Online Radio Festival celebrates autonomous airwaves

Exploring (inter)national online radio culture in Amsterdam.

Red Light Radio, Amsterdam

Online radio is delving into new and exciting stages around the globe. In the past year we’ve witnessed the formation of independent stations such as Radar Radio (London), Waxx FM (New York) and The Lot Radio (New York)—offering a platform to established names as well as new collectives such as London’s BBC AZN network and New York’s Kunq. These radio stations are stepping into the footsteps of established platforms that have popped up over the last five years, including NTS (London) and Berlin Community Radio (Berlin). Likewise, the Netherlands has a flourishing culture of online radio platforms with well-known names like Red Light Radio (Amsterdam) and Intergalactic FM (Den Haag), more recently joined by Stranded FM (Utrecht) and Operator (Rotterdam).

In the run-up to Online Radio Festival taking place this week, Glamcult spoke to the people shaping the Dutch online radio scene to find out what the Netherlands is bringing to the culture and how online radio differs from its traditional counterpart. From red light districts to shipping containers: online radio’s DIY approaches give way to unconventional locations for new music and unfamiliar sounds. Like New York’s The Lot Radio, the online airwaves of the latest addition to Dutch online radio, Operator Radio, come from a shipping container located in Rotterdam’s city centre. Utrecht’s Stranded location coincidentally followed Red Light Radio’s footsteps through a policy of the city municipality that made way for cultural initiatives in traditional red light zones. Both radio stations use spaces that were formerly used by sex workers.

Red Light Radio started in 2010 in the Red Light District of Amsterdam and is probably one of the most well known names in Dutch online radio. With about 90 residents, Red Light offers space to Amsterdam’s most prominent DJs as well as the crews behind varying iconic parties such as BBQ, Strange Sounds From Beyond and Dekmantel. Their approach is distinct from Intergalactic FM, which is more specific in its sound. Initiator i-F and friends bring a distinct techno sound to Intergalactic—“no station such dedication”—that is typical of The Hague.

Starting in 2015 in the Kanaleneiland part of Utrecht, Stranded’s approach to online radio is related to that of Intergalactic FM. Focussing on local sounds, they aspire to become the missing link between the creative scenes in the city. As opposed to The Hague’s techno and disco-oriented sound, Utrecht’s scene is mostly known for indie and its combination with electronica, house and ambient. Rotterdam’s Operator was founded earlier this year, wanting to connect not only local music scenes but bringing Rotterdam’s sound together with other local art forms such as design and architecture too.

The difference between online and traditional radio is not just about the medium, however. Online airwaves are far more concerned with a distinctive approach to the accessibility and conformity of music. As Lieneke Wielhouwer of Red Light Radio points out: by being independent from commercials and advertisements, Red Light is able to program exactly what it wants to, never having to conform to the expectations of investors. Likewise, Luke Cohlen of Stranded understands the radio station’s direct connection to the local music scene, allowing them to push unconventional sounds. Operator’s Ofra Beenen emphasizes the importance of radio that’s accessible without “moeilijk gedoe”, referring to the unnecessary hassle and opacity that’s often paired with traditional radio.

As a community-based platform, online radio continues to grow and has its very own festival dedicated to its developments and ambitions on May 19th in Amsterdam. Make sure you join the festival to find out how national and international online radio stations continue the exciting conversations on access and conformity of music programming on the online airwaves.

Online Radio Festival

19 May, Muziekgebouw Amsterdam


Words by Emma van Meyeren

Follow @emmaature  



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