A huge blow to independent radio today — the widely respected and popular New York station East Village Radio has announced that they will stop airing on May 23rd. EV Grieve reported that station CEO Frank Prisinzano lists financial problems as the reason for the shutdown. This is in part due to EVR’s large online audience, which due to the Digital Music Copyright Act, passed by congress in 1998 means paying a royalty fee for every listener. General Manager and Head of Programming Peter Ferraro told EV Grieve, “We pay a higher rate for royalties and licensing than Pandora pays. We live in a world where these behemoth music-streaming services keep going in for more capital. It’s almost like we are being penalized for our growth.”
EVR has been a New York staple since it launched illegally broadcasting in 2003, before transitioning into an internet streaming model. Many legendary New York music figures have DJ’d or made appearances on the station, and their support of underground music has been important for spreading local scenes beyond New York. Edan Wilber, who runs the still-standing Williamsburg DIY venue Death By Audio, used his show to shed light on the artists he booked who’d yet to find a larger audience. The Das Racist-associated show Chillin Island focused on local underground hip hop acts, an incarnation of a specific rap scene that has existed in the city for the last few years.
Prisinzano is resigned to the station’s fate, but is still optimistic about a future for what he’s built. “This particular model failed. We closed it down. I’ll build up a little more capital and come up with a different idea” he told EV Grieve. “We started out as a pirate radio station, and we decided to amplify it and design the local Internet radio model ourselves. The model is untenable. It just doesn’t work. It’s the system’s fault. There isn’t any legislation that will ever be written without someone lobbying for it. We can’t afford lobbyists.”
With so many underground culture stalwarts recently getting shut down in almost every sphere around the city, we can only hope that the people who made EVR happen can go on to create something equally great. In the meantime, their unique, diverse and inspiring programming will be sorely missed. (Photo: EV Grieve)