by Lauren Donnelly
VANCOUVER – In an unassuming brick building in Vancouver’s Gastown, behind a green-barred gate, there’s a midday party going on. Broadcasting live onto the web is the Polar Radio Show – just one of a number of shows made possible by the six-week-old non-profit, No Fun Radio (NFR).
NFR recently set up shop in Hi-Five grilled cheese’s old digs at 30 East Cordova Street. Derek Duncan is one of four co-founders behind the newcomer to Vancouver’s music scene.
The space is only about 100-square-feet, but what NFR lacks in space it makes up for in confidence. “It doesn’t need to be bigger,” says Duncan. “I like that it’s just meat and potatoes. There’s no bloat to it – obviously some of that has to do with the fact that it’s self-funded but I feel like we got the studio that we wanted. We didn’t have to cut any corners.”
The founders aren’t cutting corners on their plans, either. In the process of finalizing logistics for a visual component to accompany audio streams, NFR is also moving forward with workshops to teach people how to use DJ equipment in a safe, inclusive environment. “When I first started throwing shows in Vancouver it was really difficult,” says Duncan, who DJs for a living. “It’s really difficult to know what to do. It’s hard to know how to build a budget, how to get a venue, how to make a poster – and those are all things that we’d like to teach people too.”
NFR is focused on nurturing the local community in order to put Vancouver on the map. The goal is also to branch out with more live events that provide broadcasters with the opportunity to play outside of the radio station. To facilitate support for local artists, NFR is diligent about archiving its shows. Archived work is available online 24 hours after broadcast.
Modeled after international web-based radio stations such as Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio, and Los Angeles’ Dub Lab, the station currently hosts international artists on Fridays and Saturdays. Although its main focus is on broadcasting live out-of-studio, Duncan says they’re already receiving show pitches from around the world.
“Vancouver has such a habit of putting an outward focus on music and there’s so much talent here,” says Duncan. “And every city is guilty of that, but I think it’s good when people have strong support for their locals and they go out and pay cover and respect the energy that goes into it. It’s important that people understand that that’s how you build community – by supporting your neighbor and caring to know about what other people are doing.”
Show programming features an eclectic mix for every taste, ranging from trap, to disco, to house, to bhangra. The station provides broadcasters with a platform from which to transmit their creativity. That’s the goal, says Duncan. “All of us really just envisioned creating a platform for people in Vancouver to reach outside of their sphere.”
“You’re able to tune into all these really amazing local DJs but also you get to listen to everybody who’s coming through the city.”
In its current state, Canadian radio leaves a lot to be desired. CRTC regulations are imposed but don’t necessarily result in more support for local artists. Operating on the web means NFR is free from the chains of regulation. Duncan sees that as a boon for creativity. “You’re not promoting creativity if you’re putting harsh guidelines on somebody,” he said. “You open yourself up to having a way wider sphere of audio that you’re able to play if you’re not confined to those sorts of regulations.”
Duncan acknowledges Vancouver’s history of solid university radio stations but argues that local radio has never been a good representation of underground music or an ideal environment for a DJ. That’s why NFR is focused on providing the means – good monitoring, intuitive DJ equipment – and the platform for local artists to build their skills while being heard.
The reception so far is better than NFR-founders imagined possible. “We weren’t sure if we’d be able to fill this many hours with content,” says Duncan. “We wondered if Vancouver really had the thirst to participate. The answer is totally yes. Right away, everybody’s been keen to share. We’re just six weeks in and we’re seeing people coming to the studio, teeming with excitement because they’ve put so much energy into doing something and they’re seeing results. Seeing that 2,000 people listened to your radio show last week, that’s cool.”
Tune in to No Fun Radio online at www.nofunradio.comNFR, No Fun Radio