Saturday, March 17, 2012

The World We Know

It's interesting to see the music landscape in media in March 2012.

I have two other friends, Dan Kelley and  Lee Arnold, guys who developed my respect throughout the years for the radio stations they programmed, who are into the online classic rock radio business.
The nice thing about this is we are all rooting for each other. I know the work involved putting together something like this and just for that, they have my respect.

My radio station ( is my train set, my Harley. I don't ride anymore. It's not me, mind you, but I've noticed a serious deterioration of driving skills by the general public over the last few years and it scares me. Too much yapping and texting at the wheel for me. This is my hobby. This my Harley. And my train set. I make no money from it, in fact, it's been a bit of an investment.

Planet radio is the station I used to have in my head when I was a teenager. I would lock myself in my room on the farm and "do radio" into my little tape recorder. I'd play Bobby Sherman and segue it with King Crimson, I'd play the Grass Roots and Steppenwolf like they did on the stations I listened to.

The seed for planet radio was germinated about 12 years ago when a company in St. Louis was going into the online music business. They were to hire a bunch of people to program different types of internet radio to send with local content all over the country. They had figured out how to localize the content and send it to that city. I was intrigued! I was going to program and voice the classic rock stream, sending it to Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle and a couple of other places. They had the backing and marketing ideas that made me think they were going to do this right.

There were about 12 of us when we all met at an office in Clayton, including Michael Holbrook, who was the IT guy at The Rock! when I was there. He was along to set the whole thing up. I was pretty excited about this project as you could imagine. We had offices in Clayton and everything was ready to go.

About two days before launch, it was over. Apparently, something didn't happen royalty wise or bandwidth wise or something but right before launch, it was over. I couldn't for the life of me figure out the steps to do something like that, so I put the thought aside.

I still thought there was something there.

I thought there was an audience for what progressive rock radio used to be. I grew up listening to "Beaker Street" on KAAY in Little Rock. It was a 50,00 watt radio station on AM that would blast all the way into Canada. After 10pm, they would play songs that would not normally be heard anywhere else, unless it was KSHE back in the day. One of the first things I would do when visiting cousins here would be to turn on KSHE. KSHE went deep into album cuts and they turned me on to such wonderful music. The first time I heard Bruce was on KSHE. In the Quad Cities, it was 99 + Stereo KFMH that would go deep into albums and blow my mind. THAT music wasn't  getting played anywhere (the consultants ALWAYS said "play the hits") until the advent of online radio.

While messing around on line one day, I found Dan Kelley's classic rock website, where he would write about all things classic rock. He wrote on radio, bands, and usually very interesting stuff. In one of these columns he talked about how he was getting ready to launch an online classic rock station. I was immediately very interested to observe from afar.

Here's Dan's station. This is the bar.

Dan's site was the inspiration for planet radio and he still sets the bar high. His station has been named by a number of magazines for "music site of the month". Dan's a computer guy. He can do all that stuff by himself, I'm not quite as technically savvy.

When I got the job at Lee in October of 2009, I thought it would be a good time to explore this fascination of mine with someone who knew a whole lot more about it than I did, enter Mike Batchelor. Mike's pretty spiffy with computers and I approached him with with my idea and what I would need. Mike and I sat down over a soda at the Dorsett Inn. With my template and his knowledge, away we went. "You start ripping songs and I'll get started on the technical end". I needed a stand alone computer, a website, a domain, scheduling software, licensing, server hosts, royalties etc. That was November, our launch time was set at January first 2010 (11:10/01/01/10).

Mike came over at ten a. m. on New Years Day and proceeded to set up all the ip address, shoutcast portals and whatnot to get ready for the switch to be thrown at that time.

The switch was thrown and.....nothing. Yikes.

Oh wait, here is the problem, and with that....20 seconds later, there it was!! THE very first song ever on planet radio. "Breakout" by Shooting Star. Through my computer to the brave new world..the very first full song ever played was "Song For America" by Kansas.

Why planet radio? When I lived in Kansas City, there was station there named planet radio. I just thought the name was cool. My second choice was Radio Mojo. But, I thought planet radio summed it up because you CAN listen to us all over the planet.

The first playlist at planetradio was really, really wide. From Motown to Tool. I had to do some paring. Lulu into Black Sabbath, Mary Wells into Judas Priest didn't quite cut it. Painful for a rdaio guy's ears, ya know. Right now, the playlist is about as close to perfect as it's been. I'm still working on it. Always will be.

Recently, planet radio was featured in an article in St. Louis Magazine where the management staff at KSHE were asked why they played only a small portion of their playlist. Their responses were typical. The writer asked my thoughts on local classic rock radio and my response was..."tragic."

While planet radio's peak of 179 listeners earlier this week are just a drop in the bucket, they come from all over the world and listen for a long time. They are also former listeners of local rock radio.

So, if you've ever turned on planet radio, give my other friends stations a shot.

If you are unable to make the connect to "Dream On" anymore, we're for you. If you think "Free Bird" hasn't been played enough, probably not.
The nice thing about online radio now, is the development of smart phones, itunes, iphones and ipads.
Through a very good friend of mine and a charter member of the planetradio fan club, I have apps for those that allow you to listen to the station while on the road, or on your deck plugged in to to your ipod speakers.

My station is availabe on itunes radio. Click on the radio icon, go to classic rock and then planet radio.

Now into my third year, we're strong on facebook and I'm now adding some search engine optimization to get us more exposure.

But, when all is said and done, it's about the music. From John Denver to Black Sabbath, from Bread to Frank Zappa, it's all here 6,400 songs and 1,191 unique artists strong.

I hope you've had a chance to listen, if not, go here and see what I think is a great radio station

Lee's station is getting a reboot and he's added a ton of "new" music.
Here's Lee's station...


Dan Kelley said...

Randy...thank you for the kind words about Okemos Brewing. I feel honored with your comments.

All the best to you and Planetradio my friend!


Teri B. Hinson said...

I can't imagine what my life would be like had it not been for Randy and PlanetRadio... I have met a lot of wonderful people and started my own Facebook page.. He is a mentor and I LOVE the station.. I have heard stuff I love and discovered things I'd never heard and now love.. Play on Bossman...Play on..........

Lee Arnold said...

Hey Randy
Thank you so much for kind words. just passed the 5 year mark. A labor of Love.

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