Strange Fruit Radio service enters last 24 hours of broadcasting.

Strange Fruit Radio, the online radio service dedicated to championing new artists and bands as well as remember great ‘classic’ artists such as Adam & The Ants, The Clash, The Cure, Nirvana, & The Pixies, has now officially confirmed the service will close completely on 1st January.

In previous posts, it had been suggested that Mr. Robin Dee, one of the original team of presenters on Strange Fruit Radio was going to continue the service in a podcast format on another website, however this idea has now also been scrapped.

“It’s a blow, admits Mr. Dee, “as I was desperately hoping to continue the good idea that Nathan King, Founder of Strange Fruit Radio, had started, but it’s no longer possible”.

Mr. King admitted that he had failed to come up with an agreement of how the service would effectively be taken over by Mr. Dee: “We’ve tried hard, but Mr. Dee and I, while both being passionate about music and radio, come from different ends of the spectrum as to how a radio/music service should be run; unfortunately this coupled with a few other factors means there will be no Strange Fruit podcasting service, nor for that matter any Strange Fruit at all”.

Dee confirmed this, “Unfortunately Nathan had one idea of how this all should happen, and I had another. As well as that, I have looked more deeply into how podcasting services are managed, their cost implications, and unfortunately it’s a little too close to the money and time needed for a streaming service. I wanted to setup a free service and give it away free for people to enjoy, but realise it’s not as simple as that.. I am not in a position to invest anything like the time and money Nathan has put into Strange Fruit, so reluctantly have withdrawn my offer and can confirm that there will be no podcast service”.

The news comes in the same week as Ofcom (radio broadcaster’s regulatory body) announced that all formats for local commercial radio stations are to be scrapped in the coming year, essentially meaning that any previously agreed format restrictions for radio stations will no longer exist, for example Kiss FM will no longer have to play mostly dance music, and Radio X (formerly XFM) will no longer be obliged to play “Indie” & Alternative music. Mr. King described this “as the beginning of the end for local commercial specialist music radio” – a view point widely shared on online radio forums.

The news also means that larger radio groups could ‘network’ stations together, so instead of having locally presented radio programmes in different areas around the country, these could be merged and effectively closed down meaning one presenter, probably based in London broadcasting to the rest of the country..

However, a spokesman for one of the major radio groups scorned enthusiasts’ complaints “We are into in the business of managing radio stations not because we love music or radio, these radio stations are businesses and have to make a profit. Never mind for specialist music radio, but for local radio itself, the business model just does not add up, the major radio stations draw the largest audience shares and will continue to do so. Those interested in more specialist music services will have to look to other platforms for their requirements, such as these tiny community and online services run by enthusiasts and hobbyists with no profit motivation”.

These comments eerily resonate of those made by Ms. Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, who was widely criticised earlier this year by admitting that most commercial radio stations would choose to play Pop Music, while those with other tastes would have to look at an online alternative for their musical preferences.

However, Steve James a media analyst, largely agreed with these comments: “As far as what Ms. White stated, yes it was an outspoken thing to say, but it was also largely correct. If one were to take a look at the RAJAR’s (audience figure recording organisation) for these online or even digital radio stations, such as Choice, Capital Xtra, Radio X, Virgin Radio (UK), etc., it’s fairly obvious that their listenership figures are dwarfed by the major players in the game such as Capital, Radio 2, LBC, and Magic”.

As for those listeners interested in specialist music radio, James drew a particularly grim picture “It’s hard to see these digital stations being kept “on-air”. Especially as Ofcom are demanding that a level of news output is required, it would be just as easy for the larger radio groups to close the stations down. I would imagine we will be left with a situation similar to that of the 1960’s and 70’s, only with the pirates replaced by Absolute, Capital and the other Global and Bauer owned stations, with the BBC filling in the gaps for those interested in specialist music services.”

He also dismissed the many community and online services available in terms of making it as viable businesses., “Their model’s just don’t stand up to it,”, admitted James, “Community stations are restricted in the way they are able to obtain funding, and online stations have the issue with the music licensing costs increasing with the greater listenership they get. There are also way too many of them to make it as a sustainable business, but most of all the lack of awareness would kill them. Just look at 6Music, the BBC spent millions on it, and still nearly closed it down. As a station with good listener figures it works, but as a business model, it’s not even close to being successful. No commercial radio operator in the world would have sustained it. Though it is possible the lack of awareness issue could be helped significiantly if and when the UK Government switches off existing AM/FM transmitters, then listeners will be obliged to move to a digital platform”.

However, it is not all bad news for specialist music lovers, as King explains, “I was at a gig in London and happened to get chatting with a guy who was the Earthly representative for Radar Radio, and he gave me a few ideas”.

Radar Radio is was of the most controversial online only stations. It was founded by Ollie Ashley, who is the son of Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, and is alleged to owe over £1m. Radar was controversial for having a website consisting of just one page – its Homepage.
It is also very upfront and ‘in yer face’ – its strapline, the equivalent of our “Your Alternative Xperience” is “Tune In Or F**k Off”.

Mr. King said that he was given a few interesting insights into running online radio, “The chap just said to me that as there is no way an online radio station can make a profit or be run as a business, just run it like a hobby, giving it a few hours per week – essentially run it to please myself, and that’s what I have decided to do”.

Therefore, Strange Fruit Radio will still close on 1st January, but King will still be streaming music – at some point – from another service and website:

However as King suggests, don’t get your hopes up too much: “It will be literally 24 hours of continuous music, no presenters, no D.J.’s, no adverts, no jingles – although I may add some if I get around to it”.