When ALT 105.3, formerly Live 105, fired music director and DJ Aaron Axelsen a year ago, it was not about if it would be back on the radio, but when and where. That question was answered when he and music news publication FLOOD announced FLOOD FM in February, and the streaming station is now live on the air (digital).
“It’s a dream format for me, an independent music company,” Axelsen said on a one-week call in his new job. “The streams of FLOOD FM reflect a music festival, where there is a diverse cross-pollination of so many different sounds.”
During his 23 years on Live 105, he was the first to play everyone from Coldplay to Arcade Fire to Billie Eilish on commercial radio. But as he plans to continue featuring promising musicians, the “commercial radio” part has changed. While this means it no longer floats through the air to all Bay Area radios, it also removes many limitations and restrictions.
“I’m taking some of the elements from Live 105, the successful artists and the successful programming strategies,” he said. “I think commercial radio can be very insular. You become very gender specific. You will always be tied by the odds and Wall Street. So that can sometimes limit your artistic vision, because it’s your job to give notes. Now you need to overlap art and commerce. But this effort is purely artistic. Yes, we want listeners, but from now on it’s purely an artistic endeavor.
It also means that he can expand from alternative rock and electronic music – he brings his popular show “Subsonic” with him in the movement – to include new soul, Britpop, folk rock, chillwave, and music. hip-hop. The playlist won’t include all hip-hop, but rather what Axelsen calls “progressive hip-hop,” or hip-hop with an artistic element that expands the parameters of the genre. This includes Yves Tumor, Mykki Blanco and Run the Jewels, for example
Despite the variety of sounds, he said the station will be rooted in 2000s music similar to what he has in store at Popscene, his independent San Francisco nightclub he still manages. He said he thought alternative radio had completely ignored this audience.
By deviating from the radio standard, he said he was building something new and different. While he listened to a lot of NPR stations across the country for inspiration, it also doesn’t match what they do.
“For the music mix that we’re presenting, I think it’s pretty unique,” Axelsen said. “I don’t know if anyone is bringing this style, this formula to the table. We have the right percentage of new musical discoveries, the right percentage of familiar music. I think there was an opening, a niche, a gap to fill. I think we’ve created a special musical mix that fills that voice. I hope.”
While FLOOD FM is still new, its managers have a long-term goal of adding everyday features and personalities to the air. Currently, in addition to Axelsen himself from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, the second hire was Leslie James, formerly of CD 102.5 in Columbus, airs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are always on the lookout for morning and evening personalities.
The station is also adding specialty shows, many of which will also be available as podcasts. In addition to Subsonic, there will eventually be a punk rock show and a hip-hop show. On May 2, it will officially unveil its first specialty show, FLOOD Flashback Sundays, which will feature 24 Hours of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.
Beyond all this, Axelsen also keeps in mind that he is no longer limited to the range of the Bay Area radio towers.
“It’s exciting that we can reach a community of music fans on an international level. We broadcast across North America, UK, Australia. We have a very wide platform and a big playing field, ”he said. “It’s exciting to work globally. I have always been market specific. It’s fun to bring music, art and culture to a global level. It’s an exhilarating change. “
He said that FLOOD FM had launched a very large network for its upcoming on-air personalities, and that it was not out of the question to bring in DJs from the UK or Australia to reach listeners. in their own time zone. It is part of a long term strategy to continue to make FLOOD FM something more than it had the opportunity to do before.
“We are building a brand of music that people will hopefully love and spend a lot of time with, not just listening when they go to work in the morning and back home. afternoon, ”he said.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis on Twitter.com/BayAreaData.