Influential Internet station East Village Radio closed its doors on May 23, blaming rising rents and the congressional Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which mandates that Web broadcasters pay a performance royalty for every listener. One of the station’s best-known DJs, hitmaking producer-artist Mark Ronson, 38, talks about what the station meant to him, the music industry and New York.
EVR was special. Its closing is sad for me, sad for the other DJs, sad for people who love music. It’s sad for downtown New York.
The first time I discovered EVR, I walked past the storefront with a friend, and Harper Simon was doing a show. I was like, “What is this? This is so cool.” Someone I knew from fourth grade, Echo [Danon], happened to be the station manager at the time. So I was like, “Can I have a show?” I talked them into it.
I have so many amazing memories of being in that little booth. Anyone I was working with in the studio would usually tag along with me on a Friday night to the show, and maybe even do a set: Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Daniel Merriweather, Q-Tip, Black Lips. People always wanted to come and hang out, and then after 20 minutes they get bored. Amy was like any other guest: She went to the tattoo parlor next door and ended up getting a tattoo.
A lot of times I would just play demos. A lot of them were mislabeled, so I’d play shit and not know what it was. I played an early Wale demo, and I remember asking over the air, “Hey, if anyone knows who this is, call me and tell me.” And his manager, Dan Weissman, called in! Wale came up to the studio the next week and we ended up signing him to Allido Records. I remember doing the same thing with early, early demos of Vampire Weekend and MGMT, and a song by this kid named Drake.
The storefront window was definitely a big part of the allure. You were kind of on display. And every DJ wants to make people move. I remember Q-Tip was DJ’ing one time, and so many people amassed in front, like, “Holy shit – it’s Q Tip!” People just started dancing in the street. The police came and made us shut down the station until the end of my show.
Lily gave me a cover she did of a Britney Spears song and the next day it went up and crashed the EVR server. Kanye [West] gave me “Stronger.” I remember world-premiering it. I would play stuff from my own crew for the first time.
EVR has done such a good job of building up their name and credibility. So I’m shocked it’s closing. This is one of those examples of the law trying to help musicians, but it’s wrong in this case. Taking EVR off the air is ridiculous.
This article first appeared in Billboard’s May 31 issue. Click here to buy a copy.