In June 2009 we started an experiment. We called it Amazing Radio. The idea was to give new musicians a chance to be heard on the airwaves. We’re musicians ourselves and we know how that feels. It was all a bit rough and ready. Using tracks from amazingtunes.com (our first service which launched in 2007), we went on air with no money, no marketing and no advance warning. We broke lots of rules, mixed up the genres, had a huge playlist and made track selection democratic. Our ‘station imaging’ was recorded in the street. Our studio was made of cardboard boxes. And people loved it. The response was instant and passionate, a shout of relief from music fans who said conventional radio is boring and they loved this new, fresh, weirdly amazing thing. Inspired, we kept going.
Since then, thousands of musicians have had their first ever radio play on amazing – including Alt J, Bastille, Chvrches, Daughter, Haim, London Grammar and The 1975. We added innovations like the world’s first radioplayer App with timezone shifting and instant rewind (so you can hear that awesome new song again). We broadcast live from Glastonbury, SXSW and The Great Escape. We launched The Amazing Sessions, The Amazing Chart and Amazing Live, promoting gigs from New York to the Royal Albert Hall.
Then we built more services on the bedrock of Amazing Radio and amazingtunes.com. Amazing Instore is the fastest-growing in store music provider in Europe, generating new revenues for young musicians and saving money for its clients. We bought OurStage in America, massively increasing our reach and coverage. Today, amazing has six million users and a million tracks. People upload and listen in every corner of the world. Last year we completed the logic of our huge ambition to help musicians with Amazing Artists, Amazing Publishing and The Amazing Record Co. amazing artists like The Qemists, Boy Jumps Ship and Therapy? are on BBC playlists and in the mainstream charts. Amazing Label Services has helped distribute Axel Flovent, Borderscout, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour, Elvis Perkins, Parastatic and Tessera Skies. This year sees the release of two New York-based artists, reflecting how international amazing is now. And this April we will launch a huge project with a major global brand, putting amazing musicians in front of 28 million customers – every day. It will blow the lid off access to opportunity. (More about that soon).
As our revenues slowly grew, we funded the cost of all this with the help of dozens of private investors, people who share our ambition to change music for good. They include Sting, AOL founder Steve Case, a former CEO of EMI and the leading music industry lawyer in LA. Their belief in our democratic and global vision sustained us as much as their cash. It has been tough, building an entrepreneurial business in a recession – but the reaction of musicians and music lovers is so powerful, we knew we had to keep going.
Throughout all this we stayed on DAB, initially across the UK, then in London and Dublin. We thought it made sense to keep ‘proper radio’ in the mix, even though most people now listen online and on Apps, and our London audience is a tiny proportion of the total. But as amazing expanded and listenership became ever more global, we wondered if it made sense to spend so much money on a limited platform in one city. Today phones can put every radio station in pockets and car dashboards. Do we really serve new music best with London DAB? And with Amazing Record Co. releases aired on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, 6Music, Kerrang, Planet Rock and XFM (so far), should we also be a terrestrial station?
So with heavy hearts but clear minds we came off London DAB last Friday. People kept tweeting – not about DAB, but about the awesome music they were still discovering. That’s what counts. If you’re in London, it’s easy to keep listening – Amazing Radio in the App stores and at amazingradio.com. You’ll still hear it here first.