Before Rock 103 fired DJ Ric Chetter and replaced his morning show with a syndicated program, someone reminded him of an old adage: If you don't like the way things are done, do it yourself.
And that's exactly what Chetter did. He invested his 401(K) into equipment for a home studio and launched Radio Memphis last July. The live internet radio station celebrates its first anniversary with a party featuring the Fast Mothers, Pezz, and Joecephus and the Georgetown Massacre at the New Daisy on July 7th.
"Radio Memphis needed to be about everything corporate radio is not, which is about people," Chetter said. "Radio Memphis plays only local music."
The station, which streams for free at radio-memphis.com, has about 670 songs in heavy rotation from around 500 regional artists in genres ranging from rock and country to blues and hip-hop.
"People e-mail us their MP3s. They have to be radio quality, original material," Chetter said. "We don't own it. We don't make it available for download. But the most important rule is, it can't suck."
Music comes in from all over the world, but only regional artists are accepted. Examples of artists who get frequent airplay on Radio Memphis include the Heavy Eyes, River City Tanlines, Tori Tollison, and Andrew Adkins.
Listeners tune in from all over the world. The station is available in more than 70 countries. Chetter says at any given point, the station has anywhere from 600 to 1,000 people listening.
In addition to broadcasting local music, Radio Memphis also hosts a series of concerts monthly at the New Daisy. Those shows are recorded and run as a live simulcast on the station.
Listeners may tune in from the website on a computer or stream the station using a free smart phone app. The app also includes live video from inside Chetter's home studio, which is set up in the back of his Cooper-Young home.
"Doing this out of my home is both good and bad," Chetter said. "I'll get up at night to go to the bathroom, and I'll find myself coming in here to make sure we're still on. It's a 24-hour operation, but we're not fully staffed yet by design, because it's here in my house."
Chetter said there are future plans to move into a separate studio. For now, DJs Jaeci King, Vexar Dave, Brother Doug, and Chetter host live programs daily at the home studio. Much like with traditional radio, DJs alternate music with banter and calls from listeners.
"Brother Doug, who used to be a producer on Rock 103, is on from 6 to 10 p.m., and he gets wild," Chetter said. "He plays music. He talks to people. If you don't call him, he calls you."
Now that he's left the world of corporate radio, Chetter believes free, advertising-supported internet radio is the only way to go.
"The Federal Communications Commission doesn't touch us. They can't control the internet. With traditional radio, you have to go through the FCC and pay ridiculous amounts of money for licensing and fees. And then you have to go through the Federal Aviation Administration to stick a tower up so planes won't hit it," Chetter said. "Screw that. Just put it on the web. That's where everybody is anyway."