NewFolk Radio goes live

The new year saw the introduction of another player in the world of online acoustic music radio.

NewFolkRadio, based in Portland, OR, offers free online streaming in a format that founder John Hart describes as composite radio. The concept is one that combines the unexpected pleasures of randomly selected music with an ability for users to create their own playlists for use on mobile devices.

The system is powered by Adobe’s free Shockwave plugin, available for most any computer or mobile platform. Hart envisions that the site will be advertiser-supported, with 15 and 30-second spots inserted into the streams and playlists automatically.

John has a life-long fascination with acoustic music, ever since he learned to play banjo in the early 1960s by slowing down Flatt & Scruggs LPs. We asked him to describe that way NewFolkRadio works for our readers, and where he came up with the notion of “composite radio.”

“In today’s marketplace, it’s frustrating to listen to folk, roots and bluegrass music that I want to hear without paying a subscription fee, so I started NewFolkRadio, and it will always be free.

Composite radio is a term I coined to get across the idea of a desktop, laptop, and mobile Internet radio station that provides a customized playlist for all three, meaning you can hear a playlist you create on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. I don’t think the term ‘composite’ is widely used in radio. I had thought of using ‘hybrid,’ but actually thought that term would be misunderstood.

All the MP3 audio is hosted on redundant servers, as well as the Shockwave front end. Using the front end graphical user interface (GUI), a listener can create a playlist of his/her liking and play it on the desktop, laptop, or mobile device. OR, a listener can choose to let the GUI choose 10 random bluegrass or folk songs for them.

It’s like an automated radio station wherein back announcements and station ID’s are pre-programmed, and inserted by an algorithm that I wrote. I wanted to produce a station that wasn’t programmed because I believe listeners have favorite artists and want to hear them on demand, not necessarily artists that a DJ wants you to hear. Nothing against DJ’s—used to be one; it’s just that radio is evolving into a more personalized listening event. Thus, custom playlists are a big deal on NewFolkRadio.”

John says that he gets most of the music for the site from Airplay Direct, and wishes that more artists took advantage of the opportunity to share their music digitally with radio programmers.

“I’m on Airplay Direct all day and night searching for new material. I also read Bluegrass Today looking for artists with new releases or stories to tell.

Other than APD, artists can use YouSendIt to notify me of a zipped CD ready for download, or they can snail mail a CD (not a method used much these days). Labels use Digital Press Kits these days, and in general I receive DPK’s via YouSendIt or APD. Very efficient.”

He is always on the hunt for artists willing to cut brief station IDs, and suggested that such a willingness would be worth making a part of an Airplay Direct profile.

“Just something simple like ‘Hi, this is so-and-so and you’re listening to New Folk Radio.

It’s a great benefit to us and the artist, but the idea just isn’t there yet. Used to be a common thing in the good ol’ days.”

Already looking ahead to the next phase of his new media project, Hart says that he has recently acquired the necessary gear to film interviews and mini-concerts, which he plans to eventually host at His career background is in TV and film as well as radio, so going visual is a logical next step.

You can get all the details about using NewFolkRadio by visiting their web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.