Ten years ago this week, we launched All Songs Considered. It was an ambitious idea, but also a casual one. I wanted the show to be a multimedia program, so that when the music played, you'd see a slide show about the artists and their instruments, along with text and images that told their story.
That was the ambitious part. The casual part was that we planned to put together new episodes only when we had time. There wasn't an All Songs Considered staff. At the time, I was directing All Things Considered three days a week, so the two other days of the week I devoted to All Songs. We maybe put a new show online every six weeks or so. The "we" at the time was just me and a few other people working for NPR's Web site.
Here's the first five minutes of our very first show. To read the text, click the "enlarge" symbol in the lower-right corner of the player and view it in full-screen mode.
I still remember our programmer, Dan Jacobson (still here at NPR), executive producer Chris Mandra, and tech guru Rob Holt trying to figure out how to make this slide-show thing work. We'd never ventured into multimedia-land before.
I also remember one of the first emails I received. It was from a farmer in Vermont. He told me that his cows were overdue for milking, because he turned on All Songs Considered at 5 in the morning and watched the hour-long slide show, twice. That man was my hero. (If you're out there, please write again!)
The idea for All Songs Considered was simple: I received a lot of CDs as the director for All Things Considered, and I felt that a lot of great music wasn't being heard. I also received a lot of mail about the songs played on All Things Considered and knew there was an audience for music outside the mainstream. The first All Songs episodes really only featured long versions of the music "buttons" (songs played between news stories) we played on All Things Considered, but that tight format quickly gave way to a wave of great music from all genres.
Robin Hilton joined us in the spring of 2001 as our only full-time staffer. He's now the show's producer. I left All Things Considered after 19 years of directing and became full-time here at All Songs Considered in the summer of 2007.
These days, besides a weekly show (we dropped the time-consuming, multimedia slide shows in 2003 to do more audio-only programs more often), we have live concerts from nightclubs around Washington, D.C., and special events in New York City. We have guest DJ shows, exclusive First Listens, roundtable conversations about music and music trends, live music at my desk through a series called Tiny Desk Concerts, new and hardly discovered artists on our Second Stage, Project Song (a video project that documents the creative process) and, of course, this blog. Oh, and we've got our podcasts: The live concerts podcast and our weekly show podcast.
Robin and I keep each other busy. We also work with a staff of great music lovers. They're the smartest team imaginable: Some names you know, like Stephen Thompson, Lars Gotrich and Mike Katzif. Others you maybe don't: Amy Schriefer, Anya Grundmann, Frannie Kelley, Patrick Jarenwattananon, Tom Huizenga, Ken Goldberg, Adam Martin, Kevin Wait. These days, the music team is as big as all of NPR Online was in 2000.
You are the best audience a music show could want, and we love hearing your ideas and thoughts about the program. So, as we begin our 11th year, we're asking: What do you like or dislike about All Songs Considered? What can we do that we aren't already doing? What would you love to hear or see on the program in the coming months and years? Your feedback helps make the show a lot better for everyone.
And thanks for 10 great years!