Before the Internet gave us Spotify, Turntable.fm, and Grooveshark, seeking out new music sometimes meant entering truly rogue territory
. Pirate radio stations, operated illegally and without regulation, were the pre-Napster rebels
of modern music distribution. A recent display of nostalgia for the outlaw format is reviving the genre, as seen in a rash of new programming, art projects, and mobile apps.
Created by artist/musician Luke Fischbeck
, Sumi Ink Club
), along with Solomon Bothwell and Harsh Patel
, L.A.’s KCHUNG Radio
is a low-power AM radio station that broadcasts music, talk, news, readings, public service announcements, and more. While it’s a “homeless” station that operates from an undisclosed location on the 900 block of Chinatown’s Chung King Road, KCHUNG’s mobility enables it to create highly localized broadcasts, including many from unexpected spaces, such as bars, swap meets
, and high-profile museum events
. While listeners from any location can tune in via the Internet live stream
or mine the show’s archive
, Angelenos benefit from an authentically local community-specific experience.
Bomb Shelter Radio:
As part of a month-long residency at Ever Gold Gallery
in San Francisco, artist Josh Short
addresses tropes of free speech, self-liberation, and radical creativity with his own pirate radio station. Bomb Shelter Radio
, broadcast on FM airwaves from a bunker within the gallery, is a sort of acoustic assault on Ryan Seacrest–style Top 40 jams. The station transmits “aural graffiti” across the Tenderloin neighborhood through live broadcasts of experimental noise, metal, and hardcore events held five nights a week. In keeping with the physical nature of outlaw radio initiatives, Short will also build five transmitters during his tenure, camouflaged to blend in with the cityscape’s waste and debris.
In the old days, launching a pirate radio station necessitated expensive audio equipment and precarious studio space. Now, all one needs is a smartphone. Wahwah.fm
, an app released in Germany and available globally soon, transforms smartphones into personal radio station transmitters. Wannabe DJs simply choose songs from their phones’ iTunes libraries, and press Play to go On Air. They and their listeners can connect socially through in-app messaging and Facebook integration. While the web-based stations can be heard anywhere in the world, this app’s real-time nature could easily usher in a new era of previewing live, local music events, wherein fans could check out a DJ’s set before deciding to hit the club.