Planetary Group recently took some time to get to know Helen Zhao, of WNYU’s new music platform, New Afternoon Show, broadcast out of NYC Weekdays 4 – 7pm on FM 89.1.
Planetary: Tell us about how you got involved at WNYU and how that experience has impacted you?
Helen: I grew up outside of Boston listening to WRBB, Northeastern’s student radio station. When I started my freshman year at NYU, I applied to DJ a proto-punk-jazz net show. The net radio director at the time asked me if I wanted to do a new music show instead, which I gladly accepted. My sophomore year I was promoted to the New Afternoon Show, which is our flagship new music show on FM radio.
Freshman year was funny because of Covid restrictions— only one person was allowed in the station at a time so I ended up going to do my show and leaving without ever seeing another person. After restrictions lifted, I started meeting our community here and befriending a lot of really sweet, genuine, and musically inclined people.
P: Do you have a favorite artist or album you never get tired of listening to?
H: It’s hard to choose! There are a couple of albums from middle school that I still listen to really frequently: You Forgot It In People by Broken Social Scene and Horse Jumper of Love’s self-titled album.
P: Is there a kind of music or particular artist you’d NEVER play on your show?
H: Not particularly. I’m not a Taylor Swift fan but I’ve even played her music in jersey club remixes. Most likely– I would never play AI-generated music in the future. I already veer away from algorithmic music suggestions.
P: How did you get your start in the music industry?
H: Haha I don’t know if this counts, but I used to teach guitar lessons to my younger neighbor. The next would be WNYU.
P: If you had the power to instantly change one thing going on in the music industry at the moment, what would it be?
H: A&R at big record labels is particularly uninspiring. I read an article the other day called “Music Industry Execs ‘Depressed’ About Current State of Breaking New Pop Artists.” As if there are less talented musicians now! I suppose that’s what happens when listenership is so dependent on TikTok and what soundbites do best on an algorithm instead of what actually resonates with people. Musicians have to “develop” themselves now to appeal to social media— you can see a lot of music now focusing on a single catchy riff or name-dropping/something to incite engagement instead of fleshing out something meaningful. But I don’t know, that all also stems from a lack of pay. People have to resort to these things to have any chance at making a living from music. So I suppose a combination of paying musicians more (streaming services especially) and also bringing back attention to the song as an art form removed from social media.
P: What event or person in your life would you say has shaped you the most as a person? A music curator?
H: My first piano teacher when I was in elementary school was this really kind Italian man who nurtured my love for music; but my guitar teacher from eighth grade to the end of high school introduced me to so many different musicians. If anyone wants to learn the guitar or bass in Boston— find Shane Alessio!
P: Has working in college radio made you want to further pursue a career in the music industry?
H: I think so. I have no idea where I’m going right now, career wise, and I’ve been considering going into the music industry more and more.
P: What in your life brings you the most joy?
H: Cliché, but spending time with my friends, family, and my dog.
P: Do you have any favorite TV shows, movies, or books you’re enjoying you’d currently recommend?
H: I’m currently reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and I would recommend it to others.
P: And finally, are there any concerts you are looking forward to happening in the near future?
H: I’m going to a Slowdive listening party at the end of the month that I am incredibly excited for!
Dog or Cat? Both.
Morning or Night? Night.
City or Country? City.
Beach or Mountains? Mountains.
TV or Book? Book
TikTok or IG? IG
LA or NYC? NYC.
Sunny or Rainy? Sunshine right after the rain.