ARTxFM — Louisville’s Internet radio station aimed at amplifying the voices of artists and dedicated to offering 100 percent local programing — is going to be a whole lot easier to tune into starting Sunday, Feb. 14, when the station’s long sought-after goal of becoming a low-power FM station will become a reality.
The new FM station is celebrating before and during the launch with a party featuring food and local music, as well as a champagne toast. Marianne Zickuhr, director of public relations for ARTxFM and host of the morning drive-time show “Marianne in the Morning,” spoke with Insider Louisville about the past, present and future of the station.
The station was launched at IdeaFestival and appeared at a variety of local events before its first broadcast from the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, which is still involved in programing. After several successful events, ARTxFM began full-time programming in April 2014.
More than 100 local volunteer DJs provide the programming, which runs an incredibly wide gamut. The people behind the mics are local scenesters, artists, writers, actors and rock ‘n’ rollers, as well as more traditional radio hosts. The station’s eclectic offerings and art-centric program have garnered them a passionate online following.
“We have close to 20,000 followers throughout our social media,” says Zickuhr. “Just being Internet broadcast, to have that kind of following is really awesome, and it’s so broad. We’ve got people all over the world who are listening to our station.”
Transitioning to an actual FM presence has always been one of ARTxFM’s goals, but the process wasn’t cheap or easy.
“Transmitters can get kinda expensive, so it’s definitely been a feat to make sure we can get all the things in place,” she says. The fundraising efforts drew on the station’s following in the community and on the passionate support of those DJs.
“We’ve all worked really hard, all the DJs, all the staff,” says Zickuhr. And many hip Louisville venues have helped. “It seems at least a couple times a month there is an ARTxFM DJ who is taking their show on the road and doing some sort of event at Haymarket or Dreamland or one of the cool spots around town.”
ARTxFM’s webpage shows the organization has raised $30,000 to help pay for the transmitter, the tower, the emergency broadcast system and other elements FCC permits require.
Outside of fundraising, Zickuhr describes the application process as tedious. “We’ve been working on the application to the FCC for at least two years. It’s a really long process — I had no idea how difficult it was.” She says the application was 165 pages long and included numerous regulatory hoops.
But despite the rigorous application, or perhaps because of it, Zickuhr seems almost giddy as she proclaims: “Everything’s done. We’re ready to go. The flipping of the switch is going to occur. It’s a long time coming.”
When that switch flip occurs at 3:33 p.m. on Sunday, ARTxFM, with the call letters WXOX, will begin broadcasting at 97.1 on the terrestrial dial.
While the station’s studio is located in a historic shotgun house on West Breckinridge Street, the tower itself is part of a converted building on Chestnut Street that currently houses several biotech companies, including Occam Designs, which is letting them use their tower. The tower’s ideal location will allow its FM signals to reach farther than any of the other possible tower locations ARTxFM considered. Zickuhr boasts that they’ve been able to pick up the signal as far as Valley Station.
Zickuhr believes having a presence on the FM dial with have a huge impact on the station’s audience. “We hope it’s time for the Louisville love,” she says. “Hometown folks are going to start really tuning in, people will start to really see the effect of having ARTxFM on the FM dial, just while they’re getting up and going to work, or going to the store.”
ARTxFM celebrates their launch with local musicians. Carly Johnson and Craig Wagner offer the crowd some jazz, Hundred Proof Fountain serves up some new-school bluegrass, and local DJs spin hip-hop sounds. “We’re trying to get a couple of different flavors of music,” says Zickuhr.
The station isn’t planning on slowing down either. Fundraising and a membership drive will continue. “Well, there are lots of different ways to become a member,” she explains. “We have different levels, and they have to do with different records — silver, platinum, that kinda thing.” And you can nab a “founding membership” status by donating $97.10, in honor of the station’s new spot on the radio dial.
Join ARTxFM for their signal launch, complete with champagne toast, this Sunday at 2 p.m. at their studios, 515 W. Breckinridge St. (between Fifth and Sixth streets). Admission is free.
Clarification: The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is involved with but is not responsible for programming at ARTxFM, as the wording in the original version of this article suggested. The story has been updated to make that clear.