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The Blues Finds A Home On The Internet

1-16-13

Thom Rogers (pictured right) is the founder of an Internet Radio station called Blues Debut. His background is broadcast engineering and systems architecture. In 2007, he got about five months radio experience on another Internet radio station. Rogers also worked at SONY Broadcast for six years helping maintain the original DirecTV broadcast center in Colorado.

His latest project is called Blues Debut, an Internet radio station for those who love the Blues. We caught up with Rogers and asked him about this project.

Who's idea was this station?
The idea for the station was mine. I actually bought the domain name in early 2009. I built the entire website myself, from design through testing and implementation. I also did all the integration of the back-end. And of course Im doing all the marketing, artist/label outreach, and analytics myself.
 
After my previous experience in Internet radio, which ended amicably yet unsatisfyingly, Id been thinking about the problem of blues fans being so passionate, but so disconnected. I used to travel a lot in my work and Id always go to a blues bar wherever I happened to be. Blues bars provide a certain camaraderie no matter where you go because everybody loves the music and what it does for them on a personal level.
 
It probably helps that I've been a guitar player all my life. I even started a blues band (The Chophouse Blues Band) while I was in Tanzania, playing five gigs in six weeks. Seeing the response to the blues in Tanzania, by both nationals and ex-pats, drove home the universal, genuine appeal of this genre. Because I play and have been a fan of blues since my teens, I've listened to a lot of the music and talked with a wide variety of blues fans over the years.
 
As I thought about it over time and saw Pandora and Spotify sprout and flourish, along with iTunes, I began to think about how all this personalization was also fracturing what should be a vibrant community. That, along with the problem of blues fans not having a place to actually discover whats new in blues (both  in terms of new releases and new artists) finally gelled into Blues Debut, as you see it today.
 
What is the station all about?
The station is about providing a convenient place for blues fans to hear what is new in blues. We call that getting the music into people's ears.  New in this context can be interpreted as the latest release by an artist a listener enjoys (but didn't know had something new out), to artists that they hadn't even known about. We also strive to provide a fresh listening experience each time a listener returns. Our tag line is Heard the latest? which pretty well sums up the mission.
 
We deliver on the mission by staying true to our philosophy:
We play nothing but the latest release from any one artist. There is no back catalog played from anybody.
We weight airplay based on how new a release is, not on artist name or reputation.
We avoid annoyingly frequent repeats of individual tracks and make sure there are plenty of tracks played from other CDs before playing a second song from a CD. 
 
Blues as a musical genre has a fervent, devoted global audience, yet access is local. People all over the world love the blues but can only hear it live by supporting their local bands or seeing touring national and international acts.  Economics dictate where bands can successfully tour so fans outside of those areas are left with their own collections and whatever blues hour a local radio station may offer. This restricted access makes it difficult to discover what is new and makes it hard for artists to get exposure for their latest efforts.
 
There are other Internet radio stations and podcasts that service this audience, but they are the curated personal expression of the tastes of the DJ, station owner, or podcast creator, and constrained by those peoples collections or time available. Blues Debut solves this problem by providing a convenient Web-accessible place to discover new artists and hear the latest from familiar acts without having to visit multiple websites.
 
We've adopted another motto to promote the idea of Blues Debut being the answer to the dilemma. Its: Tell your friends. They deserve to know about this!
 
Where did the financing come from?
Blues Debut is self-funded. I've had feelers from interested parties, but this is something I truly believe in and I want to focus on building our audience and solving the fragmentation problem, thereby proving the concept. Thats pretty much a full-time gig at this point, so I dont have a lot of bandwidth available to deal with the intricacies of wooing and closing investors. In the end, I think building this all on a self-funded basis, knowing the whole architecture and market intimately, and growing a loyal audience from a good demographic, Ill be able to get better investors and better terms.
 
Why go with just one song from each artist? There are a lot of great blues songs out there people may want to hear?
Well I think thats a misconception. We actually play virtually all of every album in our library. This is another philosophy that sets us apart. What you may be referring to is our format of only playing the latest CD from any one artist. We use the terms release, album, and CD interchangeably, but always mean the full release, not just a single track.
 
Now if the question is why no back catalog, then my answer would be that there are hundreds of Internet blues radio stations or podcasts where you can hear back catalog. But there is NOWHERE a listener can go to hear just whats new. Now there is. Our fundamental purpose is to answer the problem stated earlier, Where can I go to hear whats new in blues? The answer is Blues Debut.
 
How will you make money?
Well the plan is to make it hand over fist!!  Monetization will be via the website and the community around that.  Revenue streams will include merch, participations, sponsorships, advertisements, and ancillary ventures that will be tied to Blues Debut but would be premature to discuss now. We plan to keep the audio stream commercial free.
 
How many listeners are you getting every day?
We've had listeners from over 400 cities in over 40 countries and are seeing average listener time increase.  Approximately 20 percent of our listeners have tuned in five or more times in the 12/4 12/31 period. Were seeing good duration time and page views on the website as well.
 
We went live four weeks ago on Dec 4, which included the holidays, so the numbers are skewed a bit due to that.  We are of course focusing on growing listeners, but also on encouraging and retaining repeat listeners.




(11/18/2013 10:03:04 AM)
VyGacl I truly appreciate this article post.Thanks Again. Cool.

- NY
(10/24/2013 4:50:07 PM)
BADVGU Appreciate you sharing, great blog.Much thanks again. Really Great.

- NY
(1/29/2013 10:06:38 AM)
What a journey from the California penny machines to what you are doing today. Another perfect example of your genius and creative fun at work.

Best of luck!

- Serge
(1/16/2013 6:21:17 PM)
Chop.......you da man! GOOD LUCK!

- George Whitesell
(1/16/2013 3:29:36 PM)
Being a former DJ with Chop.... I applaud his efforts and totally support him. As he asked me for permission for: “Tell your friends. They deserve to know about this!”

I thought I'd plug where he got it from (and his passion for broadcasting) Bandana Blues with Beardo & Spinner., a weekly podcast available.... well, let's not get greedy.... paste that in your browser.

Good Luck to Chophouse!!!

- Beardo

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