Radio Paradise: Eclectic Internet Radio At Its Best

Publisher's Note: After high school, Radio Paradise's Bill Goldsmith worked for a several radio stations in California & Hawaii. While commercial radio degenerated into an ├╝berprofit-controlled conglomerate spewing a highly-distilled, homogeneous listening experience in markets across the U.S., Goldsmith had a plan. His idea—not all that unique to those who remember the heady days of "underground" radio in the '60s—was that listeners really wanted audio entertainment provided by an informed "DJ [turned] loose in a music library, with no goal in mind but to ...[create] a seamless flow that [spans] decades, genres, and styles." The Internet is what made Goldsmith's dream viable.

Goldsmith and his worldwide Radio Paradise listeners have turned me on to more new, commercial-free music than I ever would have heard elsewhere. But be patient when sampling RP—being an eclectic mix, there are those times when a few tracks may not be your cup 'o tea. Try again in an hour or perhaps the next day—there is very little on RP that isn't listenable around the clock.

The biggest problem a band has is getting its music heard. For years, the music industry was confined to four multinational corporations that dominated the revenue stream of 70% of the music coming in, and four or five radio conglomerates that controlled what music was going out.

Greg Kot, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
Time magazine interview, 5/21/09

Dave Belfer-Shevett at Planet Geek! interviewed Goldsmith in 2004. Although Radio Paradise has greatly changed (for the better) since that time, Floydian Slips thinks you'll find this abridged version of Belfer-Shevett's interview with Goldsmith to still be of interest.

[dbs] Bill, how you got to be the producer of one of the most popular online music stations on the 'Net?

[Goldsmith] I spent the 1990s at...a funky little FM station near Santa Cruz, California called KPIG. We were everything that FM radio had convinced itself that it couldn't be: adventurous, irreverent, creative, and thoroughly unique. We were also wildly successful—regularly out-billing the local Clear Channel stations in spite of the fact that we mostly played music that nobody had ever heard of before, made fun of our advertisers, had a certifiable left-wing nut job as our news commentator, and let the DJs (gasp) pick the music on their own shows.

Continued...

In 1994 I learned a little HTML and built a website for KPIG, and in August 1995 I inaugurated the world's first full time webcast using Xing Streamworks software. It was 16 kBps MP3 (so you can imagine how bad it sounded) and we could only serve about fifty listeners, but I was thoroughly and completely hooked on the idea of Internet radio. I saw it then—and I see it now—as the natural successor to FM, with a worldwide reach and an unlimited number of channels.

In 1999 I left Santa Cruz to relocate to Paradise, [CA] where my wife, Rebecca, owned a house (we were married in 1999) and I spent the next year working as a consultant for KPIG and other stations while I put together the dream project that had been bubbling around in my head for decades: a station of my own—where I could play exactly what I wanted to play and say what I wanted to say, without worrying about what any station owners or advertisers thought. What made it all possible was that magic confluence of technologies called Internet radio.

So, in February of 2000, Radio Paradise was born.

[dbs] How many folks are on your team? I know that you are the Voice of Radio Paradise, and we hear Rebecca on occasion doing spots, [but] are there others that help keep the station going?

[Goldsmith] It's pretty much just Rebecca and [me]. We've been outsourcing our webhosting since the beginning of last year, and we utilize some freelance design help here and there—but other than that it's just the two of us. Rebecca handles all of the finances and is our music reviewer. She spends several hours each day combing through the CDs and music files that we're sent, searching for the stuff that meets our picky standards. I do the music scheduling, DJ breaks, web design, and technical stuff.

[dbs] From the technical side, how does RP produce its shows? Do you come up with your playlist on the fly, a day ahead, etc?

[Goldsmith] That depends. When we're taking time off we can schedule things up to two weeks in advance; other times I'm working just a few minutes ahead of air time. Due to the nature of our setup, the station is never quite "live" in the traditional sense. Everything is preplanned & prerecorded at least five minutes or so ahead.

[dbs] The music industry has always been on the [scale] of large monopolies such as Microsoft and Clear Channel. How do you see the online music industry faring as it gains popularity and attracts the attention of these giants? I point to issues such as proprietary music formats, licensing, and digital rights management systems.

[Goldsmith] The big media conglomerates have been trying to control and dominate the online music space for several years now. I think that eventually they will accept the fact that the rules are just different here—that, for instance, tightly controlling users' ability to freely copy music files will never quite work. They'll need to come to terms with the fact that the monopoly they've enjoyed over the distribution and marketing of music is over. And that for every door that the new technology shuts, two or three others are opened. The idea that the only way the music industry can be profitable is if they restrict access to their product is just flat out wrong. Plenty of people in the industry get this and are already thinking along new avenues. I think we'll see some interesting stuff develop over the course of the next five years or so.

[dbs] Here's a big advertising opportunity. If you had to give the elevator speech about RP to someone who hadn't heard of it before, how would you pitch it?

[Goldsmith] Radio Paradise is the old 1960's progressive-FM philosophy ("put a DJ in a room full of records and turn him/her loose") applied to the whole universe of 21st century music: modern & classic rock, world music, electronica, acoustic, even a smattering of jazz and classical—with a real human DJ in full control, not just an "iPod on random play" jumble of styles. It's radio-as-art, rather than radio-as-marketing—something you just don't hear on FM any more. Try it. It's addictive.