By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
The current issue of Rolling Stone suggests that Internet radio is worth noticing mainly because it's providing a new forum for old-fashioned heavy metal. But this implication sells the concept short in a major way. A wide range of stations have popped up of late, and many of them have interests that extend far beyond old Scorpions albums; take, for instance, the Wicca Pagan Broadcasting Network, recently profiled in these pages ("All Pagan, All the Time," March 5). Moreover, the growing homogenization of standard broadcast radio is apt to inspire people of every description and taste to grab their mouses and start clicking.
That's the dream of David Fodel, one of the men behind RadioValve, a Boulder-based Internet-only radio station that specializes in dance music. The outlet, which can be accessed at www.radiovalve.net, has been a going concern since February 28, when it cybercast a concert by Mix Master Morris at Fiske Planetarium. And although the station is still in a nascent stage, Fodel is pleased by the number of Net surfers it's attracted thus far. "We're getting between 6,000 and 7,000 listeners a week at this point, and we haven't done any marketing except through what I guess you could call digital word of mouth," he says. "And word's definitely getting around. We've had listeners from Belgium, Italy and Argentina, and a random sprinkling from all across the country."
RadioValve, which Fodel co-founded with partner Brian Comerford, isn't the sole source of techno sounds on the Internet. Pirate Radio, out of England, intermittently offers similar fare, as does WOMB, a Florida outfit that simulcasts the music heard on a broadcast station with the same call letters, and quite a few others sport regular electronic-music features. But as far as Fodel knows, RadioValve is the sole Internet-only entity presenting a continuous flow of such sounds 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the station doesn't merely skim the surface of the style. More than twenty specialty shows are heard every week, including SubHarmonic, which examines the roots of techno; TestTone, a platform for abstract efforts; and a program in which rhythms from the Goa, India, scene are explored in depth. "We also have a show that focuses a little bit on what the major labels have put out--crossover, breakbeat stuff like the Chemical Brothers," Fodel says. "But we don't just play their latest stuff. We look at where the individuals and different groupings came from and play their earlier music, too. We give a little of the history, which I think is good for novices to find out about."
The most ambitious item on the schedule thus far is ChatterValve, a live call-in show hosted by Ginger Perry and Clark ov Saturn that takes place every other Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. (The next broadcast takes place on Friday, April 24.) Saturn is a longtime presence in the Denver underground thanks to his membership in pH-10 and LD-50; he's also the host of cable TV's Tele Deutsch. But he's especially excited about the potential for ChatterValve. "The idea is doing a talk-show format, but with electronic music underneath it all," he says. "But what makes that even better is that people can tune in all over the world--and since we have an 800 number, they can actually call in live." (The phone number will be available every Friday on the RadioValve site. Interested parties can also contact Saturn and Perry via e-mail at chattervalve@USA.NET.)
WITH A MEDIUM AS YOUNG AS INTERNET RADIO, TECHNICAL PROBLEMS ARE INEVITABLE, AND CHATTERVALVE HAS ALREADY EXPERIENCED PLENTY OF THEM; DURING ITS MARCH 27 TEST RUN, ONLY ABOUT HALF AN HOUR OF AUDIO COULD BE HEARD OUTSIDE THE STUDIO. BUT TECHNOLOGY CAN MAKE UP FOR A MULTITUDE OF SINS. FOR EXAMPLE, THIS FIRST SHOW WAS RECORDED AND ARCHIVED SO THAT LISTENERS CAN CALL IT UP WHENEVER THEY'D LIKE. DIGGING INTO THE PAST MAY NOT ALWAYS BE FREE, THOUGH. FODEL SEES RADIOVALVE'S ARCHIVES AS A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF INCOME. "WE'RE CONSIDERING MAKING ALL OF OUR ARCHIVES AVAILABLE BY SUBSCRIPTION," HE SAYS. "YOU'D PAY A SUBSCRIPTION FEE PER YEAR, AND THAT WOULD GIVE YOU ACCESS TO EVERYTHING WE'VE DONE WHENEVER YOU WANT."
IN THE MEANTIME, ADVERTISING PROVIDES RADIOVALVE'S PRIMARY SOURCE OF INCOME. THE STATION IS A LONG WAY FROM BEING IN THE BLACK, BUT FODEL BELIEVES THAT SITUATION WILL EVENTUALLY BE REVERSED, IN PART BECAUSE "WE CAN GUARANTEE THAT ADS WILL BE HEARD. THE WAY WE STRUCTURE THE PROGRAMMING, WE PLAY A SET NUMBER OF ADVERTISEMENTS PRIOR TO A LISTENER JUMPING INTO THE LIVE STREAM. ON TOP OF THAT, OUR EQUIPMENT ALLOWS US TO TELL ADVERTISERS EXACTLY WHO'S LISTENING AND FOR HOW LONG. THAT'S A REAL ADVANTAGE OVER REGULAR RADIO, WHICH RELIES ON RANDOM SURVEYS TO DETERMINE LISTENERSHIP."
AS FODEL'S WORDS UNDERLINE, HIS OPERATION IS A BUSINESS, AND IF IT DOESN'T MAKE ENOUGH BUCKS, IT WON'T BE AROUND FOR LONG. BUT WITH RADIO IN DENVER AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY AT SUCH A LOW CREATIVE EBB, FODEL IS CONFIDENT THAT RADIOVALVE CAN FIND A NICHE. "IN THIS AREA, THE COMMERCIAL STATIONS DON'T BELIEVE THERE'S A LARGE ENOUGH MARKET TO HAVE A TECHNO-ONLY STATION; OTHERWISE THERE'D BE ONE," HE SAYS. "BUT ON A GLOBAL SCALE, THERE'S CERTAINLY ENOUGH PEOPLE TO SUPPORT ONE. AND THE INTERNET ALLOWS US TO REACH A WHOLE LOT OF THEM."