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    Creative Concepts for Funding your Micro Radio Station

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    CO-OP's and Pay-to-Play

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    Rogue Radio Research Main Page / Origins and Strategies / Capitalism v. Enterprise / Listener Support: On-air, Canvassing, and Tabling / Sales: T-Shirts, Buttons, Bumper Stickers, and Whatnot / Non-profit Status / Concluding Comments

    There is more than one way to skin a transmitter. A system that is recommended by European Free Radio activists, and has worked well for at least two stations in the US, is to have staff contribute cash to run the station . There are two main ways to run this, the co-op or pay-to-play.

    "Of all people we know the bills of running a radio station for over two years. And we know there is a larger philosophical question lurking just around the antenna, but we look at it kind of like we(Kind Radio/Hays county Guardian/ Joe and me)) own the "boat" (transmitter, antenna, mixer, 4 x 8 room) and the programmers are the fisherman. They pay $10.00 a month. That and the occasional fund raiser at a bar. Maybe $150 raised. That and also if the programmers want new equipment, "fishing poles"(mikes, CD players, cassette player, turntable, etc.), they buy them, or bring them just for their show. We all love fishing so we all make it work, and its not fair either!
    -Zeal,uKind, San Marcos, TX

    The station is a collective. Everybody pays to support the station and keep it on the air. If you are on the air or work behind the scenes, then you are part of the Co-op. Every member pays a set amount per month and may also have to pony up for major expenses. With this model, jobs and authority are assigned by the collective and decisions are made through consensus. Sound simple? It isn't. Whether it is cultural or genetic, people in this country are not used to making decisions this way and meetings can get out of hand, which can bog down the decision making process. I felt I should point out the potential difficulties here. However, several stations operate by consensus and do quite well. It depends on your group. This is not the place for a crash course on organizational theory, but I will give some quick advice. Set up a written agenda for meetings and make sure everyone has a copy. Just post a note on the wall and have people add things they want on it. Also, elect a facilitator and have that person run the meeting to keep it on track and on the agenda, This will keep the marathon meetings to a minimum.

    "Free Radio Memphis asked each DJ to through in $5 a week, sliding scale, and work exchange credited. Most people found it easier to give the $5, It was enough to pay rent, utilities, phone bill, continuous equipment upgrade and, when the fit hit the shan, our lawyers."
    -Petunia Joan,Free Radio Memphis

    Another method to fund a station is pay-to-play. This is when a core of individuals put the station together (get a space, buy equipment, pay bills) and then allow the public access. DJ's and announcers pay a set amount per week/month to get their air time. This is usually a token amount like $5.00 a week or $10.00 a month. This can be a flat rate or a sliding scale and may or may not be substituted with volunteer chores or duties. While this doesn't seem like a lot of money, it can really add up.

    There are 168 hours in the week.
    If each DJ has a two hour show once a week, that makes for 84 DJs.
    If each pays $5.00 a week (cheap!), that's $420 a week or $1680 per month.

    Not a insignificant sum. Even if there are fewer operating hours and taped shows, it can still add up. As long as the money you charge or the contributions you get (depending on how you look at it) is reasonable and affordable to all, I don't see this as a major burden on announcers. You can also draw names out of a hat a give the person(s) picked a free ride for a month, just to break it up. This method for raising fund is by far the most consistent source of station income and costs nothing to implement.

    "Here's the beauty of micro-radio (at least for us): I spent, I don't know, somewhere around $1000 to set up our station with everything. That $$ is gone forever, and I've gotten my $$'s worth in my own entertainment many times over, and I hope I never see that $1000 in cash again. The only ongoing expense for shows is the tapes to record them (which I buy in bulk) the tapes to make copies as gifts in return for guests being on the air (it's the least I can do, and they love it), and the snacks/beer that we eat during/after a transmission. We will NEVER need to advertise, we will NEVER need to raise $$, and thus will NEVER have to answer to the "almighty dollar". As soon as we "owe" anyone anything, it exerts control over our content, language, and programming (ala Noam Chomsky, the journalist is woe to bite the hand that feeds him). We are mobile and solar powered, so we don't even have rent or electric bills to pay! Ah! Smell the freedom!"
    -Cap'n D,SPURT Radio, Berkeley, CA

    European Free Radio
    Two important European guides to free radio, Radio is my Bomb and Hoisting the Jolly Roger or The Birth of a Station: Intro to Advanced Anti-organizational Science in Theory and Practice both recommend DJ contributions to fun your free radio sation.

    "As you won't be advertising when you get on air and most likely will not have any form of financial support, it is good practice to start collecting weekly subscriptions from your membership even before you go on air. This will probably be your only source of income so keep it for basic necessities such as rent; electricity etc."
    -Radio is my Bomb


    "Doing radio costs nothing. No one thinks about it, but it's true. It's still the cheapest and most environment-friendly medium. If you have one rich uncle you can skip this section. But money has to come from somewhere. Contributions from the programmers are a steady source of income. It sounds a bit outrageous to tell volunteers they have to pay to work. But they will do it, and should consider it an honour. Not that they will come up to you and do it voluntarily. In these circles the position of treasurer is a thankless task."
    - Hoisting the Jolly Roger or The Birth of a Station: Intro to Advanced Anti-organizational Science in Theory and Practice

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