Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media
Ferndale Radio 100.7-FM is bringing the power of local radio to the community without the clutter that you hear on most stations. The idea was brewing in the minds of its board members for a while.
“Several years ago, a group of people got together and wanted to create a radio station, which would be online, originally,” says Ferndale Radio Trustee Jeremy Olstyn.
The minds behind Ferndale Radio include President Michelle Mirowski, Vice-President Rob Paul, Secretary Dave Phillips, Treasurer Dave Kim and Olstyn.
It was Olstyn’s dream since high school to work in radio. After graduation, he attended Specs Howard School of Media Arts in Southfield to further his studies in broadcasting, then landed a full-time gig in commercial radio in Western Michigan. Now he works at Warren’s Cousino High School, managing its station, WPHS-FM (89.1), and teaching in that program.
The idea came to fruition when President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act, making room on the radio spectrum for smaller, community-based radio stations in 2011. The colleagues that March and created the board a month later. They established a nonprofit organization and their engineer, Keith Fraley, searched for an available frequency. Once Fraley found that 100.7 was available, they applied for a permit.
As soon as it was approved, the board began fundraising while looking for potential studio space. The community stepped up with crowdfunding and The Rust Belt Market, off Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, agreed to house the studio, transmitter and antenna. The FCC granted a construction permit in 2014 and with a broadcast license granted in 2017, the station was born.
Metro Detroit has a competitive and active radio market, Olstyn notes, observing, “Ferndale Radio still ranks as market No. 13, which means there are still a lot of potential listeners out there.”
“While there is always competition between stations that are vying for similar demographics, the fracturing of the radio audience is really more due to the prevalence of other audio entertainment sources,” he says. “Podcasts, SiriusXM, Spotify, iTunes, and other app-based sources for music and talk have broken the monopoly that radio once had over listener’s ears.”
A group of 25-30 volunteers work hard behind the scenes and board members help run the station and produce live shows, while a variety of DJs play varied music genres. Olstyn says working at a nonprofit radio is refreshing because unlike commercial radio, it’s community based.
“If radio is to survive, the industry has to change it up because of the changing algorithms,” he says. “Radio still has a place, but needs to change — needs localism.”
Ferndale Radio runs 24/7, but the live component is Friday through Sunday, when the Rust Belt is open to the public. The station plays mostly college rock music, which can be heard on student-run stations, but the playlist also encompasses indie pop, hip-hop and other genres.
“For artists and record companies, local stations are good to see if the artists will work on a larger scale,” says Olstyn. “We often get access to music promos and even discover local artists through events such as the annual Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.”
On top of music, the station shares news about arts and culture, City of Ferndale issues and public service announcements — all without commercials.
In its first year, the station has gone through many obstacles to bring fresh content to its listeners. The biggest questions the board had when it first got started were, “Can we get this thing going and if so, how many people will help out,” Olstyn says. During renovations, Axle Brewing Company pitched in by creating its Very Stable Genius beer to raise money.
Ferndale Radio also received a $1,000 grant from the Ferndale Community Foundation, an organization that provides grant funding to in-need community groups in the areas of health, culture, education, the arts and other human services. With that, the board was able to purchase more technical equipment. Community donors also kicked in additional funds.
Ferndale’s many festivals are opportunities for greater exposure of the small station. “As a radio station it’s beneficial that we can market ourselves. Eventually we would like to do sponsorship for concerts,” Olstyn says.
Plans to expand the station in two years include adding and upgrading studio equipment for live phone calls, and they would like to add an evening of local talk shows. By year three, they hope to add a livestream, allowing listeners to hear the station outside the immediate broadcast area.
“Radio is influential because it’s ubiquitous,” Olstyn says. “It’s in every single car and there’s a built-in audience that’s going to listen. I’ve seen it with podcasts such as “Serial,” who have changed the game — gained power/raised revenue for podcasts. Power of radio is tied to automobiles. When you listen to Ferndale Radio, it should sound like you’re just listening to some tunes with a friend or neighbor. Chances are, that is exactly who is behind the mic.”
• Ferndale Radio is at the Rust Belt Market, 22801 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. To learn more about the station or to donate, visit ferndaleradio.com. Potential businesses should email email@example.com