If you’ve been surfing the airwaves (remember those?) around downtown Ferndale lately, you may have noticed a new non-commercial college-style radio station operating at the FM frequency 100.7. It’s Ferndale Radio, WFCB, short for Ferndale Community Broadcasting, with a signal that goes about 3 or 4 miles.
It’s the same folks who launched a crowdfunding effort back in 2016 to launch a low-power FM station under a rare, special construction permit they’d obtained from the Federal Communications Commission (the Metro Times wrote about the complicated federal broadcasting regulations if you’re interested). Despite falling short of their initial effort to raise $15,000, the organizers were determined enough to scrape together the money to buy an antenna, tower, transmitter and studio, and are now broadcasting from a small, makeshift studio inside the Rust Belt Market.
While visiting the market over the holidays, I caught up with Dave Kim, Ferndale Radio’s program and marketing director, as he spun some tunes.
8-Wood: How long have you guys been on the air now?
Kim: We went on the air back in August. We launched with fun stuff, just playing 1920s music, and we were also in the process of securing royalty fees to play modern music. So then we started that. And then the studio, we launched live with the studio on Black Friday.
I understand you guys are doing a deal with the Rust Belt, like free rent in exchange for helping to promote their events.
So Chris and Tiffany Best, the co-owners of the Rust Belt, they wanted to have a radio station from the very beginning when they started this, but they didn’t realize actually how much goes into it, so then once they found out what we were trying to do, they welcomed us with open arms, and we’re promoting obviously the city of Ferndale, the great vendors here, and what Rust Belt does, and what we do aligns pretty well.
You came up short on your original Indiegogo crowdfunding drive, right?
So Indiegogo, we were a little short, and we had —
Is that an all-or-nothing deal?
Yeah, because if we had the money and then didn’t actually have the station, it would have been a lot harder to refund everyone’s money, so I think it all-or-nothing was better. So we went back on the drawing board.
What was tough was that we were just an idea instead of an actual product or something that’s actually tangible. So it was easier to go to businesses and give them a concept of what we were trying to do. Also, Stephanie Loveless from Ferndale Friends, she was so instrumental as well with helping us make contacts and go to businesses and work with the city to finally get all of this up and running.
But then we did another crowdfunding campaign through Chuffed and that helped us cross that finish line.
How much was that one?
Off the top of my head, I’m not sure of the exact numbers, I think it was close to 2 grand?
And that was just from individual contributors?
So tell me a little about the station now. You’ve got, what, a couple months fully running, one month plus here at the Rust Belt. How’s it operating and how are you running this?
It’s been great. The great thing about being at the Rust Belt, you see it for yourself, is just the foot traffic here — especially during Black Friday weekend, people were very curious about what we were doing. We have about six to eight consistent DJs, volunteer DJs right now, we’re hoping to grow to about 15 to 20 once the new year starts and probably by the spring.
Ideally we are live as long as the rust Belt is open, and I believe they have Monday nights open as well for board game night, so that’s another opportunity to have live DJs. And everything on social media, people have been saying how it’s nice to have a station that focuses on Ferndale and the surrounding areas.
Are you broadcasting from this studio 100 percent of the time?
So when we are not live ,we still have music playing 24-seven.
Like from a playlist or something?
We’re coming up on a new year. So far it’s been pretty much just music. I know you guys have ambitions, you want to do more. What’s coming in the new year?
We definitely want to expand to maybe talk programming. Ideally we’d like to partner with the city of Ferndale more, and maybe Ferndale public schools. I don’t know if maybe they have any programming in mind, that would be a nice partnership just to get maybe students involved and things like that. There’s all different kinds of content that we would love to do. In my head I think someone could do like a geek culture show, maybe high school sports, especially around this area. I don’t know what else people have in mind, but we’re definitely open to people pitching us ideas.
If people want to pitch ideas, how could they do that?
So I’d imagine when you’re not in here, you’re pretty busy making playlists.
Yeah, we’re always trying to expand our music library. One thing that really want to focus on in the new year is to get more local music on the air. A few bands have reached out to us and we definitely want to partner with them. I would love to see us, and this is something we’d have to work out with the Rust Belt themselves, but we have this beautiful event space, and I know they’ve had performances there before, maybe we could do a local music showcase, or a birthday bash, something along those lines.
You guys raised about $15,000 to get this off the ground, with the antenna up on the roof—
Yep, the antenna, the tower, the electrical work.
Given that you’re doing this on a limited budget and everything, is it hard — you’re talking about building out a bigger library, and royalties and everything — is that pretty challenging to do all that?
At the moment it’s a little challenging, just because record labels and music management still aren’t aware that we exist, but we’re working on getting more music from these labels and from management. And also, hopefully, I’d love to have a local band on every hour, their song playing.
So you have to work with ASCAP and all that?
Yes, and BMI, SESAC, one of the newer ones. They’re all out of Nashville.
Anything else you guys are working on in the new year?
My big goal, for me personally, I want us to be streaming, hopefully by the end of the year. The royalties, they bump up significantly when you talk about online streaming, and also with getting the hardware and the networking and all that. I would love to do that, especially with the way the digital age is now. A lot of people just stream their music on their phones.
I saw you guys said that you think you can run this on $5,000 a year.
For yearly operating costs? Yeah.
So that’s still the goal?
And that’ll be wherever you can get the money, essentially? Are you guys specifically pitching businesses for underwriting?
Specifically pitching underwriting. We are pretty close to being a federal nonprofit. There are potential grants that we want to apply for that focus on the arts and community.