Nowadays, almost everyone has a Facebook account. It used to be Myspace a few years ago, but now it’s Facebook, and then after that, it will be the next big thing. People use it for various purposes. Me, for example…since I live away from most of my family and friends, I use it to keep in touch with them and share things I find amusing or interesting.
But I also use it to connect with other Tejano and Conjunto fans, bands, record labels and radio stations. And I’m not alone.
The use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Conjunto Is Life is doing the job that Tejano music stations used to do back before so many of them were bought out or switched formats or went out of business. It’s even better, actually, because a fan can interact directly with the bands they like. The bands post when they’re going to be on tour, and the fans can see when they will be in their area. And if they’re not going to be in their area any time soon, they can suggest it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked when someone’s going to come to Austin. They may not have any plans at that moment, but at the very least, they know that someone is interested and they can explore the possibility.
The reason why technology like this is necessary for Tejano and Conjunto is because it is, at its heart, regional music. Yes, the artists travel all over the country, but there are tiny pockets where it is popular. It also doesn’t have the benefit of a media conglomerate promoting and marketing the music. These artists book their own shows, do their own marketing and a lot of them are recording and engineering their own music on their own labels. It’s truly grassroots.
YouTube is a powerful tool as well. Not so much for the social connections made with others, but for the exposure. It works for both preserving old recordings, but also for up and coming acts as well.
People can search for old songs that they can’t find anymore. They can find rare video of performers who are long gone that they’ve never seen. Not only that, the related videos section always comes up with something that can set someone like me off on a tangent where I just go from video to video. Additionally, if you find a video you like and you want all your Tejano friends to see…post it to your Facebook page, and it grows again from there.
Internet radio stations are important too, and it seems like there are more of them everyday. Rancho Alegre Radio gets about 200 hits a day, for example. Andrew Pulido, an Austin DJ and formerly of KTXZ 1560 AM, has Hot Tejano.com, which can also be heard on smartphones.
In cities and towns where there is no Tejano station, the internet is crucial in keeping the music alive. They can still listen to and support the music they love and the artists will continue to know that they have support and will continue to play there.
And in places where there is a Tejano station, the internet stations aren’t necessarily competitors. They are compliments to the traditional station. As far as the music goes, the more stations you have, regardless of delivery method, the better reputation your area has in terms of supporting the music.
Traditional Radio Stations
Way back when, I worked for Wyoming Public Radio. When I first started, their website was essentially an online brochure that had the program guide and how to contact them. Then they had the idea that their online presence could compliment their on-air programming. So we started streaming our live broadcasts and adding new content (community calendar PSA listings, mp3′s of our locally-produced news show, playlists for our local music shows, etc.), and supporting it with constant on-air promotion. Within a year, the traffic went from an average of 250 visitors per month to over 5,000.
The best part was the support that we received from the listeners. Underwriting (which is paid advertising in Public Radio lingo) revenue grew, as did individual membership contributions, and attendance to special events.
And that was all before social media. I can only imagine how it is now. The interaction with listeners and development of community relationships that a radio station can have when it takes advantage of social media is nearly limitless. Austin’s Tejano station, KTXZ 1560 AM, recently joined Facebook, and from what I’ve seen, has had tremendous support from listeners and bands alike.
Recently, the Texas Observer published Get Your Norteño out of My Conjunto, which discusses how Norteño is supplanting Conjunto in record shops and on the airwaves, and interviews Conjunto legend Gilberto Perez and Lupe Saenz, of the South Texas Conjunto Association. The article was reposted on several Facebook pages, and I reposted it on Conjunto Is Life.
In many cases, the responses were passionate, articulate, constructive and helped identify viable solutions for saving the music and passing it on to the next generation. That is more than powerful.
Technology is saving this music, so keep connecting with other fans, bands, and listeners, keep posting your rare recordings on YouTube, and keep reminding everyone that Tejano and Conjunto are still alive and well.