Jim Czerew and Rob Anthony are going to change the way people discover new music and engage their community. Their digital music project radi8er
is a platform for local artists to find exposure, list shows and define the sound of their own city. At the same time, listeners have access to all their local music scene has to offer, as well as the option to explore the music of other cities, all from one spot.
Czerew, radi8er's CEO, and Anthony, the Chief Creative Officer, are music lovers themselves, which is largely how they fell into the project. Anthony has been involved with his own acts throughout the years, and worked with such local musicians as Mitten Brewery's
Chris Andrus, among others. Czerew has worked in technology for most his career, and says he would often get approached with ideas for new apps. The idea for radi8er came up one day, stuck, and the two found themselves building a platform around it.
"For me, It came out of a desire of my own, very simply," Anthony says. "Walking around, you see people with headphones and I started to wonder what they were listening to. That was the original spark right there. From there, it grew. What are people in this area in real time listening to?"
The beta version of the app will be released on March 30, the day of radi8er's public announcement to investors and the end of their cohort at emerge Xcelerate
, and in its current form looks much like a mapping program. The map's functionality is where radi8er breaks new ground, though, as users essentially tailor their music search by manipulating the map.
"Zoom in and you'll hear music from West Michigan; zoom out and you'll get the entire midwest area's vibe; zoom to another city and you'll hear the unique sound of that city," Czerew says. "And there's the 'vibe' slider that lets you hear the sound of the city or your personal preferences, through likes and dislikes. On the map, you'll see little dots. If it's a genre you like, or an artist you like, a dot will indicate where they're playing next. You can click on it and see who's playing there, visit the band's page and more."
The Sound Of The City
"The sound of the city," as Anthony explains, is an evolving collection of musicians from the area, musicians people in the area are listening to, and musicians passing through the area.
"Maybe each street, each block, each campus has a different sound," Anthony says. "Part of what you're listening to, and the people around you are listening to, make up that sound. There's an interplay and that's changing in real-time. The sounds on the street at 9 a.m. are going to be different than the sounds at 5, depending on where you are."
Local bands have already come out in support of radi8er over the models of larger streaming services like Pandora or Spotify, citing the company's love and appreciation for local music and musicians among many other reasons. Brent Shirey, frontman for Grand Rapids three-piece Valentiger
, says listeners might find increased value in the music being created around them through raider because they can experience it all so easily with just a Wi-Fi signal.
"It may make them more likely to listen--and more frequently,” Shirey says. "With radi8er including performance dates and other information right within the same app, I think it has potential to increase show attendance or at least awareness. I could see it coming in handy in the way of booking. Just being able to see where your music is being played is a good start as far as regional shows go."
Shirey says Valentiger frequently plans its own tours around the U.S., researching local acts in the cities they plan to visit to make "a cohesive night of music.” Using radi8er could have a huge effect on the way they build their shows.
“It would be nice to see and hear what's trending in those cities. We might make a route change if it looks like we're not necessarily a fit for an area,” he says. "But I think the real gem would be access to a centralized catalog of any given area's local music and we could quickly find and contact the bands we might be interested in sharing a bill with. It could really speed up how that current process works."
Leveling The Field
Czerew says there’s a lot more going on behind the stage at your favorite venue than many may know. When it comes to how acts are booked and what it takes for them to get the most exposure, even seasoned professionals can have a hard time navigating the industry, let alone smaller local musicians. That’s where radi8er comes in, shedding a light—or maybe a microphone—on those acts who may not get as much stage time as others.
"A big feature of the project is simply a unifying of the local music scene in a way that is very convenient for the listener,” Shirey says. " Local music can be an overwhelming thing to jump into cold. It can prove to be a messy endeavor; the app could fill the void of a nice, clean centralized and convenient way to explore. radi8er is compiling that old-school recommendation vibe. It's sort of a digital version of your buddy's older sibling--you just don't have to incur the 'dork speech' first."
The app is free to use, and there is no fee for artists to add their original music, as long as it meets radi8er's broadcast quality standards. Artists will get paid through a profit sharing system when money comes in to radi8er, Czerew says, as well as through their own performers rights organization--ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc. By selling local companies on a radi8er music stream, businesses may find they can add atmosphere with local music for less than the bigger services. The music they play is tracked and artists will be paid a share of the income accordingly. The radi8er team also plans to put a portion of their income to local music festivals, further raising the awareness and usefulness of the app.
Czerew says radi8er will allow artists to plant a "flag" in their home city on the app, allowing users access to their music, schedule and booking info. Acts planning to tour can pay for a secondary flag, which they can move around the map as they travel to different cities, bolstering the listening base before they even arrive.
"The cool thing about Radi8er is that it will give people from around the world a chance to tap into all of the great music that is happening here in Grand Rapids," says Ben Zito, bassist for Grand Rapids folk act
, one of the first acts to sign up with radi8er. "Likewise, it will give us an opportunity to see what kind of music is shaping other communities. The radio experience will be driven by musical experience again, and not by DJs who are told what to play."
Expansion is already on the minds of the radi8er team, now totaling seven members at the GR Current building location and has been for some time. Czerew and Anthony admit that radi8er won't be very effective without a substantial library of music from local artists, so they've been building a collection and fostering relationships with different musicians.
"We have a hip-hop artist from Atlanta, Ga. who's really good and he's actually, as soon as we're ready, going to help us spread radi8er throughout the nation," Czerew says. "First, we want to make sure we're scalable and viable."