AshevilleFM parties on

As significant a milestone as AshevilleFM’s second birthday party might seem, Greg Lyon, who shares the station’s management with Sean Dennis, sees it more as a beginning than a culmination. The station’s third year will be its biggest and most exciting yet, he says.

“This coming year will see us expanding beyond the notion of ‘radio,’” Lyon says. AshevilleFM will partner with such organizations as the Media Arts Project and the Asheville Area Arts Council. “From the beginning we’ve been interested in providing really unique local content, from simulcasting forums for Asheville City Council candidates in 2009, just after we’d gotten off the ground, to working with venues to broadcast live concerts, like the Open Letter jazz series at BoBo Gallery, and the Group Doueh show at the Grey Eagle, which kicked off their U.S. tour. We’ll be building on that history as we move ahead.”

AshevilleFM was created in the summer of 2009 by a group who felt there was a need for community-based radio in the Asheville area. The group evolved into Friends of Community Radio, still AshevilleFM’s parent organization, and soon went looking for space and equipment. By September, the group had come up with a roster of locally produced shows, enough equipment to build one studio and a location behind BattleCat Coffee Bar (then Izzy’s West), and went on the air — or the “air” of the Internet, at any rate.

Some of the programs, such as Jonathan Price’s “Tenor to Tabla,” Steven Howard’s “Mental Notes” and my own “Wordplay” had been available via other outlets, and brought audiences with them; others started from scratch and gradually found ears to listen. Over the past two years, the station has developed a roster of diverse programming and seen its Web-based audience steadily expand.

And the actual FM airwaves may soon bring the station’s signal to an even larger audience. Kim Roney, the station’s board president and assistant music director, says AshevilleFM will apply for a low-power FM license in the coming year.
      Lyon explains: “The next few years will, I hope, bring the technology to make Internet radio as accessible as regular radio, but in the meantime, Internet-radio listening tends to be by appointment; you just tune in to your favorite shows. The changes in technology have shifted the ways we choose to experience music in particular,” he says. “Radio provided curated listening, and lost audience as people chose to select their own playlists via iTunes and all the other music services. But folks have discovered, I believe, there is something missing from that paradigm. Even Pandora, for all its options, lacks a human voice. You might call this the ‘Internet radio paradox’ — as our options expand, we miss the local human connection that radio used to provide.” Going for the LPFM license will enhance the station’s ability to provide that local connection.

At the party, and for the year ahead, AshevilleFM will be reaching out again to the community of audio artists from which it draws its programming, to nonprofit organizations that share similar goals, to businesses like The Hop, Harvest Records, Desoto Lounge and Orbit DVD that have supported the station’s development, and to listeners, asking them again to join in the radio adventure.

— Jeff Davis hosts “Word Play” on ashevillefm.org.

who: Asheville Free Media
what: Two-year anniversary celebration featuring DJ Koleco, DJ Joynerd & the station’s very own Adam Strange (from Worst Case Scenario)
where: Emerald Lounge
when: Saturday, Sept. 10 (8 p.m. $5.

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