‘The Cat’ sounds off about old time radio’s place in modern society
Jon over at OTRCat.com (one of the extremely proud sponsors of this blog) is one of those old time radio (OTR) fans that has embraced the notion of preserving vintage radio programs through the popular MP3 format.
I first ran across OTRCat.com a couple of years ago when I ordered two CDs filled with shows in MP3 format (and you can cram a lot of those things on one disc) and found them both convenient to have around and of good quality (considering the source material is almost always fuzzy on those old shows). I ordered some more discs for my father and have followed OTRCat since then.
What does OTRCat stand for? That’s easy enough — Old Time Radio Catalog.
Jon (one of the nicest merchants you’ll meet on the Internet) was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine so I’m posting them here. The questions are in italics and the responses are not.
1. How long has OTRCat been in business?
The OTRCat.com website officially started in 2001 and has grown to include thousands of radio recordings from the golden age of radio.
2. Why did you start the business initially? I’ll assume you never intended to get rich off of OTR, so what drove you to maintain the site and put in the hours that it must take to keep it running? Love of OTR? The desire to archive a part of American broadcasting history? Something else?
Collecting and sharing old time radio has been a work of passion for me. OTRCat.com initially began as an old time radio trading website to share my collection, trade old time radio shows, and provide a place for other fans to research the history of the shows and performers.
When establishing OTRCat.com as an e-commerce website, it was my hope to provide extensive radio collections at reasonable prices. Each Mp3 cd is just $5 and can store over 100 recordings. At just pennies per episode, these recordings are available for anyone to enjoy.
3. About how many visitors do you get in a given month?
Many thousands of unique visitors come to OTRCat.com every month to read about old time radio and hear the full episode samples online.
4. Why do people visit?
Many visitors are revisiting their youthful years wanting to hear classic radio shows again which bring back fond memories. Many people are first time listeners who are looking for quality entertainment while commuting, exercising, gardening, etc.
Students and teachers also visit the website for educational purposes. I’ve had a couple private investigators email me saying listening to episodes of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar helps them pass those long work hours quickly.
5. Are any of the visitors younger people who are just now realizing the value of OTR, or do you deal with exclusively an older crowd that comes to your site for nostalgic reasons?
There is definitely a percentage of younger people that visit OTRCat.com who, like me, didn’t get to hear the radio shows when they were actually broadcast on air.
6. Obviously, you believe that OTR is relevant half a decade past its prime. Why is it still relevant? What value do those shows have to modern listeners?
Quality entertainment to lasts over time and some of the great programs of the golden age of radio are still relevant today. Besides being amazingly entertaining, themes of yesteryear are still applicable today — there is, for example, an episode in Dragnet where Jack Webb discusses the ethics of wiretapping and civil defense programs talk the distribution of nuclear weapons.
Many recordings are historically significant and give the listener a first hand account of the day’s events (such as the complete broadcast day). In a lot of the old time radio drama shows, basic story archetypes were brilliantly done with A-class actors and producers 70 years ago are still poignant, informative, and entertaining to today’s listener.
7. I’ll also assume you see the value of archiving these shows and making them available. Why is maintaining an archive of those shows important and how is that process aided by MP3s? That is too say, is the MP3 format “the thing” that is necessary to prevent the further degradation of the recordings?
The digital MP3 format allows masses of people to enjoy, hear, and collect radio shows in a digital format which old analog formats never permitted. To physically store the thousands of recordings on analog tape would have required climate controlled storerooms; these same recordings can now can be easily listened to from a small stack of digitally recorded shows on MP3 CDs.
The internet brought together collectors, better quality recordings and even previously non-circulating recordings are surfacing and the future of old time radio looks bright. It is my hope OTRCat.com has been positively influential in helping in these efforts.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.