Radio Paradise: How can small radios survive in a world of mediatic concentration?

The digital revolution has opened up new horizons in many areas, and radio is no exception. In the midst of this landscape, one online radio station stands out not only for its programming, but also for its independence, eclectic playlists and its devoted community: Radio Paradise. Founded by a duo of passionate music lovers 23 years ago, this station offers a concept that gives a new definition to the radio. Let’s discover the journey of Radio Paradise and how it has become a haven for music lovers around the globe.

A family project

Radio Paradise did not emerge from the corporate corridors of mainstream broadcasting. Its roots are engraved into the passion of a couple with a dedication for music, fueled by the will of creating a place for true music lovers.

Radio Paradise was founded in February 2000 by Rebecca and Bill Goldsmith. Initially, it was run from their home in Paradise, California, from which the station derives its name. The Goldsmiths soon realized the limitless power of the internet in bringing listeners together on a global scale. This transformed Radio Paradise into a pioneering online radio station that would thrive in the landscape of the ever-evolving digital world.

Bringing back old habits

As rock music started to dominate the musical field in the 60s, the industry shifted into a more commercial domain, based on sales of vinyls, cassettes and later, digital supports. Companies’ revenues were dictated by the number of copies sold, and the business’ margins sky rocketed. The consequence: music became a product to be designed, produced and sold. With time, the mainstream artists started to be crafted to fit into pre-defined models, and new metrics came to measure their commercial success: number of copies sold, number of radio streams, number of fans subscribing to their clubs. Numbers replacing passion. Statistics shaping art.

The radio industry also evolved in the same way: big media groups took over acquiring independent stations, and investment funds took over big media groups, in a massive spiral of mergers and acquisitions during the eighties and nineties. At the same time, the world saw a huge increase in the popularity of pop groups, that were as well meticulously handmade for the commercial industry. The Backstreet Boys, The Spice Girls, Boyzone… Pop bands started to settle the atmosphere for the next musical era.

With the start of the 2000’s and the introduction of new streaming technologies, people started to consume many less CD’s or other material types of listening technologies. New streaming platforms such as Spotify in 2006 or Deezer in 2007 redefined the income and revenue models, and CD sales were replaced by number of streams. The single song started to replace the album. Nowadays, people tend to be more impacted by songs rather than by artists themselves. In fact, many people listen to single songs without even knowing who composed it. Things changed.

In a sense, Radio Paradise brings back the old habit of appreciating bands by giving them a place to exist in a world where every popular artist is extremely commercialized. The focus is made on the feelings that originally create quality music, which can be seen as a breath of fresh air for listeners that are used typically plunged into mainstream tunes.

Musical eclecticism at the heart of an experience

Rather than conforming to the trends and constraints of the music industry, Radio Paradise bases its concept around the diversity of musical styles. From timeless classics to the latest indie discoveries, from alternative rock to electro, the programming’s goal is to promote all styles for all tastes. Each track is chosen by human hand, creating a listening experience that feels more human than a simple playlist. Indeed, one of the station’s most striking features is its manual selection process. A team of passionate people work together to put more underground artists under the spotlight. This artisanal approach brings a human touch and artistic depth to the programming, proposing a major twist to the radio sector.

David vs. Goliath

Media concentration is a big reality in today’s world. When entertainment’s main goal has turned into the entry of revenue, there is barely any space to thrive as a small radio station. When observing the radio sector, we realize that almost every station is owned by massive media companies. Clear Channel or CBS radio own thousands of radio stations, and make billions in revenue.

Here are 5 of the largest radio groups by revenue and number of ownerships:

  • Clear Channel, $3.53 billion with 1’207 stations
  • CBS Radio, $2.4 billion with 1’000> stations
  • Entercom, $486.4 million with 235 stations
  • Cox Radio $483 million with 49 stations
  • Citadel/ABC, $417 million with 245 stations

In that context, how is it possible to exist financially as a small radio station in a world where media consolidation is so marked? Well, Radio Paradise is an independently owned and operated station. It only relies on a listener-supported model, meaning that the station is only funded by the contributions of the audience, without depending on any advertising to generate revenue. That way, the radio station keeps itself a step away from mainstream activities, allowing it to thrive as an independent body. Other various factors also contribute to the persistence of Radio Paradise, such as the creation of a strong bond between the audience and the owners, increasing people’s will of contributing financially to the station.

The economic power of an engaged community

As said, what also forges the station’s identity is its very up-close relationship with the listeners, that are actively involved into the musical conversation. To this day, the station counts up to 135’000 supporters, as well as some other thousands of listeners that listen freely around the world.

The power of this engagement extends to the social media realm, where the audience engages in conversations on the station’s listener forum, promoted by the website and other social media platforms. To strengthen the bond, Radio Paradise often organizes events, both in-person and virtual, giving it the opportunity of creating a true sense of community. These events, whether they are exclusive interviews, live DJ sets or themed parties, show the station’s commitment to keeping an audience together.

Financial independence as a key pillar

By breaking away from the traditional models that have often hindered the musical creativity of radio stations, Radio Paradise is freeing itself from the shackles that often bind it to the commercial interests of the major record companies. For every month of the year, the radio station evaluates its own monetary goal and manages to reach it with its community. This financial independence, created by the help of a supporter-only funding, reflects not just a strategic choice. It is a fundamental philosophy that is reflected in every aspect of the station, from its musical choices to its relationship with the listening community. Most of Radio Paradise’s financial independence translates into unfettered editorial freedom. Unlike some of the commercially pressurized stations, Radio Paradise is not constrained by broadcast quotas dictated by commercial partnerships or rotation agreements with music labels.

A tech-powered harmony

Radio Paradise uses pointy streaming technology in order to offer the best sound quality possible. The songs are stored as lossless FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files, a type of musical file that offers a bit-perfect copy of CD songs. As streaming platforms transformed into the main source of where people get their music from, the technology used by the station has to embrace this new digital age by symbiosing with the modern music enjoyer’s lifestyle. Available across various platforms, including web browsers to its own meticulously crafted mobile app, Radio Paradise adapts to the world of technology seamlessly. Moreover, its integration with smart devices shows a forward-thinking approach. Voice-activated commands with smart speaker accessibility, personalized recommendations, cross device syncing… the station is constantly evolving with technology.

In the end, Radio Paradise embodies what all big companies want to achieve: make radio a more humanesque experience. A place where people can be linked by the same passions and not only a cold product of the entertainment industry, but still achieving in making numbers.

Candelaria Marmora
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SOURCES (cliquez sur les titres pour en savoir plus)

Radio Paradise 

Largest radio groups 

How rock and roll shifted to pop 


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