Most people think of Internet radio as some fly-by-night project, with equipment squeezed into a spare bedroom or a supportive parent's basement.
That isn't the case for 101.1 The Fam. The station occupies a downtown office building near the State Capitol. Even visitors from the music industry have been caught off guard.
"When they do come through they're very surprised that we're not in the back of somebody's house," says Daryl "Va Tek" Burton, station co-founder and general manager. "We are legit."
Unlike some sketchy Internet radio operations, Burton says his company pays royalties to record labels each month to cover the music it plays. The station has a staff of six, including the two co-founders, and is staffed 24 hours. There are still rules for disc jockeys to follow.
"Being that I have done commercial radio and I have done college radio, we still stick to a certain format, even though it is Internet radio," he says. "A lot of people feel like they can do whatever they want — and they can, on certain stations. But on ours, it's a little bit more of a format, a little bit more professionalism. We wanted it to sound more like traditional radio."
Burton and co-founder A.D. Roney, who serves as chief executive, decided to create 101.1 The Fam after another Internet station they were affiliated with "deflated," as they put it. The last part of the station's moniker refers to Roney's company, Fashion Art and Music Group Entertainment. The numbers 101.1 don't refer to a radio frequency, but were inspired by the building's street address. Burton, who works as a mental health counselor by day, concedes that the name may confuse some people.
"I have people ask all the time, are you FM?" he says. "We do have some issues sometimes, with people wondering where we are, but … it's catching on."
It may be, but Burton won't share data to confirm that notion. The information he receives regarding the station's listeners is less than accurate, he says, because people tune in through a variety of apps and websites, making an estimate difficult. "We don't know," he says.
People who listen to the station know they can find a variety of content, including eight live programs, talk shows, religious programming and music shows, most of them urban-oriented. Among the lineup is a music and talk program called "The P Show," hosted by Pumpkin, "Two Turntables and a Bottle of Patron" with DJ Foolish, and "The Word," hosted by the Rev. Darrell Taylor. Most of the shows are two hours long and have their own sponsors. DJs from local broadcast radio also have stopped by the station for sets.
For now, the station is "majority listener supported," according to its website, and survives on donations and investments from the co-founders. In addition, program hosts pay for their airtime. Burton says that the station intends to introduce other ways to generate revenue, but he isn't ready to share details.
"There's so many things we can't give away," he says. "There are ways that we are going to make money. We're going to make a nice amount this year definitely."
One thing Burton will talk about is expanding the "Fam." A sister station, 101.2, plays uncensored versions of popular songs not heard on traditional radio or 101.1, with more to come.
A recent study by Edison Research, paid for by music-streaming services Pandora, Tunein and Spotify, reports that 53 percent of online users ages 12 and older listen to Internet radio. It's the first study to confirm that a majority of Americans online are tuning to Internet radio.
"Internet radio is its infancy," Burton says. "There's no ceiling to this thing, man. This is my life. This is how I'm going to feed my son." S