Imagine a radio station with 15 million listeners and a top 40 that includes Panic! At The Disco, Silverstein, Bad Religion and your band. That’s the spirit of PunkRadioCast, with playlists that include everything from hardcore to acoustic, unsigned to major label, AFI to Zombie Apocalypse all streaming with high quality 24/7 from the suburbs of Toronto. AP caught up with owner Danny Keyes, who, these days, balances the expansion of the station’s already massive offerings with increasingly tough legal pressure from American companies attempting to shut him down. What’s the best thing about PunkRadioCast? Not only they actually listen to user requests, but their selection destroys corporate radio – even the commercials are worth listening to.
Location: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Employees: 6 (plus 14 DJs)
How’d it all start?
“I used to be a computer-gaming nerd back in the day, and there was a guy named Captain Immy who was an internet radio DJ in the gaming community. He used to do skits where he would prank call gaming companies and rag on them. He was a gigantic nerd and since I was, too, I totally envied the guy. I was fishing with my buddy one day [when I was 15] and thought to myself, ‘If Captain Immy can do it, so can I!’ Within a few months, the station was up and running in my bedroom at my parents’ home.”
How’d you get your first listeners initially?
“Most of them were just friends. We used to spam big, punk Independent Radio Club channels and a bunch of the gaming channels and gained some listeners through there. IRC was the big chatting outlet for people back in the day, and there actually are still a decent amount of good chat channels on there – if you can find them. Word of mouth was by far the biggest thing after that small amount of spamming we did. We weren’t really concerned with gaining listeners in the beginning. Our main concern was to have an outlet that allowed us to tell the world to fuck off and spin tunes we loved.”
When did you start to notice that more than just friends were tuning in?
“The first three or four years, we didn’t stream 24/7. We did a nightly show Pump Up The Volume-style until 2003. That year, we started to notice a huge increase of listenership in our server logs, and that inspired us to launch a 24/7 stream, which changed everything. By late 2003, we had over 200.000 unique IP [address]’s tuning each month. This really forced us to grow up quickly and operate as a business. We now have over 15 million unique listeners tune in monthly.”
All of your commercials have really great voiceover work. How’d you hook up with the ‘voice of doom’ that handles all of that?
“This is great because once again it goes back to my old-school nerd days. Someone on one of the old forums I used to hang out on told me about a guy named Jeff Straub who sounds like the voice in all those movie trailers. Now Jeff’s voice can be heard all over TV and terrestrial radio. It’s cheesy, but our labels love it, and I think it makes the commercials we run almost as entertaining as the music we spin!”
Do you get harassed by publishers and labels for spinning content without paying royalties or having explicit permission?
“As most people know, internet radio has been ripped to shreds in the U.S. by the associations that look after the major labels. In Canda, we don’t really have laws that mirror the American laws. PunkRadioCast is all for paying royalties, but we were recently approached with a license fee that is unfair and tells us how to program our content. It’s a decision that has not been approved by, or even brought before, the Copyright Board of Canada. Even beyond the fee being unfair, the major labels own the rights to their music and can attempt to sue us if we do not come to some sort of an agreement. The issues that we have with what was presented to us and what is going on in the U.S., is that it’s not only about radio stations paying fees that go to the artists. The whole scenario is about the major labels controlling the market. We are not going to let this happen to us. If worse comes to worst, PunkRadioCast will go back to its roots and say, ‘Fuck you!’ and play bands that are involved with labels who care about other bands and the community that supports them.”
Do you think you’re sufficiently protected being in Canada, or are you worried about losing content?
“We’re definitely worried about losing our content, specially the music. We have always operated PRC completely within the bounds of our country’s laws and will continue to do so without compromising our morals. We are currently protected in Canada, but when I think about what we’ve faced – the deceit and the lies – and about what U.S. radio stations are facing, I can’t help but worry about the future. When it comes down do it, corporations run the country and laws are made to protect them just as often as they are made to protect citizens.
Let’s move on to something more positive. What’s in the works at the PunkRadioCast office?
“We’re actually launching a whole new company, which PunkRadioCast is going to be a big part of. The first aspect we’re launching is a brand new stand-alone digital media player called the Fork Player – it operates just like Winamp or iTunes, but has a ton of cool features tied into our station. Our listeners are also going to have the opportunity to become a subscriber to this service. This will allow them to become more interactive with the radio station and give them the chance to win cool prizes, chat with their favorite celebrities and musicians, get into exclusive concerts all over the world and a ton of other awesome stuff. You don’t have to subscribe to be a listener; it’s just an option. Last, we are going to launch a network of radio stations that will be accessible through the Fork Player. PunkRadioCast will always be the flagship station and my baby, but I feel that the world is missing what radio used to offer, even with the millions of radio stations available through many different formats. Our plan is to bring the love of radio to everyone, not just the punk scene.
For more info, go to punkradiocast.com.
SOURCE: Alternative Press magazine