“I should have learned more from one of the sales guys at BRMB whose work paid my wages. It’s only when you get older that you realise how everyone contributes to what you do.”
While the internet has enabled many bands to self-promote effectively, illegal downloads are another issue altogether.
“If you don’t pay for something, you don’t value it,” he says. “For £200 you can buy Station Playlist created by a bunch of Kiwis and run an automated service online for 50 listeners.
“But that doesn’t take away the essential need for clear thinking about what you are playing and why.
“By day, stations can be nicey nicey, but at night they need to be more edgy.
“That’s the route from edgy to the mainstream, but commercial radio doesn’t do it any more.”
One of Valk’s other passions is to try to establish secure funding for The New Music Network, a means of preserving music that is being released solely online.
Launched in November 2010 in conjunction with The British Library, Valk feels it needs to be updated annually, if only to correct previous omissions.
“Most sites exist to try to make money, ours doesn’t. It’s there to say: ‘This is what we think is great’.
“It needs curating and archiving – and they are not the same thing.
“So you need two people per region. At a cost of £25,000, that would be £500,000 for the whole country per year.”
Everywhere he goes, at home and abroad, Valk hears stations which are promising to sound local but are anything but.
Even in Bulgaria, the staff at one station were afraid to be different to MTV, until he explained it was only by playing local folk music that they would have a unique selling point.
The problem is similar in the UK.
BRMB once had Valk and rock colleague John Slater – now organising tours for the likes of The Royal Ballet for whom ‘he’s unbelievably good at what he does’.
They would sift for the golden nuggets and be eager to give people a chance, but today there isn’t a major commercial player in town with even one of their ilk.
Visit Valk’s weekly blog at www.radiotogo.blogspot.co.uk and it’s fascinating to read his thoughts on BRMB’s rebranding.
‘Does it matter?’ he writes.
‘Probably not. Does the fact that it probably doesn’t matter… matter? Yes, I think it does.
‘Once stations started the inevitable move towards becoming corporate and branded (their) rough edges were systematically filed away and smoothed down.
‘Sadly, along with that smoothing went a whole lot of relevant content.
‘But the big problem today’s commercial operations face is that there is always something bigger, flashier, and better promoted that’s going to park its tanks on your lawns.
‘For BRMB/Free, that’s Capital and Heart’.
The blog features some stark listening figure graphs.
True, each new station makes everyone’s slice of the commercial pie smaller.
But no matter how many (expensive) changes the sector makes, he notes how the BBC remains relatively constant.
At least Orion has steadied the BRMB/Free ship after the station’s previous – turned rival – owners let it slide.
Valk cleverly speculates about whether this was arguably in their interests to do if they knew they were not going to be running BRMB for the long term.
Orion’s chief executive made the brave decision to change the name to Free and Valk says of his former boss at BRMB’s old sister station XTRA-am that: “I’ve got huge respect for Phil Riley.
“I think he’s a terrific businessman and he had to do something because of the state of radio today.”
Every time Valk talks in specifics, he wonders if he’ll shoot himself in the foot with regard to potential future employment.
But, listening to his arguments, you get the impression that only those who ignore his inherent understanding of radio will miss out if they don’t listen.
At 62, he bears the confidence of a man with nothing to lose.
And he’s determined to stay local ready to offer help to anyone who wants it.
“I love Birmingham,” he says. “And I love most of the work I do.
“It’s a brilliant city to run an international company like mine from. The airport is much easier to get in and out of than Heathrow.”
Valk also adores his live music, often travelling to Moseley and Kings Heath from his home on the north side of the city to experience it first hand.
“I’d rather spend £10 to be close up than spend £75 watching a corporate act from half-a-mile away,” he smiles.
The name of Madonna – and her £175 tickets for the NIA this summer – doesn’t even pass his lips.
* For details of The New Music Network, visit: www.pilot-project.co.uk