for a lot of different kinds of music. I look at it because I just wanna see what’s going on there. But I can’t say I was thrilled with the concept of it when I first started hearing about it.”
Long after working in the record business with acts who went on to become legendary stars, Ravid remains enthusiastic about discovering new music. “I’ve always kind of been that guy,” he says. “Most people kind of stick with the music that they were digging in high school and college. Where in my case, I’m the opposite. I kind of tie the past and the present together, because I think if people were into what I have on the podcast, they will hear a lot of elements of the music that was great back then.”
Rave’s Indie Radar can be heard on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcast platforms.