Online radio station pumps local music into Edmonton stores

Jeff Williams has been trying to showcase local Edmonton music since he started GRadio, an internet radio station dedicated to the city’s local music scene.

'It's pretty unique, but it also seems like a no-brainer,' creator Jeff Williams says

Jeff Williams created GRadio in 2011 to promote Edmonton artists — now, he's pushing their music into local businesses. (Jeff Williams/Supplied)

Jeff Williams has been trying to showcase local Edmonton music since 2011 when he started GRadio, an internet radio station dedicated to the city's local music scene.

But while Williams was seeking a sponsorship from Axe Music, a local Edmonton musical instrument store, he stumbled on an idea that changed his entire business model.

"It was kind of a eureka moment," Williams told CBC's Radio Active Tuesday. The staff at Axe was complaining about having to pay licensing fees to play music they didn't even like.

Williams' eureka moment came as he was pitching a potential sponsorship to Axe Music. (Jeff Williams/Supplied)

With GRadio, Williams already had a licence to play local music. He applied for a second licence to distribute to stores and has gotten eight businesses in the city on board since November, including Axe and Remedy Café.

"Local music doesn't really have a place to play," he said. "Big radio kind of ignores it. There's not much money in it.

"If local businesses are having to pay for a licensing fee anyway, then you might as well make sure that that money is going to artists here in the city."

Williams curates three playlists — a daytime playlist, a nighttime playlist, and a cloud playlist — that have different guidelines for the songs that go on it. 

"It's a fine line — you've got to balance between a little edgy and a little generic," he said.

The playlists include Edmonton music from all genres, including songs from reggae group Souljah Fyah to electronic duo Purity Ring to rapper Mitchmatic and country artist Corb Lund. 

'A no-brainer'

For some businesses, playing local music is a natural fit. Williams said Remedy Café, for example, has had several people comment that they heard their friend's band or their husband's band in the café.

Williams said that local connection is mutually beneficial for artists who want their songs heard and the businesses that want locals to support them.

"It's pretty unique, but it also seems like a no-brainer," he said.

Williams started GRadio due in part to his disdain for FM radio stations.

"It was driving me nuts. They were just playing the same songs over and over again and talking about nothing," he said.

Williams hopes to expand further and is targeting mid-level local businesses that have multiple locations. He's not targeting the smaller ones because the licensing fees would cost them money they might not want to pay, he said.

However, he is open to working with them, too — just like he's open to working with other bands as well.

"Ever since we've first announced it, there have been tons of bands that have been interested," he said. "I'm not going to turn anyone down."