Business

Festivals Canceled, Promoters Launch Radio Bizarro to Bring Music to Dominican Republic

Christian Álvarez and Gaby San Miguel
Mabel Rivas

Christian Álvarez and Gaby San Miguel

When the Isle of Light Music Festival was canceled last March in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival's organizers at Mishu Music searched for a way to stay connected with fans and build upon the independent music scene it had been developing in the Dominican Republic since the launch of the festival in 2014.

Seven months laters, Mishu Music chief executive Carlos Aybar launched Radio Bizarro, a two-hour music show on 88.5 FM, broadcast Monday-Friday from Santo Domingo and streamed at radiobizarro.fm.

Mishu Music are the promoters behind the six-year-old Isle of Light Music Festival, which was scheduled to begin March 14, 2020, right as the U.S. and the DR were heading into lockdown. Radio Bizarro's music format is similar to its festival lineup, which in 2020 was set to feature a mix of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking artists was to be headlined by Gwen Stefani and feature Nick MurphyC. Tangana, The Rapture, Clubz, DJ Tennis and more.

"Our music programing mix is about 50 percent Anglo and 50 percent Spanish," explains Aybar. Mishu also produces the House of Creatives festival in Miami and the Dominican Republic's Buena Onda rooftop concert series. Besides keeping its brand in front of the island nation's 10 million residents, the station is constantly encouraging its listeners to send in song requests, helping the promoter track what music is resonating in the country, where the median age is 28.

"A lot of our listeners discover music through Spotify or Apple and want to share it with our audience. It's a real badge of honor for them," explains Aybar.

Radio Bizarro is hosted by actor and producer Christian Alvarez and advertising professional Gaby San Miguel and features a mix of talk, commentary and guest interviews, mostly in Spanish. The station sells its own advertising and runs most of its contests and giveaways through its social media channel, allowing it develop and build a new marketing audience for future concerts.

"We're seeing momentum and our followers are becoming ambassadors for what we're doing by spreading the word and talking about it on social media," said Mark Simek, who heads up marketing at Mishu Music. "We've been doing a lot of interactive kind of elements to keep our followers involved including taking submissions through our website for song requests. We just want our listeners to feel engaged and start taking a role in the development of the station and know, we're doing this for them."

Courtesy Photo

Every show is uploaded to the station's website and available for on-demand download. Aybar says the on-air hosts have started talking about the availability of a vaccine or changes to the country's curfew as the island nation battles through the pandemic. Aybar says that is unlikely Isle of Light returns in 2021 but will continue to rely on the station to provide listeners with updates on the festivals.

"It's a hot topic," Aybar said. "Like everywhere else in the world, the DR is eager for the pandemic to end and for music fans to get back out to see a show."