Web site plays all-Arizona tunes, all the time

Richard Ruelas
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 14, 2008 12:00 AM

He has been in advertising as a profession and in bands as a hobby, so Larry John knows how tough it is for local musicians to get their music heard. That's why he started an online radio station that plays nothing but Arizona musicians, all day, every day.

"We would just like to put Arizona musicians out in front," John said.

The longtime advertising executive is not looking to make money off this venture. Neither the Web site, www.radioarizona.net, nor the streaming broadcast carries advertising.

John said that the site usually has anywhere "from 10 people to 1,000 people" listening.

Each listener costs him a bit of money in bandwidth capacity. He also has to pay monthly dues to the major publishing companies.

But John said the expense is worth it to give local musicians an outlet they wouldn't otherwise have.

"I've played my whole life in bands, so I have a vested interest in the community of musicians," he said. "It's really hard for these guys to go anywhere, to get into the music industry.

"(And) as far as exposure, they don't get any."

Station KEDJ-FM (103.9) has a local-music show, and KKFR-FM (Power 98.3) picks a "Street Heat" song each week from a local band. But most Arizona groups have a tough time cracking the radio stations' playlists.

Especially some of the bands that John plays. "I play a harpist. She's great . . . but a harpist," John said. "We don't worry about it. We're non-commercial."

A sample hour of John's station found an eclectic mix. There was the Beastie Boys- inspired group Illegal Substance and the power pop of the Sciannas. Established bands such as Dead Hot Workshop, the Rocket 88s and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers found space alongside newcomers Anamieke and the Andrew Jackson Jihad. Desert Dreams, a pleasant jazz instrumental by Larry Janacek, gave way to the choppy guitar of the Krak Smokin Grannies.

"You don't know what's coming next," John said.

John said his station has a library of more than 2,000 songs. "There's so much material out there," he said.

So much so that John can be selective. He said not every band that comes to his attention makes the playlist. And if he does take a band, he won't program every song on their album.

Doug Guthrie, one of the artists featured on www.radioarizona.net, said John found him and asked permission to play his country music on the Web site. "Arizona has its fair share of wonderful artists," Guthrie said. But the music might be hard to find. "It's just if you might happen onto somebody if you're out drinking with your buddies on a Saturday night."

The Web site provides another outlet. "It opens it up to definitely being heard," he said.

John himself might be the station's most loyal listener. "I get as much a kick out of it as anyone," said John, whose ad agency was responsible for the popular Loan Arranger ads of the late 1980s.

"This is something I do just as a gift to myself or a gift to the community," he said. "I'm not sure."