Saving Memphis radio
If you have listened to local radio stations and if you are honest, deep down you probably have some frustrations. You may wonder why you always hear the same songs and think back nostalgically to the days when there seemed to be more variety. You may remember the time when the radio voices you heard were real, live, local people instead of pre-recorded DJ’s from other cities. You may ask while flipping the dial, “Is it just me or does everything sound the same?” If these thoughts have crossed your mind, than you know Memphis radio needs to be rescued!
If you are familiar with some of these less than admirable aspects of Memphis radio, you may also be familiar with a man who until very recently was a part of that system. If you have ever met CY resident Ric Chetter, it is hard to mistake him – a voice that is clearly meant for the airwaves, a down-to-earth personality with a biting wit, and a newly kindled passion to produce radio as it should be.
One year ago Ric was headed in a very different direction professionally. His radio show with friend and partner “Bad Dog” on 103FM was number one for its target demographic, and he had 14 years under his belt with Clear Channel, a corporate media conglomerate that owns a large percentage of radio stations across the US. Little did he know that in February 2011 his job with the station would come to an end and a string of tragic events would unfold causing him to strike out into the new, uncharted waters of internet radio.
Working his whole life in broadcasting, Ric witnessed the industry’s slow drift into the corporate controlled, bottom-line driven mindset that dominates the airwaves today. In fact, when his time with Clear Channel came to an end, Ric says it took him some time to detox from corporate radio culture. In the weeks that followed his leaving, he listened to other Memphis stations and quickly knew that most of them were just like 103FM, using a limited play list and recorded radio personalities from out of town in order to cut back on expenses. Naturally, he began to search for a way to return to the roots of radio – the ones that he had fallen in love with as a kid in San Antonio when things were simple, fun, and all about the music.
Ric’s agent told him that leaving 103FM was the best thing that ever happened to him. And indeed, it may be. His divorce from corporate radio has led him to an innovative dream that is ripe with possibility. Ric is starting a new internet station called Radio Memphis (radio-memphis.com) which will feature unsigned rock, pop, and even occasional country talent from Memphis and the surrounding area. Memphis’ reputation as a music city is well-earned. So much talent is found throughout the Mid-South, yet where can you go, besides live shows and your CD collection, to hear these artists? Well, now you have somewhere to turn.
While radio-memphis.com was launched in late June, you may be disappointed to know that you won’t hear Ric’s voice until August. Be assured he will take his rightful place on the air on August 1 when all of his obligations with Clear Channel come to an end. In the meantime you can enjoy the music and from time to time hear the voices of two of Ric’s friends and fellow radio veterans Michael “Doc” Studdard and “Vexar Dave” Dave Thorn as they get the airwaves warmed up for Ric’s arrival and continue on as part of the Radio Memphis family.
Although Radio Memphis is already on the cyberspace air, they are planning to celebrate this accomplishment on July 23 at Neil’s (Madison and McLean) at their kick-off party. This party, called the Vexmas in July, is an annual celebration with a planned tribute to Memphis music legend Tommy Ruble. But this year when the doors open at 9pm, Radio Memphis will be there, and the $5 cover gets you live, local music (of course) provided by The Fast Mothers (led by Tommy Ruble’s sons), Mondophonics, and others. Ric will take the stage at 11pm for a humorous time of confession to expose some of corporate radio’s dirty secrets and help all of us understand how Radio Memphis is a departure from business-as-usual.
There are several things that make Radio Memphis unique and worthy of our community’s support. First, what could be more in line with Cooper-Young and Midtown values than supporting local musicians? The music played on this station is different from anything you will hear anywhere else, literally, and the variety will easily blow most stations out of the water. Ric mentioned with a smile, “If you don’t like what you hear, just wait 5 minutes.” If you are someone who likes to venture off well-worn music paths into the unknown, this station is a wonderful way to discover new talent and enjoy it before the rest of the world gets the chance. In addition, if you are a local musician looking for greater exposure, you are welcome to submit your original music to firstname.lastname@example.org for airtime consideration.
The second thing that makes Radio Memphis unique is that it is an internet station. Like all forms of media, radio has seen some dramatic changes in the past decades. More and more people are using smart phones and computers to access their entertainment instead of traditional means. I may be dating myself, but I use to listen to “The Top 9 at 9” on my clock radio every night when I was in Middle School near Kansas City. While I certainly am not on the cutting edge of technology, even I no longer use traditional radio as the soundtrack to my life. I prefer other options.
While Ric says the technological learning curve has been great, he knows that he is headed in the right direction – the direction that radio must go if it hopes to survive the changing times. You can already access Radio Memphis from anywhere in the world by computer (Memphians are not the only ones hungry for Memphis music). A free app enabling your iPhone to receive the station should be available in early July, and a Droid app is expected later in the month (check radio-memphis.com for details). You will even be able to access the station in your car if your stereo and phone are blue tooth enabled. Other features on his site include an online concert calendar so that you can catch your favorite band’s shows, and in time Ric hopes to expand the site to link with musician’s Facebook pages, blogs, and websites.
Lastly, Radio Memphis breaks the mold by simply doing business in a different way. Ric says, “One thing I learned from all my years in the broadcasting business is how not to run a company.” His description of corporate owned radio paints the picture of stations run by accountants and lawyers who are out of touch with listeners and interested primarily in profit. Ric will be running this enterprise from his home in Cooper-Young, perhaps someday moving to a store front type location in the neighborhood. Unlike most stations who cut corners by using prerecorded DJ’s from out of town, on Radio Memphis when you hear someone talking on the air, it is a living, breathing person coming to you live. You will even be able to call in (the studio line is 901-922-5407) or email, and who knows, you might end up on the air. The station will not only feature local music, but local news and weather, and interviews with local musicians as well.
Behind the scenes Ric has a different approach to business too, working hard to treat people right. Case in point, his sales reps make over 7 times the commission that some stations give. He is also able to offer more affordable ad rates to local businesses (contact email@example.com to inquire about rates) and encourages folks to support the businesses that support local music. He says laughing, “I’m not trying to get rich here.” Of course, he needs to make a living, but it is clear that he wants Radio Memphis to be a business that gives as much as it gets.
Even more, Ric is one of us. He’s a Cooper-Youngian making a bold move to try something new. In true CY fashion, let’s get behind him! You can listen to Radio Memphis right now (radio-memphis.com) and go to the kick-off party at Neil’s on July 23 to show your support. How will you get involved? Listen, make music, and advertise because a radio rescue doesn’t come along very often, and Lord knows Memphis needs one.