In December of 2007 we told you the story of Bluegrass FM. An FM radio station that was starting a second station and pursuing an unusual business model. General Manager, Pete Stover, contacted us recently with an update and some more news.
The FCC has approved a request to increase the original station’s (WWED 89.5 in Fredericksburg, VA) power from 380 watts to 16,000 watts. Together with its sister station, WWEM 91.7 in Lynchburg, VA, Bluegrass FM broadcasts bluegrass music 24 hours a day in a non-commerical format.
The two stations are run as a private business, broadcast commercial free, and depend on corporate/business underwriting and listener support in a way similar to public radio.
This power increase is not without associated costs.
WWED will need to replace its current transmitter, antenna and antenna cable before the power increase can take effect. The project will cost an estimated $100,000 and will need to be raised from donations from listeners and corporate sponsors. Once the project funds are received, equipment can be ordered and installed.
Such changes will increase the station’s coverage dramatically toward Richmond, Charlottesville and Culpeper, as well as providing a denser and more listenable signal into portions of Northern Virginia south of Washington, D.C.
Completion of the power increase is anticipated in mid-2009.
I asked Pete how the new station in Lynchburg was fairing and he stared this report.
Our Lynchburg station WWEM 91.7 which went on the air December 8, 2008 simulcasts WWED 89.5 in Fredericksburg and is gaining listenership and sponsorship. It seems that anywhere we go in the listening area, bluegrass people have either heard of us or say that they listen to us all of the time. Recently, at the Roanoke Fiddlefest, a dozen people noticed the station T-shirt that I was wearing and approached me and asked if I was affiliated with the station. Even though most of Roanoke is currently in our fringe coverage area and the station had no official role in the event, people still recognized us and knew who we were. We’re working on stronger coverage along the I-81 corridor between Staunton and Roanoke and may have some good news to report for signal coverage there by the end of the year. We continue to work on business partner contacts and support and engaging more listener support. We’re progressing but not quite where we need to be financially but there’s every indication that in another 12-15 months, we’ll be on even more solid ground as the word spreads and more listeners tune-in.
Also of interest should be a planned concert series the station is organizing.
The series will start November 1 and run through March 14 at the 1,100 seat Massaponax High School auditorium. Five concerts will be presented in the first fall-winter concert series of its kind along the I-95 corridor between DC and Richmond. The season lineup features:
- Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain, IIIrd Tyme Out – November 1
- Balsam Range, Larry Stephenson Band – December 6
- Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice (tentative), Kenny & Amanda Smith – January 10
- Gold Heart, Lonesome River Band – February 14
- Sierra Hull, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver – March 14
The fundraiser concert series is for ongoing operations for Bluegrass FM and to help the Fine Arts Department at Massaponax High School as well. We want to encourage the talented students to consider bluegrass as they get to “rub shoulders” with the artists that will be appearing. We plan to have a mentor/artist gatherings with students in interactive sessions starting with this series. So, it goes beyond just raising funds for the radio station operation and for the high school’s fine arts department. We will have opportunities for people to support the capital project during the concert series but that’s not the primary reason for the event. Our design is for the concert series to be an ongoing annual activity at the same venue.
Corporate sponsors are being sought for the concert series. Companies which are interested should contact www.BluegrassFm.org.