Carly Wilford on EVR via
When we paid a visit to the East Village Radio office two months ago for our profile on the station, there was no sign of financial trouble. In fact, station manager Peter Ferraro was planning for expansion, speaking to advertisers about sponsoring new shows and continuing to build out his corps of experienced DJ’s. So it came as a surprise this morning when EV Grieve broke the news that the radio station is shutting down its operations next Friday, May 23rd.
See also: After More Than 10 Years, East Village Radio Is Just Getting Started [Ed. note: GREAT TITLE!]
In the interview with EV Grieve, the co-owner of the internet radio station, Frank Prisinzano, attributed the shutdown to licensing fees and internet costs. “After doing some projections, we see that it’s going to be very, very difficult for us to continue to break even,” he told the blog.
The station’s DJs were surprised by the news as well. They were informed of the shutdown in a meeting of station personnel at Lil Frankie’s on Monday night. Those we spoke to say that they had no idea it was coming.
“If anything, it seemed like the listenership was growing,” says Bobbito Garcia, the radio legend whose show with EVR has only been on for about a year. “We had some conversations with brands about potential underwriting and sponsorship so I really didn’t see that coming. I thought the meeting last night was going to be like, ‘Hey, we’re becoming an FM station which we’re going to broadcast online…’ I thought it was going to be an expansion.”
When we spoke to him back in March, Ferraro was just in the process of becoming a co-owner of the station. East Village Radio was very clearly his life: he spent upwards of 12 hours a day at the station and was actively pursuing growth, with his singular brand of pit-bull optimism. A new show featuring DJs from FACT Magazine was one of the things he was most excited about — the show has only had five episodes to date.
East Village Radio was founded in the spring of 2003, originally inspired by the famed pirate radio stations of the ’90s. But after a run-in with the FCC, Prisinzano decided to leave the FM dial and go straight. In doing so, he helped to pioneer the relatively small-scale internet radio format which will now be carried by on such stalwarts as Los Angeles’s dublab and Chicago’s Accuradio.
Streaming music has never been a profitable business. Even stations like Pandora and Spotify lose money at an amazing rate, due mostly to the high cost of paying royalties. According to a New York Magazine article published today: “Last quarter, on the way to losing $28.9 million, Pandora paid out about 56 cents of every dollar it made as royalties to record labels and artists. (When you count only mobile listeners, it was more like 67 cents of every dollar.) Spotify pays out even more — about 70 cents of every dollar it takes in. You have to sell a lot of ads and subscriptions to make up for those slim margins, and so far, nobody’s doing it.”
When we met with Ferraro originally, he pointed to the station’s compliance with royalty-collecting organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SoundExchange as proof East Village Radio had finally become legitimate. But while registering with the authorities benefited the station in the short run, the insane costs of running a streaming station eventually did them in. And as Ferraro points out in his interview with EV Grieve, East Village Radio paid higher royalty and licensing fees than Pandora.
East Village Radio will be remembered as a neighborhood stalwart, an institution that radiated history in an area famous for its short memory. Even when it started, it felt anachronistic. It was an internet station which insisted on having a physical incarnation and which made the East Village community larger than the space between Houston and East 14th.
“I’ve gone through this before,” Garcia says. “You have something great. You say goodbye to it. You’re grateful for the opportunity and you keep it moving.”