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Radio Spotlight: DMX’s James Whelan

Posted by on July 6, 2012

James Whelan, DMXThe Syndicate, Metal Insider’s parent company, is a promotion and marketing company that has championed the metal scene for almost 15 years. In our weekly Radio Spotlight, we’ll offer a look behind the scenes of metal radio from some of the stations and outlets playing metal that the Syndicate works with to spotlight the newest underground music on the airwaves and the people that bring it to you.  Read on for a breakdown of James Whelan’s efforts to pipe cutting-edge metal into places you might not expect, followed by a brief look at some new records making their way to the airwaves, courtesy of the Syndicate.

Featured Station: DMX (National Service, based in Austin, TX)  

Station type:

Satellite Broadcast

Owned by:

Mood Media

Where’s the metal?

DMX is divided into multiple channels and genres.  Spike runs new extreme metal programming, whereas Ink’d runs new hard rock and more alternative metal.  In addition to the new music channels, DMX has Full Metal Jacket for classic metal.

What’s going on here?

While DMX may not be as high-profile as a huge subscription service like SiriusXM, it might reach just as many people with music.  That’s because DMX’s channels are carried by DirecTV under the SonicTap brand, along with being heard in subscribing bars, clubs and stores that cater to metal fans.  DirecTV’s subscriber base of 19.89 million as of last year is still growing, and while that still has to catch up to SiriusXM’s rising 22.3 million base, that’s not accounting for the targeted fans DMX can reach through businesses.  Music design assistant and head rock/metal programmer James Whelan takes this as an opportunity to get new music out there and push the envelope.

“Metalheads are a lot smarter than most mainstream media and music outlets give us credit for,” Whelan says.  “I remember being in high school, and after playing a metal song for a friend, hearing them say ‘Well, that’s just not music.‘  And then they’d play me their favorite Top 40 flavor of the week, and I’d think ‘Well, that’s just not art.‘  So a big part of what I want to do when I’m going through all the new music that comes in every week is to find bands that create something that metalheads will at the very least respect and appreciate even if it’s not the kind of metal they’re into.”

As someone more interested in cutting-edge underground metal than a typical commercial programmer, Whelan wasn’t entirely aware of the power of radio when he took over metal at DMX last year.  “You know, at first I thought the impact was minimal,” he says.  “It seemed that metal was the kind of genre where people would rather shun commercial radio, seek out the music they wanted to hear, and that would be it.  Magazines and blogs seemed to be a lot more influential in metal than radio.  Then I had an independent band contact me after I’d been spinning them for a couple months, telling me that they’d been meeting people throughout their tour who had heard of them through Spike.  That was the first time I realized I had any sort of power to help artists in the music industry, and it’s been a driving force for what I want to do.  Metalheads don’t need to be told what’s good, they’re able to listen to something and decide for themselves.”

Pandora recognized DMX’s influence quickly, joining forces with the company last November to launch Pandora for Business, a service that works similarly to how Pandora would for personal use but creates an easy way to play licensed music in a business and kick royalties back to the artists.  DMX’s acquisition by Mood Media in March showed again that the company is a hot property, and its credible courting of both mainstream listeners and music aficionados has to be cited as part of why.

“Metal’s been around in some form for close to 40 years, and it’s still given so little respect throughout the music world!” Whelan states.  “Being in the position I’m in, working for a huge company that broadcasts all around the country, I’ve got this great opportunity to do something about it: to give these artists I love the biggest audience I can and create a program that respects its listeners.”

Sample hour of Spike programming: 

Skeletonwitch – Choke Upon Betrayal
Kyuss – Hurricane
Black Shape Of Nexus – 400H
Ihsahn – The Grave
Earthen Grave – Tilted World
Wolfbrigade – Road to Dreams
Asphyx – Of Days When Blades Turned Blunt
Eths – Voragine
Diablo Swing Orchestra – Exit Strategy Of A Wrecking Ball
Ambassador Gun – Circle The Lord Of The Flies
Bereft – Cruel Mirage
Dying Fetus – From Womb To Waste
U.S. Christmas – Black Snake
Ladder Devils – I Have A Name
Tombs – Bloodletters
Catheter – No Harvest

New at Metal Radio This Week:

Serj Tankian – Harakiri (Reprise/Serjical Strike)  

The recently re-crowned System of a Down frontman returns with the most metal-sounding album of his solo career.

Delain – We Are The Others (Sensory)

Just released in stores last week, the profoundly hooky Dutch symphonic metal band has a solid European following and now aims to show American audiences more of what it can do.

The Syndicate, Metal Insider’s parent company, is a promotion and marketing company that has championed the metal scene for almost 15 years. For radio promotion, street marketing, publicity, event marketing and brand consultation in the world of metal, contact us here.

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Categorised in: Radio Spotlight