Whew, Radio Free Phoenix on air for 10 years — that quite a long time for a radio station, especially one playing a free form rock format, as this type of radio had all but disappeared from the airwaves. Phoenix had KCAC, the underground KDKB, K-15, K104, KSTM – The Storm and the original KZON. I had worked at several of these station (KSTM and KZON), but then, they were all gone. It was like this empty void – so much great music never to be heard again on the radio, until the internet!
The idea of creating a station like this, dates back to my second time around at KSLX in Phoenix in 1999. I was not prepared for how much it had changed – the restrictions were so tight, it was like having your hands tied securely around your back. No music to pull, no commercials to mess with and the same bunch of songs over and over in a repetitive circle.
This was the current state of radio then and somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it was going to get much worse — and it did. As one program director fell for the next one – I knew I had to get busy. I visualized and formatted what a station like RFP would sound like. I spent many hours transferring music off my vinyl albums (that were not yet out on CD). I converted close to three thousands songs from vinyl in addition to burning a copy of every CD in the KSLX library that I didn’t have – along with dozens of trips to the Phoenix and Scottsdale libraries where they had a virtual goldmine of CD’s to check out!
I was about ready to go on-line with RFP in 2002, when the crushing blow came from the music industry that they were going to wipe out internet radio with some insane royalty scheme designed to tax these stations (or scare) off the net. Their main argument was that internet radio had no promotional value for the music it played, therefore there needed to be an outrageous performance tax from each and every song played by these stations. Thousand of internet Radio stations went dark (out of fear) that Sound Exchange would be coming for them. In addition, the majority of terrestrial radio stations that were streaming, pulled their streams, just in cause they would be next.
So fast forward to late 2003 when a more reasonable royalty rate had been designed for independent internet stations. By then, I had everything in place and on August 18, 2004, we went on air full time. It was a rush to have RFP alive and breathing and sending music out to the universe. Before we went live, I spend over 8 months formatting and fine tuning what the station would sound like and during this time. the station played non-stop in my home to an audience of one.
When I left KSLX in February 2006, the current program director (who is still there and holding on to his job as tight as he can) just couldn’t resist one more jab at me when he said, “Have fun with your little internet station!”
Well, he didn’t have any idea what I had and I wasn’t about to tell him.
The dullness and restrictions of terrestrial radio has taken away most of the things that made it engaging and enjoyable, not only for the DJ, but to the listeners as well. Many of these listeners grew up with great radio and had wonderful stories about it. All around the country there were stations that played to their local audience. They played songs that were unique to their area and in many cases, catapulted local bands to major stardom in their town(s) which many times lead to national exposure. In the present, most of these stations are but a shade of their former selves. Like USA Today and the local papers, they have been distilled down to just the basics. Listeners seldom have a favorite DJ today, most don’t even know their names. These stations are known for one thing — a generic sound and very long commercial breaks.
Thanks for listening to Radio Free Phoenix and all the great air-talent that communicates with you – as we will continue to play for you into the unseeable future.