Pandora. Spotify. Sirius XM. ITunes. What do they have in common? They are but a few Internet radio stations that the general public is increasingly, currently listening to consequently raising advertising revenue by the billions while calling to attention the potential benefits of broadcasting through the World Wide Web. With the age of digital streaming and bandwidth, the Internet has widened the radio-listening experience offering audiences instant access to their favorite music from their cars to their smart phones and tablets providing CD-quality surround sound and audio clarity. According to a PEW Research Center study on Nielsen audio ratings, a 53% increase from 2013 to 2015 in online radio listening had been recorded highlighting the advent of smart phones becoming one of the leading contributors to the increased number of listeners. However, regular AM/FM broadcasting still dominates the ratings wars despite the growing popularity of the Internet radio. Nevertheless, numbers do not lie when it comes to the bottom-line. Advertisers are taking note as “spot” advertising figures for online radio stations have jumped while AM/FM figures are showing a steady decline prompting local radio stations to make a paradigm shift and jump on the online bandwagon.
On that note, the Internet has become the new frontier for broadcasting prompting the development of new exciting, varied outlets from which audiences can tune in, which begs the question, “What are the advantages of Internet radio?” Access and availability for starters. The ease of accessing programs and music with the click of a button is far better than sifting through radio frequencies in hopes of receiving a clear transmission of a station you hope you’ll enjoy. The fact that terrestrial radio is limited by its range and region while Internet radio has no such broadcasting limits is another factor. Streaming podcasts, live shows, videos, and specific genres of music from all over the world is another perk of the digital frontier. One can reach a listener from Asia just as good as reaching the next door neighbor. All that is needed is a reliable Internet connection a computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet, and a set of good speakers. Costs in turn are also relatively low for alternative broadcasting platforms compared to their traditional radio counterparts that invest in thousands or millions in equipment and space to send out signals to reach their audiences. Furthermore, Internet radio stations can develop niches in their programming to target specific markets that are only interested in tapping a specific genre or show. Traditional radio may be limited to the types of programming that can be regulated to a region offering only a limited number of genres of which may or may not be of interest to the precocious listener. More importantly, easily accessing Internet radio stations through various forms of technology that are a part of our everyday lives has allowed listeners to be a part of the digital revolution affecting the broadcasting industry. Aside from computers, listeners can access radio shows through their smart phones, tablets, laptops, and more recently through their automobiles. Automotive manufacturers are currently implementing streaming technology into their latest models to access satellite and Internet radio broadcasts in addition to live audio and video feeds. Social media too has allowed Internet radio to tap into new markets incorporating videos and links to their websites while promoting their radio station reaching thousands of potential subscribers from all over the world. Finally, there is little government regulation over the programming and the operation of Internet radio stations. The Internet is such a vast landscape connecting every corner of the globe that monitoring it is by all practical purposes inconceivable. Instead, governments work to encourage local stations to convert to digital broadcasting.
The US government for one recognized the changing landscape of broadcasting and made preparations long ago to address it and manage it. Since 2002, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had initiated efforts to encourage the migration from analog audio broadcasting to digital audio broadcasting through the in-band, on channel (IBOC) technology. According to a FCC press release in 2004, “The FCC concluded that the adoption of a single IBOC transmission standard would facilitate the development and commercialization of digital services for terrestrial broadcasters.” Since then, very little degree of FCC regulation has been recorded addressing Internet radio allowing up and coming Internet broadcasting stations creative freedom regarding their programming.
Only the recent ruling on Pandora LLC’s extent of foreign ownership and its request to purchase a local FM radio station in South Dakota highlighted regulatory actions from the FCC. In that case, Pandora had to show that the number of foreign investors/companies did not exceed the 25% benchmark stipulated in the Communications Act of 1934 Section 310(b)(4), which it did not. However, the ruling in their favor was contingent on the agreement that that they must seek Commission approval before adding additional foreign investors that would exceed 49.99% of their ownership shares in addition to organizational changes and documents to that effect.
When the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) tried to have the FCC impose stricter regulations claiming that Internet radio stations threatened to replace terrestrial radio broadcasting, the FCC ruled that no degree of monopoly can be ascertained nor any valid arguments attesting to the matter had been presented. Instead, the FCC ruled that conventional radio still leads in the ratings according to current measures leaving their arguments mute.
Therefore, there is great potential for up and coming internet radio stations looking to break into the industry and connect with listeners with very little obstacles standing in their way. One such contender is a local Internet radio station in Downey, Tropicalisima Con Sabor Y Sentimiento-Salsa Max Radio. The brainchild of Michelle Alaniz, Cesar Gonzalez, and Rogelio Moreno, TropiMax (as Michelle Alaniz affectionately calls the station) is an Internet radio station that started in September of 2015 and has reached over 50,000 listeners to date according to their recent estimates. With listeners from not only the US, Tropicalisima and Salsa Max Radio have listeners from Spain, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Honduras. The station has a number of talented DJs mixing songs, holding celebrity interviews, and a full out discussion forum where the audience can listen in on the latest gossip and opinions shared in the entertainment industry. Playing salsa, bachata, cumbia, merengue, sonideros, pop, and hip hop, the concept of setting up an Internet radio station based on both classic and modern Latin hits was created one day by these three broadcasting pioneers who wanted to bring back the flavor and sentimentality of the oldies and reintroduce them to a new generation of listeners while giving older audiences the pleasant nostalgia of their musical past. As such, Michelle Alaniz was kind enough to sit down and discuss her experience on working on an Internet radio station.
JAMES DAZA: Michelle, what’s your role in Tropicalisima radio?
MICHELLE ALANIZ: I own half of the radio, and I work more publicity. I work sales. Actually, I’m doing everything (chuckles). When you own your own business, you learn to do everything. So, I sale; I get in touch with people for events. I’m doing stuff for the radio. I connect the guys to go play different events. All of us do a little of everything. We come up with crazy ideas. We always have to come up with different things.
JD: Were you always in radio?
MA: I’ve never been in radio. I have friends in it. I still have a friend from KLOVE. Oscar Cabrilla. I used to love his music. He used to play everything. I used to help our RRM for Sony Records. I used to promote their shows and events. Oh my God! I loved it. I was sitting down next to Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and Marc Anthony. When Marc Anthony was barely starting, I showed them the Hollywood Bowl to promote. I saw many people and great singers, salsa singers. So, I started liking it and started going to all the shows and promote in the nightclubs. I used to go every night to the night clubs and promote. I really loved it. So, I had the idea of how this worked a bit. So, here I am. (Giggles).
JD: How is Salsa Max Radio a part of Tropicalisima?
MA: It actually existed from way before many years ago. It’s Rogelio Moreno’s. He created Salsa Max Radio, and it’s basically what he’s doing now playing more salsa and everything what we are doing now on Tropicalisima. We were playing different kinds of music, but Rogelio was focusing on playing more salsa. Since he’s a great dancer and we were starting Tropicalisima, he started to do some stuff for us. He was like, “You know what? I really like what you guys are doing. I really really like this. So, we got connected with Salsa Max Radio. So, we call it, TropiMax. I actually call it TropiMax. So, we asked him to come work for us and then we started working making a great team. So, that’s our radio station.
JD: How has the experience been so far?
MA: It’s been amazing. It’s been a hard and an amazing thing because we were working for free (chuckles). We took so many events for free. However, the goal was to let people know us and more about the radio and who we are. I’ve been very thankful for those people for giving us the opportunity to work with our radio station.
JD: What’s the difference between a regular radio station and an Internet radio station? Are there certain rules you have to follow? Or is it really open-ended?
MA: It’s open-ended. There are no rules. You can talk about anything. There’s no beats. There’s no FCC breathing down our necks. That’s the great thing for Internet radios. I like it that way because it’s a way to connect to other people from different countries. Even you can work and tune in from other cities, other countries, other states.
JD: Does it really free you up in terms of setting the programming on how you want to setup certain shows or the types of shows that are on the station?
MA: Yes. The shows that we have right now are different shows from the guys. Each one has their own flavor, the sabor. We have Luis “El Rumbero”. His show is very funny. You’ll laugh at all his jokes on his shows. He plays salsa. Then we have Ceja Pena with bachata and salsa. He puts so much effort to the show. So much enthusiasm. He gets crazy when he starts talking. I always tell him, “Ceja please!! Tone it down. So, it’s amazing. We have Juan Medina. He plays sonederos grita de guerra. So, Tropicalisima, we never talk about who likes sonideros or banda—Mexican music. We never came out with that idea. We say why not? When this guy came in, you know what, Rogelio said, “What happened to sonideros? Why not go with other types of music? It’s music you can dance to.” So, we added sonideros. Now we have Joseph.[Pollack]. Joseph was following me sending me messages. “What kind of a radio do you have? I would like to come one day.” I said, “It’s so far away…” “It’s ok, I’ll come once a month.” So, I’m like, “Ok Joseph. Come. (Giggles). When he came, I loved his show. I love his music. At first, I thought to myself Joseph has too much flavor. Then, wait a minute, where do these people come from Joseph? He said, “It’s salsa.” He’s doing amazing things mixing English and Spanish. It’s really good. I love it. Then we came out with La Critica. It came out from nothing. We’re right here in the studio sitting down with Cesar and Rogelio and myself. Rogelio asks, “Could you guys help me fix the microphone. So, I said ok. We start talking about what’s going on with the promoters, the events, etc. Then we come up with, “Hey, we should come out with a show.” And now, it’s become so successful. The ratings are so good for La Critica. You know. Viene los Latinos. Somos tan chismosos. Creo yo. We are very interested in what happens in other people’s lives. I was thinking una Critica constructiva is always good. Just don’t call and talk about me (laughs). So, those are our shows for right now. We just invited DJ El Picoso to work with us. Picoso has been around for so many years. He’s been playing for Steven’s Steakhouse for so many years. It’s a pleasure for us to have El Picoso. He has a 1 hour thing with us. We also have DJ Russ. He started with us too. I think he was playing for Salsa Max Radio for a long time. They’re all right here and want to play. So, I invite them to come over and play. Little by little, we’ve been growing a lot putting on a lot of shows on the radio.
JD: Do you feel like you setup a niche for yourself? Do you feel like you’re the only type of radio station out there? Are there similar radio stations doing the same thing?
MA: Now that I’ve been working in radio, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of Internet radios, but I don’t know why they are not outside. We are outside. We are on the street, and I think that what makes us so different from other radios. That we are outside.
JD: So, you’re basically connecting with the people out there.
MA: Yes. Totally yes.
JD: Do you feel like your radio station is paving the way for future stations? It looks like the Internet is opening the field up to this medium. Do you think that your radio station is actually having an impact on that? Meaning more radio stations might follow your lead.
MA: Yes. There are some radios that really are copying some stuff that we do. I like it because it means that we are doing well.
JD: What projects/events are in the works that you have planned?
MA: We have plans to present and produce TV shows. We’re bringing in TV. Tropicalisima Radio and Salsa Max is coming up with some great shows. We’re planning to do a magazine. We’re planning to do a calendar, “The Tropicalisima Girl”, for every month on Salsa Max. I’m fighting to have a guy on it too. We’re trying to be more involved in events. Last year, we donated our time to the Teleton. We also went to feed the homeless. I want my radio station to be more involved in those places. My goal is to help people that really need help. If I can use my radio to help a fundraiser, like feeding the poor and hungry, then I want to do it.
As technology advances and the global community becomes much more interconnected, the conventional lines of mass communication also evolves changing industries while inventing new ones. Veterans of the broadcasting industry are beginning to realize that fact and have endeavored to catch up in order to stay relevant. Up and coming players like Tropicalisima Radio have taken full advantage of a new door opening for broadcasters and have learned to walk through it. At first, the trend was about accessing CD-quality music over the World Wide Web, but then it became about doing more with what this digital palette has to offer. In reality, it’s no longer an open forum for niches that catered to a specific market. Now, many entrepreneurs are appreciating the potential possibilities of reaching other markets on a global level. By tapping other avenues in the Internet, mass communication has proven to be a vital tool for businesses to grow stimulating increased marketing efforts. In turn, the radio audience benefits from accessing a variety of rich, new, and innovative programming that enriches the listening experience.
As such, the owners of Tropicalisima-Salsa Max Radio invite listeners to tune in to their shows: Luis “El Rumbero” Mondays-Fridays 5pm-8pm and Ceja Pena Tuesdays & Thursdays 6pm-10pm for some bachata and salsa; Juan Medina Wednesdays 7pm-10pm & Saturdays 12pm for sonidero and salsa music; Joseph Pollack”s The Flavor Mondays-Fridays 11am-3pm, and La Critica on Saturdays 5pm-6pm with Rogelio Moreno, Michelle Alaniz, and Cesar Gonzalez. Their website: www.tropicalismaradio.com and www.salsamaxradio.com.