Saturday, June 23, 2018

Remembrance of ReelRadio founder Richard Irwin (From Greg Barman)

Hey all,

As some of you may know, Richard Irwin (aka "Uncle Ricky") passed away on June 6 in Sacramento CA.  He was the founder, administrator and tech guru behind, likely the highest-quality paywalled radio aircheck site on the internet.  He had been in declining health for several years. He shut down his site a few months ago to deal with his health, and seek someone else to run it. 

But no one else could run it, not the way he ran it.  His standards were obsessively high.  It went beyond that airchecks had to be good technical quality.  He edited them to his own satisfaction, and even used an audio processor to present them on the site.  He wouldn't allow Mp3 versions of airchecks.  He stuck with the RealAudio format, which was cutting edge back in the day but no longer.  He knew UNIX to run the system that hosted the site, and did all the paperwork and payments associated with licensing and other legal requirements.  Who else would or could handle all of that?

He fought an impressive battle against the mighty RIAA in 2014-15.  The RIAA had cracked down on him for running untelescoped airchecks, claiming it amounted to being a streaming music site.  Irwin contended that Reelradio was a museum site, not an on-demand music site.  Irwin dropped the unscoped airchecks for a while and changed his site significantly to comply.  Behind the scenes, he obtained legal help.  Then, one day the site returned back to normal.  The unscoped airchecks were back with no further explanation.  I called him up to congratulate him, and I asked if he could share what happened.  He clammed right up, and wouldn't say a word.  That made me wonder if he so successfully embarrassed the RIAA that they made him sign an NDA to make the problem go away!  If the RIAA had prevailed this may have prevented others from posting unscoped airchecks elsewhere, so I'm glad that Irwin was a fighter.

He could be cranky too.  He insisted that contributors shared their airchecks exclusively with him.  I incurred his wrath one time when I shared one exhibit elsewhere.  His site was pirated endlessly by people who took the airchecks and posted them elsewhere, often for money.  He blames the piracy for the decline of his subscribers.  In reality, it's impossible to avoid theft on the internet.  Plus, there are other (and free) aircheck sites.  And, it's aging demos -- the audience that appreciates this kind of radio history is shrinking. 

So, hundreds of high quality exhibits are lost, possibly forever, unless his estate or the ReelRadio board members find someone to host them.  I have many exhibits there that I will now post elsewhere, most likely the Facebook groups "Radio Jingles and Airchecks", "Chicago Radio Timeline", "I Love AM Radio", "The Broadcasting Club", plus "The Mighty1090 KAAY Blog"  and maybe others.  

LA Dailynews columnist Richard Wagoner posted this remembrance:

And ReWound Radio's Allan Sniffen has this audio tribute:

Greg Barman

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