We grew up with albums and FM radio. We grew up with real radio shows with real DJs, that played what they liked and told stories of how they discovered it. This is how we knew what albums we wanted to buy.
Back in 2003, when all three restaurants were open and thriving [EVR co-founder Frank Prisinzano is the owner of sevreal East Village eateries], the music scene seemed to be leaving the East Village — along with other cultural landmarks — as rents climbed and the area got more and more gentrified.
We wanted to do something that would push back against that, something cool that would be a platform for all the great DJs and music collectors we knew, to play whatever they wanted.
After some discussion with Jorge DoCouto about Free Radio Austin (a pirate station in Texas), it just seemed so perfect a gesture to give the East Village its own radio station. East Village Radio was born, commercial-free and as vibrant as the East Village itself.
The outpouring of talent that ensued was mind-blowing. Before we knew it we had an incredible, real music studio right on 1st Avenue and 1st Street, blasting out the culture and music of the area to the world in real time.
From that point on, we really started to feel the gravity of what we had created. With the closing of CBGB’s that gravity doubled. We started to look at EVR as a huge responsibility — to create an actual model for local Internet radio. What better place to start it then the birthplace of punk rock, the home of Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and so many others?
We all felt it, and so did the listeners. You cannot fake good taste in music. We knew we had it. That’s what kept us going. This is what kept us dedicated and kept us concerned about selling albums and helping a struggling music industry along.
To survive and thrive, we knew we had to be better than anyone else. We had to offer a solution to an ever-changing problem. Where is real radio and how can it live today?
We had disappointments, but we didn’t care. This had to be held up. We started realizing more and more that we were going against the grain of what was happening with streaming music services and the huge companies that fund them. Algorithms that choose your music for you so you don’t really have to listen, think or learn. The same songs played again and again. Thumbs up or thumbs down are your choices.
There are giant streaming music services partnering with giant radio corporations. There are giant record labels partnering with giant radio companies, and here we are as an alternative to it with no money and just our instincts. And we are a thousand times cooler.
Many brands got us, like Jameson and Red Bull, and we kept getting close to putting the infrastructure we needed in place to achieve our goals. Then the reality of that same infrastructure’s cost — payroll, Internet, server and licensing — would saddle us and set us back again and again.
We had great things planned to expand our voice, through both the station and events, but we were forced to shut down by the lack of the actual hands and materials needed to execute it.
We had opportunities for investors, but we didn’t think we’d be given the autonomy to continue on the path we were on. There was never any discussion of selling out. It was always: “Run it properly or shut it down.”
We were giving the world access to one of the most important musical neighborhoods on the planet via our live DJs. When you know that, you don’t sell it out. You nurture it.
Big radio is homogenous. Its white bread. Its a few programmers choosing your music for you. It limits free expression and squashes the small artists. This is scary, when you consider that radio is still the primary way people learn about new music.
We hope they know what they’re doing and understand the responsibility they have. Much like the immense responsibility we felt to the musical DNA of the East Village.
They say they heart radio, but we’re not so sure. We really hope they do, because we will never stop loving it, never stop supporting it and never stop dreaming about it.