by Andrew Norman
We ripped off this idea.
Robbed it. Ganked it. Jacked it. We snatched the idea for a hotline that allows anyone to call and leave a Nebraska-music-related message from Suburban Home Records.
The wonderful, small, indie label based in Denver has put out albums by some of my favorite musicians and bands, including Tim Barry, Joey Cape, Drag the River and Arliss Nancy. It specializes in producing vinyl records featuring former and current punks performing folkier music. And it's run by great people — like founder Virgil Dickerson — who lead with hugs, rather than ego.
Their music and ethos are right up my alley.
Suburban Home created its "Drunk Dial Hotline" in 2006, aiming to be the go-to source for drunk music aficianados who lacked potential significant others to harass. (Of which, there are surely many.) Though I never called it, I always thought that the hotline was a cool idea. So when Angie and I were planning Hear Nebraska early in 2009, the idea for a hotline got thrown into a pile. Two years ago, in August of 2010, I wrote Dickerson and asked if he'd mind if we "appropriated" the idea for our audience (though we wouldn't have one, or a website, for another five months). I also asked him how he did it.
In his typically gracious fashion, he said simply, "That works for me, man." And he told me that he used a Skype phone number connected to a voicemail and a program that turned streaming audio into an MP3. "If you just search online, you can find it," he said.
So in the interest of giving credit where it's due, we stole the idea from Dickerson and Suburban Home. But they're cool with it. (Thanks, guys.)
It took us another two years to implement the idea. Former intern Bryce Wergin researched ways we could do this on the cheap, or even free. And he and fellow intern (now managing editor) Michael Todd discovered that we could simply use a Google Voice number, which automatically turns messages into MP3s, and attempts to transcribe them. And it does it for free. Voilà.
Finding a good, available number wasn't easy. We settled on 231.HollaHN. You know, like when you don't have enough time to say "holler." But it could have been worse. The best 402 number we found was 402.915.BEAT, which would have been lame. And we also passed on 651.2HEARNE, 651.2HEARME and 716.2HEARU2U.
After the number was confirmed, contributor Jeanette George designed the image you see at the top of the page, which we'll use to promote the hotline. And Doe Eyed's Eric Nyffeler designed an image that we used for awesome vinyl stickers we hope you'll see during your next visit to a shady bathroom stall.
As a final step, former intern Casey Welsch recorded a bunch of greetings for us (we'll rotate them, as well as with messages recorded by musicians). And we opened for business last Friday, July 13.
So here's what we hope comes of it. We hope musicians, fans, businesses and anyone else that follows HN call it and leave a message that could be a hot news tip, a live song, a rant about a record, a review of a show, an interview, a tour check-in, a joke, a weird noise you can make with your mouth. Whatever it is, make it interesting and do it before you get cut off at 3 minutes (in most cases, shorter is much better). We'll take the audio files and run them here on the site. And when HN Radio is up and streaming (we're months away, but working on it), you'll hear them there, too.
We hope you have fun with it. We've enjoyed hearing the messages we've so far received, like this great folk song (in two parts) by Lincoln musician Orion Walsh:
Now, what have you got to tell us? Dial 231.HollaHN (231.465.5246) and do it. And if you can't think of something interesting, steal an idea from someone else.
Two more things. First, we're close to reaching 4,000 followers on the Hear Nebraska Facebook page. If you have a few minutes, please suggest the page to some friends who'd enjoy having this nonprofit in their life.
Finally, I'm stepping way out of my comfort zone this Friday, July 20 as part of House of Loom's DJ non-DJ Series. My good friend (and occasional HN contributor) Brent Crampton asked if I'd step behind the DJ booth and spin or click my way through music I think is great. I would never want to let down Brent, so I'm going to do it. And it might be a trainwreck. But Loom has great drinks and killer atmosphere, so as long as I don't screw it up too much, you should have a good time. Join me from 5-8 p.m. (before the pros start). You can RSVP here.