Paradise around the world
Internet radio station reaches listeners around the globe from a studio in the pines
Bill Goldsmith turns down the monitor volume of Radio Paradise, while his wife, Rebecca, sits in the main chair at the helm of their Internet radio station. Bill opts for the couch. Around them are several bookshelves filled to capacity with countless CDs, monitors and cameras, microphones and speakers, and a music mixing board with cryptic knobs, switches and dials.
I have to remind myself that I’m sitting in their garage.
Outside, all is green. The voices of Bill and Rebecca Goldsmith as they are heard over Radio Paradise are euphonious, and who could wonder why? They work out of their home, shrouded in the cooling shade of mountain trees.
Internet radio began in a time when the World Wide Web was still new and an unexplored marketplace. Listeners can tune in by visiting the station’s Web site, which means they can listen from any Internet connection anywhere in the world. The Goldsmiths, from their garage, have taken Internet radio to new heights—or should we say new lengths?
Bill Goldsmith is no newcomer to radio. He worked for a progressive FM station in the 1970s, an era when disc jockeys chose all the songs and their orders. Today, when FM radio is being mainstreamed by corporate ownership and computer-randomized automation, Bill Goldsmith is still choosing his song playlists by hand, spending time choosing the right songs, pairing them with the right previous songs, offering good transitions between moods, and playing a wide variety of music, some of it even local.
After several years of working with music in such a hands-on fashion, forming song playlists became an art form for him. “My goal from the very beginning, here at Radio Paradise, is to resurrect that style of radio,” says Bill. “The only place you hear that kind of radio is on public stations.”
With public radio as a model, Radio Paradise is funded entirely by optional listener support. The Goldsmiths started with a few dozen listeners and, three years later, they are at around 5,000 to 10,000 listeners every day, with another 60,000 who listen occasionally, rivaling the numbers of many local stations but, in this case, coming from all over the world.
With about 8,000 or 9,000 listeners registered and countless more who listen without registering, Radio Paradise is surviving in a time when the dot-com bust has driven most Internet stations out of business. “This time two years ago there were probably five to 10 times as many online radio stations as there are right now,” Bill says, attributing his and Rebecca’s ability to make a living off Radio Paradise to the loyal listeners who are willing to support the station.
In the beginning years of Radio Paradise, the Goldsmiths planned to eventually use advertising revenue on both the station and the Web site to cover the costs; their success at generating listener contributions has not only allowed them to avoid “polluting their station with advertising,” but also given them the opportunity to work at Radio Paradise without having to take other, less satisfying jobs.
Bill Goldsmith also works as a consultant for KPIG, a hip FM station in Santa Cruz, and other stations. In a nutshell, he gathers information on songs’ popularity and uses those statistics to recommend specific songs and their playtime to the program directors of local stations. How much say in programming one consultant has in any specific station can determine what songs play when. While some consultants have god-like power at their stations, Bill gives much of the same freedom he has at Radio Paradise to the DJs at KPIG, which is the most popular and profitable station in its market.
Of course, Radio Paradise isn’t limited by reliance on a traditional radio signal, which at best can travel a hundred miles. The station is reaching all corners of the globe, and its fans are from all over. Even so, many of them have already formed into an informal cultural following. “There’s a group of people that are constantly dialoguing,” says Rebecca. “They’re getting together, they’re meeting, they’re traveling together, they’re in communication with each other day in and day out.”
In Alaska, Radio Paradise is gaining popularity because of an association with a local college radio station. Because the Alaska station doesn’t broadcast between semesters, every winter and summer the operators, Bill says, “just turn up Radio Paradise and lock the door.”
The Goldsmiths have also received several e-mails from people in Canada, Western Europe, South America, China, and Singapore. An individual from Italy, whose Internet moniker is “Sandman,” e-mailed them, “Hi all, from Italy with love. … Sandman listens [to] Radio Paradise!!! Very good music!!!”
In addition to bringing the whole world to Radio Paradise, Bill and Rebecca have been bringing Radio Paradise to the world—literally. They have traveled to Hawaii, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and Kenya to do live broadcasts, a task far easier on Internet radio than on FM radio, which requires a transmitter and stacks of equipment. The Goldsmiths need only a computer, a couple microphones and a phone line. They have more live broadcasts planned so they can take to the world their unique taste in music.