Two weekends ago in the business and recreational space behind Chelsea’s Caf? known as Beauvoir Park, 12 area music acts donated their time and talent to Baton Rouge’s new, low-power community radio station.
The $10 admission to the first Summer RadioPalooza benefited WHYR-LP. Located at 96.9 on the FM dial, the station is scheduled for a June 26 launch.
WHYR’s mission statement, posted on the station’s website, “is to be an open voice to inform, connect and amplify the diverse communities of Baton Rouge.”
The statement adds that WHYR expects to air diverse programming that entertains and educates through music, culture and literature. The station also anticipates nonmusical programming that encourages civic improvement and fresh visions for Baton Rouge as well as dialogue between races and cultures.
“I support community radio because of its local flavor,” said Ben Bell of rockabilly band Ben Bell and the Stardust Boys, a RadioPalooza participant. “It gives voice to local music and issues. The WHYR benefit was an excellent example of the grassroots eclecticism that community radio offers.”
Another RadioPalooza performer, Thomas Johnson, a former Baton Rouge and New Orleans resident who lives in San Francisco, said he was thrilled to be asked to play the benefit.
“Community radio is big out here in the Bay Area,” Johnson said from San Francisco. “That kind of open, commercial-free radio is important. A lot of cool, grassroots things have been starting in Baton Rouge.”
RadioPalooza’s other under-the-radar performers included the Buskers, Adrian Strickland, Daniel Lee, Baby Boy, GrisGris, Pacifico, Kevin Landry and the Front Brusly Swampers, Calico, Polly Pry and Erin Miley.
The RadioPalooza turnout pleased Alexander Perlis and Racheal Hebert, co-station managers at WHYR and members of the all-volunteer group working to launch the station. The Sunday event was hastily organized in about three weeks, Hebert said.
“It’s something we had an idea for and it sort of sparked,” she said. “It was a really amazing turnout, but I wish it hadn’t been so hot.”
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Perlis added as he and Hebert discussed WHYR at Garden District Coffee. “We didn’t have any corporate sponsorships to cover our overhead costs, but lots of people pulled together. The owner of the property donated the property, the bands played for free. Everybody pitched in.”
WHYR’s initial fundraising goal is $75,000. The latter amount will cover the cost of a station manager, production engineer, recording studio, utilities, a main studio and control room, a lease on a downtown building, transmitter, antenna and more.
Thus far about $24,000 has been raised, enough to make WHYR operational and secure its FCC permit.
“So we’re not going to lose the permit,” Perlis said. “But it’s going to be unpleasant running a minimal radio station. A minimal station means one of us driving every day to a rooftop on Florida Boulevard, climbing to the 14th floor and changing out an audio file because the station is an entirely pre-programmed and automated station. That’s not the type of station we’re trying to build. So we need more money, and we need more people jumping in and helping out.”
The station thus far has received about 25 proposals for programs. Management anticipates a mix of talk and music.
Perlis believes a community radio station should reflect a community’s social and cultural diversity as well as its musical diversity. In Baton Rouge, he sees potential for programs in French, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“This station isn’t targeting one genre or one population,” Hebert added. “It’s something for everybody. Ideally, it’ll be made up of all these different people who want to have a show that speaks to their age group, racial or ethnic background.”
“But I don’t want people to feel like ?Oh, that’s their show, that’s not my show,’ “ Perlis said. “A show can be a bridge in the community.”
Prior to its launch, WHYR is running broadcast tests at its FM address.
“It’s the proof that we have the equipment and that we’re able to do this,” Perlis said.
“I’m confident that we will have everything together to make it happen,” Hebert said.