After reading my previous blog regarding Radical.FM, the company’s creator Thomas McAlevey was kind enough to reach out and offer to be interviewed. Of course, I happily accepted and here is part one of our conversation!
What inspired you to create Radical.FM?
A severe case of temporary insanity! Actually, the better question might be what inspired Tomsradio.com, the predecessor to Radical.FM? As you may or may not know, my background is in broadcast radio. I created Sweden’s most popular rock radio station ‘Bandit’ in the 90’s and it is still on the air today. It occurred often that I would be at a Stockholm pub enjoying one of my favorite pastimes, when I would be ‘recognized’ and engaged in conversation about Bandit 105.5, The Rock Home of Stockholm. The conversation often went like this:
Random guy: “Man! Bandit is the best station in the world!”
Me: “Thank you.”
Random guy: “Yeah! It’s absolutely great! There’s only one thing I could think of that could make it better… that would be if you hired ME to program the music. I could make Bandit perfect!”
For years my response was a friendly explanation about how difficult it is to program a radio station that appeals to a wide audience. And my thought was ‘What rubbish these Swedes can talk’. But with time I realized that they were right and I was wrong. Each one of them could indeed program a better radio station than Bandit… For themselves!
I realized that anyone could program the perfect radio station, if only they had the tools. And by 1999 the Internet had developed sufficiently and I could provide the tools needed to allow any individual to create the perfect radio station. So I borrowed from decades of professional FM music programming techniques, and created an Internet platform that put this knowledge – and the necessary tools and music library – at any user’s fingertips! And that’s a true story of how the Genre Blending concept came about. Tomsradio.com was named Best in the World by Independent Press. We merged personalized endless music streams like Pandora, with playlists like Rhapsody and Spotify, and offered the service to the public, before those companies were conceived. Then came the Dot.com implosion, which, combined with the then-acrimonious relations with major labels, forced us to put Tomsradio.com on hold. So I took some years off and drove a dune buggy across Africa, and made an award-winning movie you can preview here: www.redbuggy.com. Meantime labels got wiser, Spotify stole our playlist concept, and Pandora IPO’d with their Music Genome concept…but now we’re back. And Radical.FM adds a whole new dimension, and we will change the game again with our full scale launch in 2012.
How has the program evolved since its launch in June?
While we say ‘launched’ to attract attention, it’s really a very limited BETA we offered to the public this summer, designed to cull real-world user feedback, and we have gotten that in spades. Users have requested many new music genres; and we are providing them. Users have requested Facebook integration, so now we have it. Users demanded that the site begin streaming music almost directly, and we have redesigned the landing page accordingly. Users are demanding DeeJay, so we are creating a whole new HTML5 streaming architecture to support that innovative service. Some users have even remarked that the player is a little intimidating, and we are dramatically simplifying the Graphic User Interface that will accompany the HTML5 based service. Users have also been screaming for mobile apps, and we will provide them along with the new HTML5 based player. Finally, users are demanding Radical Indie, which we will address in your next question. But I can say here that we have already opened the service to bands to begin uploading music in preparation for launch of that exciting sister service.
Stayed tuned for part 2, where I’ll ask Tom more about the new ‘sister service’ and we’ll also get the details on how Radical.FM can benefit The Radio Agency.