It might seem nowadays that classic media like print, TV and radio are being swallowed up by the internet and other developments of the past couple of decades.
Back in the day when there was no world wide web, discovering new music was significantly more difficult than today: You’d do it the hard way by going to record shops, or you’d listen to the ‘right’ radio shows.
There are countless examples of legendary radio shows that shaped entire generations of musicians and artists, for example the mysterious Electrifying Mojo in Detroit was a huge influence for most of today´s artists hailing from the Motor City.
But what about today? Has radio lost that magic or did it disappear in the shadow of Spotify and co.? Luckily no. We actually have plenty of evidence that radio is far from dead and has eventually risen to unprecedented heights due to the internet, ironically.
Pretty much every large city with a healthy music scene in central Europe has its own, mostly web-based radio station(s) that are dedicated to broadcasting quality music and remaining independent in their activities. There’s NTS, Rinse FM, Red Light Radio, Radio 80000 or Worldwide FM, just to mention a few stations that gained popularity beyond their home turf.
However, starting and keeping an independent radio station active and running is far from easy. In fact, it’s a tightrope walk that can end up in failure despite much effort and best intentions.
Just recently, in February 2019, Berlin Community Radio had to shut down their operations because of the loss of all funding from external sponsors (find the article here). Although most independent online radio stations are mostly or entirely run by volunteers, funding for rent, equipment, electricity and the like is essential to keeping stations on the air.
But how about Denmark or the Nordics in general?
Not surprisingly, community-run and owned radio stations that stream via the internet can also be found in Copenhagen and if we look across the bridge to our Swedish neighbors, there are also some thrilling projects going on.
Radio has been a strong influence in my musical education from a young age and I’m happy to present two stations from Malmö and Copenhagen that are more than just another radio station. Tune in!
About two and a half years ago, when I was considering applying for CBS, I visited Copenhagen for the international applicants’ day and stayed with some friends in Malmö who I’d met during my Erasmus semester in Lund. As usual, we went record shopping and then met up in the evening to check out the new music we bought.
I met up with my friend Cedric from Malmö who introduced me to vinyl DJing in 2014 and it was on that evening I first heard about Malmö Antenn, a local internet-based radio station broadcasting every Wednesday from 19-22h CET live via the free web streaming service Mixlr.
One of Cedric´s friends was around as well and he turned out to be one of the hosts of Malmö Antenn. From then on, I regularly followed their weekly show and became a fan from the first minute I listened.
Their guiding principle for starting the station was the urge to create a platform where people can meet via their shared interest in music (you can read an interview in Swedish with them here).
The people behind MA are a group of friends, all music enthusiasts, who appreciate music in various forms. Their principle is to provide the highest possible level of artistic freedom in their radio show, meaning that upcoming and established artists are totally free to play whatever and however they like. Their shows usually have a broad theme, based on their guest´s musical profile.
But still, there are no boundaries in terms of genres.
While MA is an opportunity for upcoming artists to get some exposure, established artists are also regularly invited and motivated to approach their show with an open mind in terms of their musical selection and thereby further spark curiosity and provide the right environment to push them creatively.
Put simply, MA is a place where experimenting is allowed and encouraged. Over the years, some of the contributors moved to other places outside of Skåne and that´s how Malmö Antenn started to broadcast from Stockholm and Gothenburg as well. On their home turf, just across the bridge, they recently started a collaboration with the art gallery Hauss Space in Holmgatan where they broadcast live from the gallery.
This partnership is already five episodes old and most likely the fifth one will not be the last.
The second Swedish featured station is Retreat Radio, also from Malmö. The concept of the station can be summarized, as one of the founders put it, as follows: The guiding principle for the people behind Retreat was to run the station in a way that would satisfy them if somebody else was running it.
This principle is the basis for all decisions, be it programming, social media announcements or graphic design. While obviously being constrained by financial resources and time, the crew behind Retreat aim to avoid making decisions based on considerations about money, social media reach, exposure, or any other metrics that might be guiding principles for other stations or basically any organization or business out there.
One of the founders emphasized that they are “very cynical” when it comes to promoting their station and no decision is solely made based on marketing potential. In other words, decisions about who will be invited to play, contribute or collaborate in any way is not guided by the potential number of likes and engagement this might create.
This means that the station will probably never make any money, but that’s not why Retreat exists. On the other hand, these principles create total freedom and allow for a diverse program of the highest quality. One of the ideas behind starting the station was to represent the music scene of the city of Malmö, but at the same time it’s not limited to the boundaries of the city, Skåne or Sweden.
Some collaborators don’t even live in Malmö, for example, Welia, a selector and DJ from Vienna who contributes with a bi-monthly residency. Recently Retreat also collaborated with more artists from Vienna and put up a special show broadcasted from the Austrian capital (listen to Bocksrucker´s set here). Also, concerning collaborations, Retreat recently started collaborating with Inkonst, a Malmö-based nightclub and art space. There’s plenty of interesting stuff coming up in the future, so keep your eyes peeled!
Having mentioned NTS radio before, this very station was also the starting point in the radio world for a young Copenhagener called Malika Mahmoud Henriques.
She started volunteering at NTS in London and after she finished her time there she decided to start a station of her own in Copenhagen in December 2016. The thing that’s remarkable about MMH is that it’s fully run by volunteers, and the artists involved also contribute financially and thereby guarantee that the station can continue broadcasting without the threat of sponsors withdrawing funding.
Apart from that, collaboration and co-creation, as you would say nowadays, are central elements of MMH radio. The impression I got during the two times I got invited to a show was exactly as you would expect from a station run with such a concept: Malika and some other contributors were sitting on the benches on the dancefloor of the empty Bakken in Kødbyen on a Tuesday evening, chatting about the to-do´s in the coming weeks while inside the studio the radio show was in full swing.
What also becomes clear when you meet any of the MMH crew, is when they use the word ‘Family’ for the link to all the contributors on their website, they mean it (to get an impression, this is what it looked like when they got a new mixer sponsored by Tuborgfondet).
The atmosphere around the station is strongly characterized by inclusion and you get the feeling that the collective is at the center rather than individuals or egos. But collaboration doesn’t stop at the borders of Copenhagen or Denmark.
In December 2018, MMH was part of an international collaboration of radio stations that teamed up with the Munich-based station Radio 80000, and for nine days the Bavarians featured shows from stations from all over the world with a similar mission. Also, the shows are held in English to guarantee that, as many people as possible tuning in can understand what the hosts and the guests have to say.
Concerning the programming and the musical direction of MMH, the station is as diverse and colorful as the city of Copenhagen itself. The slogan “Many Movements” mirrors that precisely. With about 50 people involved overall (according to an article by Strøm) and currently 38 regular contributors to the station, the musical spectrum covers every corner of Copenhagen´s electronic music scene and much more.
The radio hosts cover hip hop, ‘world’ music, all shapes and forms of experimental electronic music and other unconventional sounds. The shows also regularly feature special guests, sometimes international acts as well. For example, during last year´s Strøm Festival, Dâm Funk played a guest show (Dâm Funk on MMH Radio). If all that wasn’t enough, MMH also hosts nights in Bakken, where their studio is located. On those nights, some of the regular radio hosts have an entire night to heat up the dancefloor and get sweaty with the Bakken crowd.
The second Copenhagen featured station is Tweak FM, a show that focuses on electronic music, founded by Johnny Fredsgaard in November 1999.
That means that Tweak celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and at the same time is (to my knowledge) the longest-running show with a strong focus on electronic music for dancefloors. Strictly speaking, TweakFM is not an internet radio station because it broadcasts on 95.2 FM MHz in the Copenhagen metropolitan area.
But still, with Tweak being a somewhat legendary station with a mission that is very much in line with the more recent phenomenon of internet-based community radio stations, I felt obliged to mention it here.
The program and the artists that are invited to play on TweakFM can mostly be found within Techno and House in the broadest sense. The show’s credo is to present new music as well as classic dancefloor records from Berlin, Detroit, Chicago and The Hague, as the description of their musical direction on their Facebook page says.
Johnny, a self-proclaimed vinyl freak, as he puts it, started the show to make local and international artists’ music available to the masses and to give local talent a chance to showcase their skills and provide an opportunity for them to be recognized. Apart from that, he emphasized that the fun part of playing music himself was also a strong motivator to start Tweak.
In 2000, he invited his friend Michael Hansen to join him as co-host and from then on they ran the show together. Over the years the pair have also invited an impressive number of international guests to their show, many of them being well-established names in the scene who play gigs all over the globe.
The list is indeed too long to name all the artists here, but some of my personal favorites are DJ Hell, Basic Soul Unit, Soundhack, Tama Sumo, Legowelt, Prosumer, Function, DJ Jus-Ed (and yes, many, many more).
Some of the shows have been recorded and can be re-watched on Tweak´s YouTube channel. Fredsgaard also mentioned that inviting international acts is also an experience that drives him and is very fulfilling. Spending time with the artists before, during and after the show gave him the opportunity to get to know the people behind the alias and he pointed out that his guests have always been very nice and it seems that he and Hansen have a great time themselves when doing the show.
Staying true to Tweak’s spirit of presenting local talent, their latest guest was Mioara Mihai, aka Tight Cherry, a solid figure within the electronic music scene in Copenhagen. Originally from Romania, she delivered a set that can be placed mostly within Minimal House and Techno. Do yourself a favor and listen to it here and you should have a listen to Mioara´s latest show on MMH radio here.