The sun was blistering at noon on a humid summer day in Memphis as a man wiped the sweat away from his touch screen phone in an attempt to change the station that he was listening to on his iHeart radio mobile application.

Being in the radio industry for 13 years, local disc jockey Fletch of 98.1 the Max had never been reluctant to work up a sweat, but in that moment of clenching his lawn mower with one hand and holding his moist mobile phone in the other he stopped everything he was doing and had an entrepreneurial epiphany. Create a mobile Internet radio station that is just as easy as touching the AM/FM dial in a car.

“I saw an increase in mobile usage everywhere, and I wanted to create a hassle-free radio station with one simple button that gets me into my music and still has a local radio feel to it,” Fletch said.

According to Statista, the number of Pandora’s active users skyrocketed from 7 million users in Jan. 2009 to 81.5 million users as of Dec. 2014. That is an astounding 860 percent increase in just the past 5 years!

“FM radio is going out just like 8-tracks and CD’s. It’s on an old cruise ship, and I wanted to build an island because I know that it’s only a matter of time before the ship sinks,” Fletch said with a visionary smile.

Although the concept seemed simple enough, the foundation of an exclusively streaming live broadcast radio station had never been done before. With the help of local IT management company Carlin-Bradley, Fletch set out to create his proprietary patent pending process, and in 2012 LocalX became the first radio station ever to exclusively broadcast using 3G/4G technology. This is the same type of signal used by cell phones to keep users up to date with nearly everything that is processed in and out of their devices.

By bypassing the airwaves, LocalX uses app-based networking to send a wireless signal from it’s broadcast directly to user’s phones.

The founding principles of LocalX are built on simplicity, intimacy and freedom while still focusing on progressing into the future. With the advent of mobile technology and its flourishing usage, Fletch has transformed “Don’t touch that dial,” into “Tapp that App!”

“Radio has become like television with a growing presence of corporate syndication and pre-recorded shows on the airwaves,” said Fletch, “I wanted to make LocalX like the radio industry used to be- free, engaging and entertaining.”

Since local terrestrial rock station 93X took on water in 2009, Fletch was able to fill the market void with an app-based radio station geared to rival satellite radio stations like Octane or Faction on SiriusXM, but he never wanted to stop there.

“LocalX is the appetizer on the menu,” said Fletch, “Within two years of running it I was already partnered with Carlin-Bradley and establishing two more app-based stations, ProgressiveX and Radio Rumba.”

Progressive X is a positive and progressive music station managed by local news celebrity Leon Griffin and Radio Rumba, a Latin hits station, has swelled to have over 50,000 listeners since its short lived inception in 2014. The goal now is to create the first radio group that exclusively broadcasts using 3G/4G technology.

“A commercial FM station can cost upwards around $1 million just on initial set up, and the FCC is no longer issuing AM licenses, but you can find used ones starting around $700,000 to $800,000,” said Fletch.

Alternatively, his company Green Sheet Productions can offer all of the same promises that any terrestrial radio station does at a fraction of the cost. His free to use app-based station format cuts the costs associated with most major radio broadcasters, which allows his stations to aggressively compete for their advertising market.

FM listening habits have been changing since 2008 according to corporate radio’s Nielson data. More people are flocking to Internet streaming than ever before, but corporate radio has gotten very good at disguising the numbers.

Source: 2013.2 USA TouchPoints. Share of Daily Time Spent Listening for Persons 18-54. and 18-64
Source: 2013.2 USA TouchPoints. Share of Daily Time Spent Listening for Persons 18-54. and 18-64 Note: AM/FM Radio includes Radio Station Streaming

Note: AM/FM Radio includes Radio Station Streaming < They snuck that one in there good.

AM/FM radio uses the same type of streaming to broadcast their stations online via sites like iHeartRadio. The “music streaming services” noted in the graph above refers to services like Pandora or Spotify, subscription-based applications that charge listeners for the ability to download audio available in their databases.

“People’s listening habits have changed and terrestrial radio has failed to recognize these changes, whereas Green Sheet Productions is breaking the paradigm by being the first private ‘new media’ broadcasting company,” said Fletch.

Exclusive streaming radio is much more cost efficient than AM/FM transmission, which can add up to millions after public bidding. For $40,000, Fletch will create a broadcasting application, a web site, and will manage all of the legal headaches. He will also set up the radio station pay artist royalties to entities like BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Sound Exchange.

Looking toward the future, Fletch wants to saturate the Memphis community with as much local content as possible before making his leap into the national market.

“The five year goal for Green Sheet Productions is to establish a revenue stream and company stability that will allow for future growth, and to continue to produce jobs for people here in Memphis.”

His ambition underscores a passion for community involvement. Specifically, he wants to place an interest on school media broadcasting, church media broadcasting and business system solutions. Working as a University of Memphis student Fletch got his start at the university’s nonprofit public jazz station, U92, The Jazz Lover, before moving into commercial radio. This outlet is an opportunity to give back to the community by offering free promotion to any public charity organization and he wants be actively involved in the future as a community sponsor.

The FCC is still actively engaged with corporate giants like Pandora and iHeart Media concerning regulating their “new media” classification. As they fight the ongoing red tape battle, only one thing remains certain: the AM/FM button in your car will soon look much different now that the FCC refuses to issue any more AM licenses, and smart phones are not definitely not getting any dumber. With the explosion of technology expanding into today’s millennial generation, there is an untapped potential in “Tapp that App” digital broadcasting that cannot be ignored, and Green Sheet Productions’ LocalX is the drill bit at its groundbreaking.

 

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#Arts #Featured #Local #MediaWriting #Music #News #Portfolios #Technology Contributors K. Ellison

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