What do you get when you combine creativity, innovation and passion for your local community? Well, you just might end up with something like Little Raleigh Radio. In its effort to be the “Voice of Downtown Raleigh,” under the guiding hand of co-founder and Program Director, Jacob Downey, Little Raleigh Radio has 18 months of broadcasting under its belt and aims to keep growing.
Prior to its current status — complete with studio space downtown, an array of broadcasting equipment and a team of dedicated volunteers — Little Raleigh Radio was the spark created by Downey and Kelly Reid, former WKNC producers who decided they wanted to start a hyper-local station Kickstarter campaign to help fund the purchase of equipment. Broadcasting began in February 2014.
When Downey and Reid learned of an available low power radio frequency in Raleigh’s crowded media market, they decided to apply for it through the FCC. The frequency would provide a broadcasting radius of three and a half to seven miles, enough to truly focus on the downtown Raleigh community. However, they lost the bid to competing local organizations. Downey initially thought his volunteers would be discouraged. But the decision to take the station online was greeted with enthusiasm. “We are living in a digital era,” he says. “And what makes this really cool is that the content is local, but we can share it with everyone.”
Downey feels the eclectic content is a major advantage Little Raleigh Radio has over typically formatted stations. Boasting a mix of music and conversation shows, the station hosts a medley of content, including jazz, electronica and hip-hop shows, and programs ranging in topics from local microbreweries, to pets and animals, to career counseling. They hope to expand programming later this year as they revamp their online presence. “Our mission is helping people amplify their voices,” explains Downey. “Raleigh is an innovative and creative place, and we want to show that to the outside world.”
This is where Little Raleigh Radio’s volunteer producers come in. Matt Dunn has hosted his show, Damaged Goods, since the station’s inception. The show features garage, punk and new wave music, as well as interviews with local and touring bands. According to Dunn, being a producer “definitely challenges you to discover new music. I like being able to put together a playlist that flows really well.” Building on his experience working at a radio station in Greensboro, Dunn says hosting the show is now his favorite part of the week. “It’s a very good creative outlet.”
Dunn embraces the station’s online format, and archives his show so the episodes are available for listeners at a later time. “A lot of people say radio is a medium that’s dying out, but I think it just hasn’t been utilized the way it could.” The digital format allows more people to hear his broadcasts, but he likes that there’s a human element to it. “There’s a person curating, not just a robot playing music for you.”
While generous volunteers still cover much of the operating costs, Downey plans to host a fundraiser this year to pay for licensing and to help keep the station going. In addition, he hopes to roll out a new volunteer training process to recruit more producers and expand the station’s coverage. He’ll also be exploring remote broadcast capabilities for local events. The focus, he says, will remain local and personal. He wants people to see Little Raleigh Radio as a tool to connect with others and discover new passions.
Dunn plans to continue Damaged Goods, which he co-hosts with Seth Beard on Wednesdays from 8-10 p.m., and hopes to keep sharing his passion for music with the community. “I used to think there wasn’t that much good music anymore. There’s just as much exciting music coming out; you just have to go discover it.”