Indie 103.1 has kicked the radio bucket in order to stay true to its mantra.
Despite the rumors, it’s not shutting down, just moving everything to online streaming. But why the sudden shift? Esteban Lopez Blanco, Entravision’s (Indie’s parent company) executive director of interactive relations, clarified the situation.
“The reason [Indie is going off the radio] is because ever since our rating company, Arbitron, changed their ratings systems, we’ve lost one-half of our ratings and therefore, one-half of our advertisement revenue,” Blanco said.
“The [new] rating system is a device called PPM. This device [keeps track] of what people are listening to,” Blanco said. “People need to wear it and it listens to everything they do and identifies an audio watermark broadcasted by radio stations. Then it credits the listening time to those stations.”
“So we faced two options,” Blanco went on. “Either start playing hit songs more like KROQ or KISS FM, which are nothing alternative or indie, or stick to our roots and leapfrog into a nicer future online where we can keep playing fresh, new, not traditional, unsigned artists … The Internet tends to democratize the distribution of wealth for artists and we want to support that.”
“The whole mass media broadcasting model is broken,” Blanco said. “Independent music thrives on the Internet.”
A significant reason for Indie’s decision to shut down its radio broadcasts, Blanco said, is that the “Indie community of listeners doesn’t fit the profile of people that want to use such a device [as PPM].” As Indie’s fan base is largely composed of supporters of independent bands, Blanco’s reasoning is not without foundation.
So, will fans of 103.1 have to quit cold turkey (temporarily)? “[Fans can listen] online at home or work. We are coming up with an iPhone application to stream [our station], and then we are going to cover every cell phone one by one. Cell phones are the [new] radio. Everyone has one in their pockets, everywhere,” Blanco said.
Fans will still be able to tune in anywhere there is a computer or cell phone with Internet access. But for fans who don’t have one or the other, it looks like the days of blaring one’s radio on the freeway and singing out loud are gone.
Indie’s many disc jockeys have made a name for themselves and earned the love and respect of many listeners over the years.
Regarding the fate of 103.1’s DJs, Blanco replied, “We let everyone go. But, surprise! Half of our DJs and crew love what they do so much that they agreed to work for free while we get reorganized.” Blanco went on to say, “Also we are working with interns and volunteers. We’re developing new revenue models and revenue share that makes more sense; hopefully it will help us retain everyone interested. Because we know that at the end of the month everyone has to pay their bills.”
Indie 103.1’s decision to cease its radio operations might also have an effect on other independent stations. Sam Farzin, music director of KUCI, said that KUCI is in a different boat than Indie 103.1.
“KUCI is very dissimilar from a station like Indie 103.1 in that Indie was owned by two large corporations, Entravision and Clear Channel. KUCI on the other hand is totally independent and non-profit. We are financially dependent on the school and on listeners during our fund-drive,” said Farzin.
Not to mention, Farzin stressed that KUCI has not been in a position where it has been pressured to play the corporate radio game.
“We have no reason to shift anything. It would be against our credo! KUCI stands for only that which is not represented already on the radio dial,” Farzin said.
Yet, he mentioned that the while the situation is difficult to fully comprehend due to the limited number of independent stations, “the whole situation is frightening.”
“You would think that in Los Angeles, a station that attempted to be a little different in their playlists and included a few celebrity hosts would be able to last longer than 5 years,” Farzin added.
Despite Indie 103.1’s absence from the radio waves, Blanco portrayed a positive attitude about the jump from the airwaves to the Internet tubes.
“Indie is loyal to its credo,” he said, “and listeners that care can keep listening online. We don’t need to play the music hits rating game. And we remain original and fresh. We play the music we believe is amazing so we can keep supporting and promoting new artists.”
Blanco also mentioned Indie’s intention to explore different forms of revenue to keep the music going.
“We are done with the annoying interruption and repetition of the ads spots model. We are going to explore with alternative revenue models instead. This brings less commercial [time] and a greater experience for the listener. Since we stopped broadcasting on the radio, the online indie streamers grew 300 percent. We are very happy with that trend.”
“If you value culture and believe Indie is a cultural asset for our society, please listen online as much as you can,” Blanco said. “Promote Indie. Tell your friends to listen. We need our audience to support us now more than ever; we are weak during this transition. A lot of people listening online means more excitement for the DJs and the advertiser.”
Indie 103.1’s refusal to play the corporate game sends a bold and outstanding message about the minds behind the radio station. Fans should not mourn the loss of the radio outlet but rather, take pride in their station’s staying faithful to its own ideology.
With the loss of radio comes the advent of less commercial time and more music. After all, what would you rather listen to more: Joy Division, Lou Reed and Jonesy, or McDonald’s new $3-for-2 Big Mac deal pushed by what sounds like an overworked mother on a lot of Prozac?
Indie 103.1 can currently be heard online by visiting its website, www.indie1031.fm.
Ara Demirjian contributed to this report.