On Facebook, I wondered if Girls Rock Radio would get any Christmas presents in 2013. The answer? No. Not even one.
On that note, why don't we take a look a the whole year in review...
In February 2013, I was asked to join several other Internet Radio Broadcasters in Washington D.C. to "walk the Hill" and discuss fairness for Internet Radio with our elected officials. The simple fact that Girls Rock Radio was asked to participate in this effort tells me that I have, in fact, created a world-class Internet radio station which is well respected in the industry. Yea Girls Rock Radio! Yea me? Hmm...
In 2013, Girls Rock Radio received a grand total of $239.00 ($226.97 after bank fees) making this year the 2nd worst year for listener contributions ever. The worst was $100 received in the year we started (2006) when literally no one knew we existed. The best year, by contrast, was 2009 in which we received $420 before bank fees. So basically, no matter what year of Girls Rock Radio's operation you look at, our income has been astonishingly and absolutely pathetic!
The $239 we received in 2013 barely covers 2 months of fixed costs, which leaves 10 months I was left to pull that money out of my own pocket to keep the station going. But it's worse than that. This is actually MY JOB. Girls Rock Radio has been in operation for coming up on 8 years now, and I've not been paid AT ALL for my efforts to bring you this world-class Internet radio station over all of that time. Can you believe it? My finances are crashing big time, and I doubt I will be able to contribute to my daughter's college education at all. She's a Freshman this year at a college that will leave her with what amounts to a mortgage-sized pile of debt. And hey, we all know the job market is total crap these days, so God help her in getting it paid off. That, of course, says absolutely nothing about how I am going to be able to get by if this continues much longer.
The current Girls Rock Radio computer has been in continuous operation for about 6 years and 4 months. Wow, I can hardly believe it. That's a LONG time for a computer to be running, let alone constantly streaming music! Disk drive diagnostics show the main hard drive is currently down to only 28% health remaining. A few months ago, the computer started making odd sounds like a cooling fan failing. Is there any money available to replace the computer if it fails? Um, no. Remember, with the exception of maybe a month or two worth of fixed costs, I go into my pocket every month just to keep this station alive. There is no money to deal with a large expense like a failed computer. How long till it just flat out fails? I don't know. A year, a month, a day? I guess the answer is, when you try to tune in and we're off the air, it has failed. I wish I could say that the money would magically appear before that happens, but I started saying something about all of this three months ago and... nothing. Does anyone bother to read this website? Will anyone care if the station just disappears one day?
The revenue model for Internet radio stations is really messed up. Mainly it consists of "listener support" where we Internet radio station owners hope you'll send in some money every now and then to keep everything humming right along. For some stations this seems to work. I'm aware of one station that generates enough revenue through listener support to pay all the bills, pay salaries, and even have enough left over to run a contest every now and then to send a couple of lucky listeners on a getaway vacation to some exotic destination. For others, like Girls Rock Radio, there's WAY more month than there is money, and frankly I don't get that. I thought sure the music of women artists would create a sizable, generous audience. I never expected to get rich at this - that was never the point - but I at least expected to get by. Now after nearly eight years, and with a growing hole in my finances, my confidence is all but shattered.
The vision I keep close to my heart. It's quite literally the only thing that keeps me going. I truly believe Girls Rock Radio can evolve into a platform for much greater social good than its pure entertainment value can provides. After all, we're talking about GIRLS ROCK RADIO, right?!!? Shouldn't that stand for something? Something that goes well beyond the entertainment value of the music it plays? What if Girls Rock Radio were able to contribute to breast cancer research, or other women's issues like battered and abused women, or eating and image disorders? What if Girls Rock Radio could establish wellness centers or safe houses for those same issues and disorders? What if Girls Rock Radio could fund scholarships for young women in the arts and music? What if Girls Rock Radio could establish one, or even a chain of music conservatories?
It can do all of those things! But no one is listening to me. What's worse is I'm just one guy trying alone - without any help at all - to make things happen. I often use the terms "we" and "us" when talking about Girls Rock Radio as if there was a whole pack of people running the show here. Surprise! No. It's just one guy. One. And I clearly do not have the knowledge to do EVERYTHING. I mean, who does? It usually takes a team, right? So, in a bid to try to gain additional education on how to make this vision happen, team or not, I'm submitting application for Grad School at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Business. My chances of being accepted are questionable, and if not accepted, I'm right back to square one trying to find people who can help. But why would anyone? After all, the Catch-22 is that there is no money here, and I guess people just expect to get paid or something. I don't know; I've not been paid for so long, I really have no clue what money looks like any more.
The New Year 2014:
All I can wish for in 2014 is that things will start falling into place. It would really help if people started supporting the station (that means "donating money" in case you've missed the entire point of this essay) so I could at least get a new computer for the station, preventing an outright failure of the existing one, and spelling doom for the station. It would be nice to get more money IN than is going OUT for a change, too. Even a small payday is better than the nearly 8 years without one! The goal for a new computer was set at $3,500, and there's still $3,500 to go. So, do you care, or what?
And looking beyond just the immediate needs of a new computer to run the station, who of you out there care about this larger vision I have for Girls Rock Radio? How can you help? Can you engage the station (yes, that means just me) in a discussion about making it happen? Can you direct talent and resources my way because God knows I have the vision but not enough resources and specialized knowledge necessary to transform dream in to reality.
Happy New Year everyone. Here's to hoping 2014 is WAY better for us all.
As I write this at 8:15am CST on a Thursday morning, the stream is full. What does that mean?
Well, first of all it means that we have been getting many new listeners. To them, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Girls Rock Radio!
Secondly, it means that there are only so many "listener slots" that Girls Rock Radio can make available for you to "tune in" and lately, as many people as we have slots have been tuning in to listen to the station. When that happens, and if you are the next person who tries to tune in, you'll get some sort of error on the tune in page, or in your media player saying something like, "server full."
You see, unlike broadcast radio where all it takes is a radio with a decent antenna and theoretically an unlimited number of people can tune in unlimited meaning as many people as you can cram within the reach of the broadcast tower like an entire city like Chicago or LA Internet Radio works very differently. Each "listener slot," whether in use or not, costs the Internet radio station on a monthly basis. Current per-listener cost is approximately $1.00 - $2.00 per month. So let's say an Internet radio station provides slots for up to 1000 people. That would cost $1,000.00 - $2,000.00 per month(!), and it would cost that whether anyone was listening or not. For simplicity's sake, let's say a listener slot costs one dollar. Let's also say that, on average, 300 slots are typically in use. That means that $700 per month is being thrown away.
Obviously, we can't be throwing huge sums of money to the wind like that, and so how many people are listing is closely monitored, and additional slots are added in small enough increments to keep up with demand while at the same time minimizing throw away dollars.
But there is another grim economic reality at play here. Internet radio is typically listener supported, meaning that Internet radio stations rely on the generosity of those who tune into the station and find value in the music they get to hear. But what if that listener support is not happening? Where does the money for additional capacity come from in then? Good question! It comes out of the pockets of the Internet radio station owner.
In 2011, Girls Rock Radio received a grand total of $260.00 from listener donations. That doesn't even cover six months worth of music royalty payments, let alone listener slots to make the station available for your listening pleasure. What else does that NOT cover? Remember that Girls Rock Radio is my primary profession, so what else isn't being covered is any sort of salary, food to put on the table for myself and my daughter, an education for her after high school, any sort of retirement for me in the future, blah blah blah. Cue the violins now?
I truly wish that I could expand the listener capacity of Girls Rock Radio. About one year ago, I doubled the listener capacity of the station, and you guessed it, have been paying for it out of my own pocket despite no additional money coming in at all.
I can't do it again.
I'm so sorry.
If you truly love Girls Rock Radio and wish to see it survive, and thrive, I urge you to consider the value you are receiving from listening to the station, and acting accordingly. There are donate buttons on the homepage of the Girls Rock Radio website, on the tune in page, on the confirmation page you get when you request a song, and if I work a little harder I could probably think of a few more spots to put them.
I see so much untapped potential in Girls Rock Radio, but without funding assistance it has little option but to limp along in its present state - which may not be much longer, btw, since the computer that broadcasts Girls Rock Radio has been running non-stop for five years straight! More on that another day...
A Little Story:
I had coffee a couple years ago with a woman I had met back then. I explained to her what Girls Rock Radio was, and a little about the financial challenges it faces. She surprised me by saying that it made perfect sense to her that Girls Rock Radio would fail. "Why would you say THAT?," I asked. Her response shocked me. She said, and I paraphrase here because it's been a while, but this is the gist of her response, "People view women as second-class citizens, and so anything that is for or about women will never be taken all that seriously, and will be destined to fail."
Was she right?
When I started Girls Rock Radio, I believed in my heart that an Internet radio station celebrating the music of women artists would be wildly successful. I see other Internet radio stations and their owners thriving, while holding contests giving away vacations for two to exotic locations with their excess donations, while Girls Rock Radio can't even pay its own monthly bills let alone put food on the table for the guy trying to make it all happen. That said, I keep telling myself that it's not about me, but rather it's about the artists, the music, the audience, and bringing them all together. And yet I wonder how long I can keep this up.
So again I ask, was that woman in the coffee shop right?
I truly apologize if you have tried to listen to the station lately and have not been able. I wish, and remain hopeful, the situation for Girls Rock Radio will change.
~ Owner & General Manager, Girls Rock Radio
P.S. There is some listener capacity still available on our lo-fi stream even when the hi-fi stream is full. Look for the links near the bottom of the tune in page.