Welcome To The World Indie 88.1 FM!

Yesterday a new radio station officially launched in Toronto: Indie 88.1 FM. You can check out its debut here and then stream the actual station over here.launch-1000x500

While this station is brand new, it’s already earned a special spot in my heart thanks to its great playlist and because it’s doing its dial number proud.

That dial number, 88.1 FM, used to belong to Ryerson’s campus radio, CKLN. I worked part-time there, first as a music librarian and then as the student coordinator, while I studied at Ryerson and yes, I did indeed have my own show. Called the Ryerson Music Show (creative, I know), each episode introduced listeners to a band/rapper/DJ/whatever who had some kind of Ryerson connection. While most of those acts are no longer around (to my knowledge anyway), Friday Morning’s Regret, now known as The Wooden Sky, is still going strong.

CKLN lost its license in 2011 due to, well issues that you can read about over here. After that went down, I had hoped that a new, progressive, community station would be awarded the left-est spot on the dial and that somehow I could carve out a job there (hey, it could have happened; I have a degree in journalism, worked three years at This Magazine and have tons of online and social media experience thanks to working for over seven years for some very big names in music).

While that didn’t happen, I am happy that 88.1 FM was awarded to Indie. While it’s not technically a community station, it’s clearly community-oriented and very interested in listening to its fans (and I would love to work somehow for this station; Indie 88.1 FM if you’re reading this, feel free to get in touch).

It’s also playing some great music, including plenty of tracks that would have gotten play on CKLN 88.1 FM. Yesterday, I listened to Indie 88.1 FM for most of my workday and so far, so good. Now, it wasn’t perfect, The Sheepdogs were played along with multiple Snow Patrol songs but then so were The Naked and Famous, Daft Punk and Arcade Fire.

I quite liked how the station mixes things up as far as decades go. While the bulk of the songs played were released in the past five years, we also took a trip back to the ‘80s thanks to songs by The Clash and New Order while Beck and Ben Fold Five (among others) represented the ‘90s. This is a good approach and I hope the station keeps it up.

Genre-wise, the songs I heard were mostly from the rock family but a Johnny Cash track did slip in (mind you, it was his cover of “Hurt”). While part of me thinks that Indie 88.1 FM should mix things up a little more when it comes to genre, I do realize that that approach could really backfire. Playing “Get Lucky” after a Fast Romantics track is one thing, but jumping from say, new wave to hip-hop to electro to indie rock, yeah, that’s a tough sell.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking, “Johnny Cash? Daft Punk? That’s not indie!” and yeah, I agree with you. But I also don’t care because for the most part, I’m really liking what this station is playing. Plus, it’s free.

I mention this because ever since SiriusXM started charging earlier this year for streaming privileges, I’ve been hunting for a new online music streaming service. I was considering paying to access SiriusXM online but first I wanted to see if Rdio or another service met my needs better. But as of this afternoon, Indie 88.1 FM is winning. The station’s a nice mix between SiriusXM’s AltNation and XMU with a dash of 1st Wave tossed in.  And because it’s radio, I just hit play and let it do all the work (unlike Rdio and similar services).

I absolutely love the streaming player that Indie 88.1 FM has gone with because it’s simple, it’s clean and it works (there are a lot of crappy steaming services out there).  It also has a fun and interactive “activity feed,” which grabs tweets as well as direct submissions. While it’s a bit of a risky feature (because of trolls and other internet asshats), it’s one that makes a lot of sense given the station’s audience.

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 5.08.18 PM
What the player looks like

It also opens up a lot of interesting opportunities that Indie 88.1 FM is already taking advantage of. Last night one of the station’s employees (maybe the programming director?) was directly chatting with listeners via this feed and even taking requests. This is a great idea and I hope it’s something that the station keeps up.

It do wish that this player had a few more features like love and social share buttons as well as iTunes buy buttons (which would also make the station a bit of money) but maybe those items will come in time.

Besides that, my only other suggestion to Indie 88.1 FM is to drop the New Politics song from the station callout ad. Every time I hear it, I think “Harlem” is going to start playing and then I feel sad when it turns out to just be an ad.

(Actually, I do have a few other ideas for Indie 88.1 FM, you’re going to have to get in touch with me to find out about them.)

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