EuroTrashMusic and the future of online radio
Online radio in South Africa has recently been spreading its wings and waves worldwide; hosts of edgy/quirky South African online radio stations have added their unique voices to the Web with an aim to supply an alternative to the often overly commercially saturated local radio stations. We chat to Craig Steyn, founder of EuroTrashMusic, an online radio station
that aims to give an equal platform to all, to find out more about the future of online radio.
What's your background? How did you start EuroTrashMusic?
I worked at UJFM for a couple of years doing the 12 to 3pm slot and found my way into the music department. After graduating from UJ, I worked briefly at another community station and realised at both stations that a lot of the music that was being submitted for playlisting was not being given a chance because of station policy, and would usually end up in the corner of the music room. So, taking from that, I have tried to create a platform where artists and musicians can submit their music and be given a fair chance.
Why the name EuroTrashMusic when you're a local site that includes the promotion of SA musicians?
EuroTrashMusic represents a type of music rather than the location of the music and our activities themselves. The type of music is that which is traditionally not commercially viable and would end up in the trash folder of the mainstream community. Great artists and amazing talent were being overlooked and this is what we are about - giving an equal platform for all to compete, based on the music itself rather than anything else.
What makes EuroTrashMusic stand out from other SA online radio stations?
The station works around a policy that is pretty flexible. There are obviously certain structures that we follow to maintain everything, but we are pretty open to trying new things on the fly and just letting what happens, happen. Most of the presenters do not have traditional broadcasting experience, so that makes the shows more interesting as they are not the usual "talking heads" that you would find on other stations. The studio isn't a typical setting either. I've tried to create an environment that is more "homely", so presenters and musicians feel more relaxed and don't have that pressure lurking of being on the radio. All of this makes the whole vibe of the station a bit more real and down to earth.
Do your presenters work on a voluntary basis?
The presenters do work on a voluntary basis, but I've been really lucky with the people doing shows. They understand that, with it being self-funded, it is more of a passion project and for them, it's two or three hours a week where they can let their hair down and have some fun. They are also given an opportunity to attend events as part of the EuroTrashMusic media team.
How do you survive as an online radio site? Where do you get your moola from?
From the beginning and until now, everything to do with EuroTrashMusic has been self-funded.
What's your SA vs international ratio via the radio and content on the site?
I try to keep the content 50/50 on both the station and the site. It also really depends on the day or the week. Sometimes, it will be a slow week for international and a busy week for local or vice versa, so it's just a matter of picking content that is relevant at the time. I also try to make sure that the international content is varied by syndicating international shows that share a similar vision as EuroTrashMusic.
How do you select which songs or artists are played? Is this up to the presenters?
The presenters have free rein over their shows, so they are able to select the music that they want to play during their time, but when the playlist takes over for automation I select music I think suits the vibe of the station. I've been really lucky to work with some great labels and artists who send through their music, so I usually add the tracks to the system and give them a few runs to see what people are saying about them, or I'll search through social media to get a sense of what people are saying about the music in general. I have also run campaigns calling on undiscovered talent to submit their music which is then reviewed and possibly playlisted. As mentioned, we want to give everyone an equal opportunity and let the music find us just as much as we seek it out.
Who are your presenters and what type of shows do you present?
Our presenters all come from pretty diverse backgrounds and their ages are anywhere between 21 to mid-40s. There is Sam Wright who has a background in journalism and brings that into her show, which is an all-round variety slot. We've got Brendyn Zachary who handles the metal show, Shayne Robinson who has his roots in tech and photojournalism, Hagen Engler who does a themed show every week through popular music history, philosophy and analysis. There is The Beard who presents our Indie show, The Ritalin Thieves collective, which handles the Cape Town underground scene, plus we have a couple internationally syndicated shows that focus on new and exciting music from around the world - most notably Passport Approved, which is headed up by the guys at A&R WorldWide.
Do you feel that online radio is the way of the future? Will it ever take over commercial radio?
I definitely think that online is the way of the future and it has already shown to have massive potential across the world. Because of this I think that it is only a matter of time before it really starts taking a hold of the local market. At the moment, I think commercial radio has nothing to worry about as it continues to be a massive force, but it wouldn't hurt just to keep their eyes on the online guys. The world today has made a massive shift toward online, mobile and instant gratification - getting what you want when you want it - and that's what we are trying to deliver: good music that the masses want to hear when they want to hear it.
What are your thoughts on the shift from television (DSTV) to online for the MK channel?
The MK thing is a really interesting topic. I think it's great that they didn't just scrap the entire platform, but right now it's a bit of a Catch 22. It's great that they are moving into the digital sphere and pretty much heading up the initiative, but given our Internet and the availability of access for the majority, some people will most probably miss out - but hopefully, time will change that, so I'm super happy that they will still be around and doing great things for the SA music industry. This is a challenge that we have faced within the online market in South Africa and having heavy hitters move online will only help the industry move from strength to strength.
Which SA musicians get your pulse racing these days?
The last couple of months have been really exciting for SA music, so I'm pretty all over the place when it comes to SA musicians, but the ones that come to mind are: The Watermark High, Dirty Paraffin, Matthew Mole, The Frown, Taxi Violence, NakhaneToure, Shortstraw, DansDans Lisa and Facing the Gallows- I could go on and on.
What's the grand plan for EurotrashMusic?
I'd love to get EuroTrashMusic to a point where it is self-sustainable and let it become a platform where listeners/readers/artists/musicians can come together as a community and share their music interests with each other.
Online radio: www.etm.fm