Video may have killed the radio star; but never fear, the internet is here to administer CPR. Most commercial radio stations are just noise: generic warbling of pop music, advertisements, and of opinionated, yet poorly informed disc jockeys. The programming is generally bland and obvious; and aimed at the lowest common denominator—or so they think.
Suppress individualism in any way; and the consequence will always be some kind of underground movement. And, online radio is the response to the sea of meaningless broadcast content.
Bedroom DJs, so called because all they need is a laptop and a broadband connection, are here to turn us back onto radio. Imagine tuning into a radio station that plays your style of music, uninterrupted by noxious jingles? Internationally, internet radio has set the web alight, with literally thousands of stations to choose from. And, although our internet can be slower than a homing pigeon (true story), we’ve followed suit.
There are a number of underground stations to tune into. One of which is Mutha FM. Not just a broadcast medium, but a platform for the SA music industry as a whole; a place to showcase home-grown talent, whether it’s EDM, or rock ‘n roll. “It’s like the Mickey Mouse Club on crack,” says Caely Jo Levy host of Swingin’ Sundaze. “We work for free; but there’s a great creative and supportive energy amongst the talented team, and a huge passion for music!” [Quote from Nick E Louder re: payment; “we are now paying about 40% of the DJs through sponsorship deals, as I said everyone can make their bit if they bring in sponsors.]
Originally a pirate station started by well-known DJ Nick E Louder, it ran for six years before making it official on the World Wide Web. Mutha FM also broadcasts live from La Vie on Sea Point’s promenade every Friday: expect the likes of the aforementioned Nick E Louder, Tony Finger, and Danalog, amongst others throwing down during cocktail hour.
“And the best part,” says Caely, “is that you can listen to it anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection.”
2oceansVibe Radio, another front-runner in the digital radio scene, style themselves as ‘different, but deliberately so.’ Born of famous blog, ‘Two Oceans Vibe’, this radio station ‘aims to talk to you like a grown-up’. The focus is on irreverent social commentary and hip tunes; their line-up reads like Cape Town’s cool collective. What’s interesting about this station is that not only can you stream it online, but you can buy an app—so you can have smart-asses on your smartphone.
The first time I ever listened to online radio was, funnily enough, in my car. We had downloaded a Kevin Shu mix from Frisky Radio: that’s the beauty of this medium; you can choose when, and where, you want to listen to it. It’s not just the underground stations though; you can also download podcasts from most commercial radio stations, if you really wanted to…
The rise of these stations highlight a point: the listening public don’t want to be dictated to. They want to interact, and make informed decisions led by people whose taste they trust. Not everyone wants to plug into ruler-of-radio Gareth Cliff’s brain-numbing sermons.
Heard of Mixcloud? This online platform allows anyone to upload a mix, or radio show; and enables friends to share and comment on uploaded ‘cloudcasts’. Then there’s Playdio, a combination of a playlist and radio, which lets users make their own radio shows by creating playlists edited with spoken links.
Last.FM is also worth a listen. A multi-platform online radio community, where you ‘scrobble’. Yes, scrobble. This is a function that keeps note of what you’re playing, what your friends are playing, and so on, it aggregates this information and ‘helps’ you discover more music, according to your tastes.
Yes, the future is most certainly here for radio, unfortunately, as Caely from Mutha FM tells me, the biggest challenge is sponsorship. Can these stations survive without it? And if they can’t, I’m afraid it may mean that they’ll have to let in some of the noise. And what a good way to get turned off.