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Airwaves: July 22, 2011

Last Call

Brad “Martini” Chambers is a man on a mission. Numerous missions, actually, but they all center on one thing: Playing music that he likes for people who like it too.

The former programmer of standards-formatted stations The Fabulous 570 and The Fabulous 690 wants to make his online station Martini in the Morning the first internet music station to hit one million listeners. He wants to get the station on solid financial ground so that he no longer needs to ask listeners to help pay the bills. And he wants the station to be the best-programmed station os its type anywhere.

The station now has a new online player that actually pays the station when people listen. The problem is that over half of people who tune in are not currently using the new player, and for various reasons. Mainly, as Chambers readily admits, the new player is not perfect. But, he points out, “if we wait for it to be perfect, we may not be here at all.”

Expanding on that thought, Chambers explained, “the company that feeds the four minutes of commercials per hour is working on correcting some glitches such as problems with the timing of the commercial insertion. But they are working on it and it is getting better.” He also said that a player for iPhones is on the way.

But if everyone switched to the new player that is launched directly on the web site (MartiniInTheMorning.Com), the station could earn as much as $35,000 per month based upon five cents per listener per hour listened and 700,000 total monthly listening hours. That would go a long way toward paying costs for operations, salaries and promotions.

In the meantime, the station ran its -- hopefully -- last listener support drive on July 18th, raising enough money to keep the operations going until the ad revenue begins to stream in.

Going Away

The Los Angeles radio news web site of record is folding.

Just weeks after sending out my yearly subscription renewal notice for LARadio.Com, site owner Don Barrett announced that the site would be shutting down. In that first email message, he stated that the site would continue through the last of the annual subscriptions (in my case, June 2012). But on July 17th he announced that the site itself would be taken down September 24th and that subscriptions would be fulfilled via email.

Barrett claimed -- at least at first -- that a continuing lack of support from the industry itself as well as problems with subscribers sharing passwords was not the reason for his decision to move on. “It is time,” he told me, “it is a good thing. 15 years is a long time to do anything.” But more recent statements leave me with doubts. Certainly if the site were lucrative, it would continue in some form or another.

Regardless, this is a huge loss fans of Los Angeles radio.

The site actually started in 1997 as a simple marketing tool for Barrett’s self-published books, Los Angeles Radio People (Volumes 1 and 2). It quickly evolved into something much more.

It became the web site of record for news and information related to Los Angeles radio people, stations and listeners. Barrett’s high standards for journalism helped make it that way. He refused to print rumor and gossip, and would not even run anonymous letters. The rise of LARP happened as traditional radio news services such as Radio and Records began to cut back on their local radio coverage. Eventually the reporting expanded to the point where it was a full-time job for Barrett, so he tried various forms of subscriptions, ads, and sponsorships to help cover his costs and make a real living. But it never quite panned out.

All the while, Barrett stayed humble, telling me earlier this week, “I’ve never considered myself an important person in LA radio’s history.” I beg to differ, as would his subscribers. His site brought people together, covered stories in depth, recognized important people both in front and behind the microphone, kept track of where personalities could be found and maintained a positive environment to celebrate the good -- and sometimes bad -- of local radio.

While I will miss the site, I wish Barrett the best in his new venture -- still related to Los Angeles radio. Some of the content of the site will be put into eBooks, the first of which may be available as soon as the end of this year, he says. And the site will be up until September, so if you want to subscribe by the month, head on over.


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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