The voice of the people
A gymnasium in a suburban Hamilton shopping centre is not the sort of place you expect to find a low-power FM broadcasting strictly electronic dance music.
But in a couple of offices at Flagstaff’s TLC Gym is Fevah FM, the brainchild of hard dance fan Mandy Seuss-Ryan, who along with husband Bradley Ryan stumped up with $25,000 to launch the broadcaster last year. The station’s name is taken from the dance music industry firm that holds a 25 per cent share in the company running the broadcaster, which beams out across Hamilton on the 88.3FM frequency.
A former nightclub owner, Seuss-Ryan says she had no intention of getting into radio when she moved from her native Germany to New Zealand several years ago. The connection with Fevah rekindled her love of the music and culture and, after a brief involvement with Backbeat FM in early 2010 – her first radio experience – she looked to develop her “very productive” relationship with local dance music event promoters, launching Fevah FM in November last year.
Long-term, the plan is for the station to become a full-time day job, over-taking her role as a creche manager, but “we’re still taking baby steps, really”. She could make more money from teaching and childcare, but says, “Fevah FM is something I need to do.”
Seeking advice from Radio Spectrum Management – a division of the Economic Development Ministry – Seuss-Ryan opted for the low-power or guardband frequency (less than 1 Watt of power), enlisting about 30 local DJs to host shows encompassing house, techno, drum and bass and dubstep. At 36, Seuss-Ryan is the oldest person at the station.
“I’m the godmother.”
Seuss-Ryan acknowledges the station plays “narrow” material and is very much a niche broadcaster.
“We take care of the underground and noncommercial labels that are outside the mainstream. But having all the support of the key players in dance music in Hamilton has given us the confidence to say, Hey, yeah, this can work. The concept we have is unique – all our DJs live in Hamilton and work in Hamilton bars.”
The station is also rebroadcasting international shows from the likes of British hard dance DJ Lisa Lashes, delivered via the internet, and Seuss-Ryan prides herself and her station on the fact some of the music is so fresh that the musicians producing it have not been signed to a label. Most of her DJs mix live in the studio on to high-end DJ equipment, a big difference to many commercial broadcasters, who simply hit a key on a keyboard.
“Some of them [Fevah DJs] are even dedicated vinyl-playing folk who bring in their own turntables.”
Webstreaming is a major emphasis for Fevah and its FM transmitter is on the roof of the building.
“Low power is about live and let live, but if there were a commercial licence available, I would like to go there. I think we’re getting accepted really well.”
That said, Seuss-Ryan is not getting ahead of herself and continues to put in “a lot of [unpaid] hard work” programming shows daily, dealing with DJs, paying attention to dance music trends and doing administration tasks. She doesn’t see a commercial licence as being an option for two to three years and while Fevah FM is intended as a money-making venture, at the moment it just breaks even.
“Music and hard dance I am very passionate about, but I am also running a business. It’s a small operation, but a healthy one, and I am very happy with that.
“And what else would I do?”
© Waikato Times April 18 2011.
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