The Spirit Of Pirate Radio Lives In Salt Lake City
10 Questions With The Utah Musicians Radio Network
Today on Salt TV, we’re profiling online phenomenon known as the Utah Musicians Radio Network, a grass roots, independent, Utah based internet radio station that has experienced phenomenal growth showcasing the talents of Utah based artists and bands. In a little over 9 months, they’ve gone from a part time, bedroom driven enterprise to thriving internet concern that's had over 1.8 million visits to their Facebook page and its embedded radio player, 26,000 listeners, over 350 bands participating and are now heard in 70 countries.
We sat down with founder and president, John Farmer, to discuss their growth, how it all began, where they are going and how they get their eclectic mix that appeals to such a wide audience.
STV: John, give us a little background on how you came up with this idea and how you went about starting it up?
Utah Musicians and our radio station really is an amazing story.
After the stock market crashed I lost my previous company and it took me about a year to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. During that year, my wife finally convinced me to join Facebook and as I slowly began to see the benefits of how social media was working, I started a page and became more established in the scene again. I saw a lot of my friends in bands with pages but not a central location for our whole community to come together. I figured we needed a page where anyone and everyone could post where they were playing and everyone could find them on that one page! That’s when I originally started Utah Musicians on Facebook. It was a place for bands to post their events and a landing spot for the general public to see where all the bands were playing across the state.
I began with having each band send me their best song and I would then post it on the Utah Musicians page. We had a huge response and within a matter of a few weeks we had roughly 30 songs on the page and growing every day. By the 3rd month of taking on the music, we had over 80 songs featured on our page.
Facebook began one of their many changes which affected the way our media player was used. If you wanted to hear the 50th band you had to go through 49 other songs. The listener was no longer able to pick a band that they like. I couldn’t believe it. I sat back for weeks trying different methods to better get our music out to the masses, but nothing worked very well.
On May 13th 2011, I was at band practice and the whole time we were playing the constant thought of trying to fix this situation was bearing down on my head. What could we do? At the end of practice I was talking to one of my band members, Jared Ruplinger, who is a tech genius with websites and it suddenly came to me, WE NEED A RADIO STATION!
I turned to Jared and I was explaining to him the problem and said, “Dude, we need to create an internet radio station”. His exact words were, ” We can do that, that’s not a problem”. The next day I called him and we started to put together a website and a place to play the music. He suggested a few things and we added them to the computer. We worked a solid 40 hours getting it ready for Monday May 15th 2011.
May 15th came, and I was ready, we were using my 14 year old daughter’s computer in her bedroom to make this happen. We set it up that her computer would be the server to stream out to the masses. Our max listenership potential was to serve 13 people from that little computer. Little did I realize what we had stumbled upon.
I began our station and within a matter of minutes we had maxed out our listeners… we were booting people by the hundreds every hour. I called Jared freaking out saying, “This is not going to cut it man! We need something that will cover these numbers!” Within 3 days of starting we went to a service that could then handle the listeners.
When we started our radio station we only had 35 bands, mostly friends that I’ve known over the years who wanted to help support the cause. Our hours were from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm so that my daughter could do her homework after school and use the internet.
All throughout June we kept getting more and more bands sending in their music and we could no longer be a 10-7 radio station and still play everyone. So on July 1st 2011 we became a 24 hour radio station. By that point we had roughly 100 bands and growing every single day. Since then, we have grown to over 300 bands that we’re playing music from, produced a successful live show last summer with Rock the Park, added live performance streaming from venues to feature great local bands like Sofa Sly, Junior and the Transportation, Wafer, Opal Hill Drive, Veggiestew, Funk Fu and Royal Bliss live and
began a small group of regular programs featuring music talk, band profiles and of course, even more Utah music!
Remember this all began on my 14 year old Daughter computer in her bedroom. She would fall asleep with me working on the computer and wake up with me working on the computer. I sometimes work 140 hours a week to make sure that our music scene succeeds and is recognized for all our amazing musicians!
STV: What do you have to offer the listener that traditional radio isn’t already covering?
We don't limit ourselves to just one style of music. We aren't limited to the practices that standard radio is tied down to. We have the ability to stream from any location for live concerts and all you have to do is turn on your computer if you can't make the show. We only play independent bands that aren't signed and give them the opportunity to be heard, no matter what genre they play, how great their recordings or promotions are or how well they are known. Everyone gets a voice here and you’ll hear EVERYTHING on our station! It might be country one song, rap or Christian the next, world, metal, pop, new wave…all right in a row. We love music and we’re making our station for those that love music too!
STV: What cities or towns are your bands coming from? Are most of the acts located on the Wasatch Front?
No, we have bands from every corner of Utah. From Logan to Kanab, Delta to Moab. I love finding out that we have music coming in from St. George and Vernal! It's just a great feeling knowing that we are helping these bands get noticed to a larger audience. I strive to keep the word UTAH and not a particular city. Our whole state has amazing musicians!
STV: You’re currently playing music from over 300 bands from all over Utah, in so many genres, how do you decide what makes it into the playlist and gets heavy rotation?
We give every band and artist the opportunity to shine and be heard. We know that not every band has a load of money to go to a studio, so we play everyone. We never turn anyone away. The only thing we say if it's questionable is, "If this is what you want the world to hear and know of your band, we'll still play you. We just want everyone to get their chance!"
Some of the bands and artists that get played with a little more frequency usually are very active right now, their recordings are more polished (no matter what genre) and help spread the word about our station. Many of them have large followings, which often gives many other bands and artists the opportunity to be heard by those band's fans right alongside them on our station. A big win for everyone!
STV: How do bands get songs to you to play on your station and what are your rules (profanity, subject matter, genre, etc.?)
Again, there are no limitations on language. We don't censor the artists’ intent of their lyrics, that's like covering the statue of David with a piece of paper as far as we’re concerned. As for subject matter and genre, we love all music that comes our way, it’s what makes us that much more unique. Some of the music can be controversial or non-traditional, but we strive to make an impact to our local community with quality and variety that can’t be found anywhere else! My goal is for the entire state (and beyond!) to know about us, to listen to our great artists.
STV: What’s the strangest genre of music and/or band/artist that you’ve played music from?
I would never say "strange". Music comes in so many forms! What I would say is unique. It's amazing that there is such a diverse, vibrant sound coming from this state and yet there's a common thread to it. It's very Utah sounding even though it could be country or thrash metal, folk or rap. It's just so amazing, all of it! Some do stand out more than others, but each one has such a great quality, we’re enjoying all of it!
STV: Do you have favorite artists or bands that just stand out from the rest of the pack?
Oh wow, I generally try to keep my personal favorites to myself, because I don't want our musicians to feel like I pick favorites to play on our station. To be completely honest, I love all styles of music, I keep telling everyone that this feeds my addition for music. As a musicians myself I couldn't imagine life without music in it. It's everywhere! Elevators, commercials, cartoons, movies, cars, store fronts, restaurants. We have over 350 bands as of right now and I have another 5 waiting for me to get to them just today alone. I’m not sure if that sounds like a cop-out answer, but truthfully, I think every band is amazing. Anyone that picks up an instrument, writes the songs, plays their heart and soul out to people they don't know, to share with the public, has my absolute respect.
STV: We’ve noticed you have a couple of regularly scheduled shows. Can you tell us what kinds of things those shows offer?
Well, in the very beginning, it started with "Waiting for the Rapture with the Suicycles". Not only a great radio show, but an incredible band too! They bring a really great underground vibe to the local scene here in Utah. Then a good friend of mine who goes way back to the Dead Goat days, Scott Iverson, is the executive producer of “Brewin' Bistro live from SLCC”. They bring great people and also showcase students from SLCC.
I also have my own radio program that I host called “The Cat’s Den with Johnny C.” , which is my stage name ever since I started my band way back in the early 90’s. It stuck and I use it everywhere I go now. On my show, I bring musicians and people of interest into the studio and talk about their music, the local music scene, things that can improve, what they’ve learned, any advice they might have for up and coming bands and just the general B.S. that goes with a radio talk show. I love joking and making people laugh, it makes things easier and people open up a little more. My whole goal is for the listener to get to know the person behind the instrument. Let them open up to the world a little better. It also helps the audience appreciate the artist more too.
STV: You guys have been streaming some live shows. Who has been your favorite band or artist to stream live? How about your favorite venue to stream from?
We’ve streamed Royal Bliss twice now, once up in Snowbasin and once just recently at Liquid Joes. I was honored that they allowed me to introduce them onstage. It was a sold out crowd and just a lot of fun! I will say this though, after all my years of being on stage and touring and playing music, I’m glad that I’m behind the mic now and helping other bands get recognize. I feel like I’m doing more for the community that way rather than just playing my music. I have the honor and privilege to work with so many more incredible bands and if I can help change our music scene here in Utah, then it’s worth all the hours I put into it! It’s something that my kids can be part of and something that they can be proud of. I love working with the community.
STV: What do you see in your future for Utah Musicians Radio? Where do you go from here?
Utah Musicians Radio is so amazing, if anyone asked where it all started from, I’m proud to say it started right here in Utah. We are taking Utah Musicians to the next level. We are now spreading our wings and we’ve started American Musicians Radio! We are taking the basic principle of our Utah music station and we want to plant this in all 50 states. We want to change the music scene one person and one band at a time. It’s like our motto says, “We believe every musician deserves to be heard!”