Beale Street Caravan Expanding Reach, Locally and Beyond (MDN)
“Beale Street Caravan executive producer Kevin Cubbins has realized something over the course of the radio program’s now 20-year run.
Whenever he and others on the team travel to far-flung destinations, they’re treated like musical ambassadors. In Memphis, not so much, which is why he sees a kind of paradox around the program that’s focused on lifting up and promoting the music of Memphis and the Delta region.
“To me, we’re sort of evangelists who go out and proselytize and tell people about Memphis music, but I realize we can end up sort of preaching to the choir,” Cubbins said. “Then you turn around and realize there are unconverted masses here in Memphis.”
That’s part of the reason why Beale Street Caravan – which has built an audience of 3 million listeners around the world who appreciate its recording, archiving and sharing of blues, soul, folk and rock ’n’ roll – is thinking about growth, both on-air and off, in Memphis and beyond.
It’s been thinking about new ways to engage with its listeners and will be pursuing some of them in earnest now that the new season has kicked off in recent days.
Beale Street Caravan is launching an in-studio video series for social media that will capture artists’ stories at festivals to share through YouTube and Soundcloud. The North Mississippi Allstars will be featured in the first episode.
The organization also will be involved in Black History Month programming, in partnership with the filmmakers behind the award-winning documentary “Take Me to the River.” And Memphis rockabilly bandleader John Paul Keith will deliver a weekly series called “Made in Memphis,” presented as an insider’s look at the characters and behind-the-scenes details that gave birth to some of the most well known hits in Memphis music history.
Beale Street Caravan also has a companion podcast that makes the show available in a downloadable form. The show airs locally on WEVL 89.9 Tuesdays at 10 a.m.; on WUMR 91.7 Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and WYPL 89.3 Saturdays at 7 p.m. It’s also heard on more than 300 stations in the U.S. and is part of NPR’s 24-hour worldwide schedule.
The organization also is looking to draw more attention to itself locally. It’s planning events like the one the public is invited to join Oct. 29, when Beale Street Caravan and historian Jimmy Ogle team up for a Memphis Music Walking Tour.
Now that it’s kicked off its 20th season, Cubbins says Beale Street Caravan is reaching its largest listening audience yet. The goal is to support that – and grow it – by exploring projects that range from festivals to the development of an internship program.
“We know from research we’ve done lately that our show is wildly popular worldwide, and we’re really proud of that,” Cubbins said. “It’s my hope that Memphians tune in to enjoy the music and see the value that our programming brings to the bluff city and the Delta region.””