Getting a variety of local music has always been a challenge for some, either by the fact that mixing genres on radio is sparse, or simply the fact that there's no single source to find all that you need. --- Community radio has been working hard to bring that variety through, but for those who don't have time to listen, they need an alternative source available whenever.
RadioQuake.net launched a few months ago as an on-demand Internet radio station for musicians to upload music to playlists and for music lovers to find what they want to listen to by genre. The Website has gathered several musicians and performers in its short time, offering both musical and spoken-word choices for visitors to listen to whenever they wish. I got a chance to chat with founder Jacob Shirley about his career and starting up the Website, along with his thoughts on local music.
Gavin: Hey, Jacob. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jacob: I mow the law without a shirt on. I spend most of my free time thinking about and writing scripts for Websites, or painting. And I rarely leave the music off.
Gavin: What first got you interested in media in general, and what were some early influences?
Jacob: Growing up, I was very into electronic music. I've matured over the years and now enjoy a large variety of music. When I was a teenager, my brother left on his LDS mission allowing me to "inherit" his old turntables he'd bought at the DI. He and his friend Rob went to a few of the old-school raves at Classic Skating during the '90's and gained an interest in electronic music, then brought it home to me. The turntables and his record collection persuaded me to get more involved into music. Rob also was very encouraging. It wasn't long before I started to soak in the local music scene. I used to stay up late on Wednesdays to listen to KRCL when they did their electronic hour. Shawn Phillip's "Vibe" on the weekends was great to listen to. I got a hold of a Birdman Of Alcatraz demo after meeting him and played it to death. Then it was Loki, Coppertop, Tenchi, Scott Roberts, Ethics and a few others. Right after high school, I started to buy my own records and play them at clubs such as Bricks, Omni, Axis, and various underground parties. I also did a few shows for Love Sac, U of U Seminary and whereever music was needed. I've never been a musician so being a DJ was a nice way to expose myself to a lot of music.
Gavin: You're mostly known around SLC for your artwork. How did you first take an interest in that, and how was it for you breaking in as an artist into the art scene?
Jacob: It's difficult to be an artist in Salt Lake City. People here might appreciate art but not many are willing to invest in it. I had an art show in Auckland, New Zealand, and I sold more paintings in one night than I could expect to sell in an entire year in Salt Lake. For anyone who wants to be an artist in Salt Lake, I suggest getting your artwork to travel a bit. Most of my work is done by word of mouth and most sells are commissioned work. I've built up a few references over the years. Recently, I've painted a mural for Wasatch Work Force. Last summer, I painted a backdrop for Vibe Dance Studio. Also, I've painted my fair share of portraits over the years.
Gavin: What drew you toward painting, and where can people check out some of your work?
Jacob: I've been into art for as long as I can remember. Sketchbooks were the only thing that kept me sane through school. It was the summer before high school that I got into spray paint. I was terrible at first, but seeing all the amazing artwork strewn about the city challenged me to work harder and get better. Fifteen years later and I'm still painting canvas, but I've moved on from the graffiti style. My artwork is available on JacobedWardShirley.com
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up RadioQuake, and where did you get the name?
Jacob: I listen to music most hours of the day. Eventually, you hear all the same songs by all the same artists on every Website, movie, commercial, party and video game. I found myself going onto YouTube to seek self-promoting artists just to find something different to listen to. I realized there should be a site for artists to post their own music and not be overshadowed by the already popular Top 40 artists. The name RadioQuake was a result of a three-day brainstorm and looking for available URLs. I came up with a few other names I liked, but RadioQuake is auditorily attractive. Originally, I purchased Pliquid.com. If you pronounce it phonetically it sounds pretty cool. It was about three seconds after buying the domain that I realized it could be read as "pee liquid." I had a pretty good laugh at myself. Currently, I'm under contract to buy RadioQuake.com.
Gavin: Why did you specifically focus on all local musicians as opposed to a single format?
Jacob: RadioQuake doesn't focus on local musicians as much as it focuses on self-promoting musicians. The Internet doesn't have borders and I don't want to exclude someone simply because of their ZIP code or taste in music.
Gavin: What made you choose creating several playlists rather than streaming them all as a single random playlist?
Jacob: When initially building the Website, I reviewed several other online players. Most of them have algorithms or formulas to guess what the listener likes and then cater to that individual. The downside to this coddling is that the algorithms and formulas tend to clump the listeners toward already popular artists. So the popular become more popular and the new artist gets overshadowed. I say, let the listeners decide on what they like and leave the robots to do other tasks. I have adapted the Like/Dislike functionality that modern Internet users are so familiar with. So if you don't like a song, just hit Dislike and it won't play for you again. That's really all the intelligence your radio player needs.
Gavin: The station itself is based off submissions from the bands. How did you first get the word out for people to submit, and who were some of the first to join up?
Jacob: On launch day, I called a few friends and asked them to sign up. I wanted to get content on the site from the start. The 321's, Dapper and S8Mike were the first to get their stuff uploaded. After that, I began my online ad campaign on Google and Facebook. The campaigns have been pretty successful. I'm getting an average of one song uploaded every 15 hours. Not as quick as YouTube but I think it's a great start. About a week or two after launching the site, I got Enigma, Seth Walker, Sleeping Grizzly and Kinetic Eon to join in. I've even done a lot of cold calls to artists I've heard over the years. I saw The Trappers at the Woodshed this spring so I sent them an email and they signed up. They have some great folk music and a pretty good collection on the site. The Trappers come highly recommended. One thing that makes RadioQuake unique is the future launch of the Direct Royalties program. We'll share our ad revenue with eligible artists. I have sent out "thank-you payments" to the artists to encourage them to upload, share and get involved in the site. Shortly before sending out that payment, we got a big collection from the artists.
Gavin: What was the initial response like when you first launched?
Jacob: It's hard to know how people respond to my Website since I don't get to see them use it. However, the Web stats are showing me that people are returning to the site and spending time there.
Gavin: For those who may be interested, how can a musician or spoken-word artist get their works added to the station?
Jacob: Anyone wanting to participate only needs to register as an artist and upload content from their account. It's really no different than using any other site. If you are looking for new music to listen to, register as a user and start listening.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand on what you're doing now, or sticking to the format for now and seeing how things go for a while?
Jacob: Even though the site is already launched, I still spend a lot of time adjusting and upgrading the code. I need to stay on top of the game. The site will always evolve and progress. I have even rethought the format for how artists get paid. If I find a format that works better for the artists and listeners, then I will have no problem adjusting the site to be accommodating. Today, I added an event Wiki to the site. I know that I get nostalgic about past events I've attended so why not put them in a concert Wiki. It's a great way to share event photos for bands. I suggest you take a peek.
Gavin: Moving on to local, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Jacob: Music is a personal experience so no matter what geographic you are in, there are going to be artists you like and artists you don't like. However, in Salt Lake City, I rarely go out to a show that I don't at least somewhat enjoy the music. It's fantastic that the city supports the arts, too. I really appreciate the free shows that are put on by SLC.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Jacob: I'm hoping that if I keep paying artists for their work, it will attract more artists to join the site. With the economy in the pits, I would imagine artists could use a little extra income. I'm going to continue to add features to attract more users and improve on the current site.
Gavin: Who are your favorite acts in the scene right now, from any genre?
Jacob: We went to Never Eat Neon and Muscle Hawk at Club Elevate recently and they put on an amazing show. Not many musicians can blow up a venue on a Wednesday night. Mr Patwa's Reggae band from Park City had great energy when they played at Hidden Hallow. I had a little chuckle with all the little kids dancing to Mr. Patwa singing about the ganja man. I'm not huge into folk music but The Trappers and The Folka Dots have got me listening to it more often. They have some very catchy stuff.
Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?
Jacob: I'll be perfectly honest -- I can't listen to much community radio because the DJ's talk for way too long. I respect what they're doing but they're cutting into my music time. There was one day when KRCL was playing Native American music. For some reason, it was the perfect thing to listen to at that moment.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and RadioQuake over the rest of this year?
Jacob: First off, let me say that the more artists we get on our site, the sooner I can get our Direct Royalties program underway. Once Direct Royalties is working, I can get a steady pay to our artists. Second, I'm still writing and improving scripts to add features to the site. Expect RadioQuake to continue to expand its services. Third, don't expect very much social time coming from me because I'm putting a lot of my time into RadioQuake.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Jacob: Yeah, thanks to everyone who has joined. Aaron Forte, Bosakiki, Coldwire, Cleo, Danger Death Kill, Danger Hailstorm, Funeral Madness, Gemini, Gil, Joann Cervellino, Kinetic Eon, Lauryl Laureth, Masv, Dapper, Napalm, Orbis Intus, Point One, S8Mike, Seth Walker, Sleeping Grizzly, The 321's, The Folka Dots, The Trappers and to all the listeners. Hope to see some more artists soon.
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