Turning off 105.2FM for the last time
Remembering TXFM and Phantom FM on the station’s final day of transmission
It was an incredible experience for a music fan. Once a week, you got two hours in a radio studio to play whatever records you wanted to play and there were people out there in the black and grey and blue of the night listening to your selections. In a silent building after everyone else had skeddadled for home, these hours before midnight were yours to fill with brand new music and vintage cuts. There might only be a couple of hundred people at best tuning in to the FM transmitter or online, but it didn’t matter. You weren’t doing it for the money (trust me, you weren’t doing it for the money), you were doing it for the thrill. To misquote Frank Valli, the night always turns your head around.
I spent six years on air at Phantom FM, the Dublin station which rebranded itself as TXFM and comes off the air after a decade today. I’d done a radio show before on Anna Livia FM (now Dublin City FM) so was delighted to get another go to drive a desk when Phantom went on air as a legal station in 2006. As any music fan who has ever ended up doing a radio show of any stripe will tell you, those hours on air were a blast from start to finish. I probably spent more time working out the selections and playlists and links than I did on other work at that time. Like all those other music fans operating their own shows, I was hooked.
There’s a book to be written about Phantom and TXFM’s glory days and, be sure of this, there were many glory days. There’s also, sadly, a business model to be written about how not to run a radio station based on its many commercial mishaps and missteps. Today, though, is not the time to dwell on such hard-nosed pragmatism or remember how and where it all went wrong. Today instead, you’ll hear many people laud and praise and celebrate the station’s remaining small crew of presenters and most of all remember the station that was.
Some of those memories will actually be about a station that never existed except in what the listener wanted the station to be, because we sometimes overlook the stuff which occured around the good stuff and especially the shows and presenters and songs which didn’t work. Some of the recollections will be angry because there’ll be nothing to replace the station when it goes silent tonight. As the various audience surveys and listenship stats show, though, the demand for an indie/alternative station is always sadly most pressing when it’s not going to be around any more. And it’s worth remembering that in an age of always-on streaming services, there are as many notions of what an indie/alternative station should be as there are people in the audience.
Like many of you, I’ll tune in today for old times’ sake – I’m currently digging the final breakfast show from Cathal Funge, a broadcaster who has been rocksteady in his years in many different guises with the station – and remember with great fondness the people, the loopers especially, I met via the station down the years. Most of all, though, I’ll selfishly remember those late nights alone in a studio where you’d play a tune which you really loved and which you hoped would resonate with someone somewhere tuning in and checking it out. That was the beauty of radio for me and there’s no KPI you can formulate to put a value on that feeling. This was the very last tune I played on Phantom and here it is again for the day that’s in it. Farewell TXFM and Phantom, there will always be better times somewhere over the rainbow.