Indie Music Bus | Mikey Jay, Director at KGUP FM Emerge Radio
By Candice Anne Marshall
IMB – Hello Mikey! Feel free to be as in-depth as you want in this interview! Let’s begin with your role with your station KGUP FM Emerge Radio. Can you tell us about yourself?
Mikey – Pleasure to talk with you Candice and Indie Music Bus. I am the Program Director at KGUP FM Emerge Radio. I’m also the Owner, but I don’t like to refer to myself as the “owner,” per se. I feel that when I present myself as the “Program Director”, I feel this has a more important role at the station versus being the owner.
IMB – What inspired you to start a radio station?
Mikey – I think it was an evolution of sorts. I didn’t start out wanting to own a radio station. It just presented itself when I slowly discovered through internships and applying to work as a radio DJ how hard it was to work at a major radio station. I didn’t want to be a puppet with absolutely no control of any of the content. I prefer to do what I want for Independent music. Not to mention, DJ’s never quit. They typically work at a radio station until they die. I really don’t want to wait that long lol
IMB – Tell us about your station’s format and the genre’s you support.
Mikey – Since I was young, I’ve always loved underground music. I listened to what was not on mainstream FM radio. I loved The Cure, Depeche Mode, Yaz. Most of these artists eventually became popular, but they weren’t at first. These artists didn’t get major airplay until much later. It was word of-mouth that made these artists popular. In the early 2000’s, I discovered Indie music on the Internet. For me, it was like a virtual candy store for the ears. It was an amazing time. I listened to all kinds of music like Paramore, Early November, Be Your Own Pet, The Stills, and lots of artists that are no longer around. Since then, I’ve always been supporting unknown artists and the station has been a reflection of my continued passion.
IMB – Who make up the majority of the listeners on your station?
Mikey – Believe it or not, KGUP’s listeners are not in Los Angeles. As much as I promote to get listeners in the region the station was born, our listeners reside in the Upper East Coast and Upper West Coast. We have listeners close to us in San Diego, San Luis Obispo, even San Francisco, but Los Angeles has been a dust bowl since the beginning. People in LA listen to Spotify, Pandora, and they pirate music from major artists for free.
IMB – Do you have difficulties in finding music to fit your station? If so, what do you think is the reason for that?
Mikey – The most difficult part of my job is sifting through dozens of irrelevant trash. Because it is much easier to make music through today’s modern era of technology of cheep Do-it-yourself production, it doesn’t mean you should make an EP. We get lots of songs from artists that try to rekindle the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. It’s a major pet peeve of mine. We reject about 98.7% of everything that is submitted to us. I have a saying, “If it sounds like the past, it should stay in the past. Old sounding music has no place on KGUP FM”.
IMB – Do artist’s still send untagged music and in the wrong genres?
Mikey – Do artists know how to do this or even pay attention? They rarely listen to our submission instructions. lol Personally, I don’t care if it’s done or not. Songs get automatically rejected if we aren’t even playing the genre they’re submitting. If they want to get paid for airplay, it’s really up to them to make sure it’s properly tagged and has the ISRC codes embedded. As much as I like to have the artwork show up on the music player, I don’t worry about it as much as I used to.
IMB – Would you like it if a free service for pre-filtered music submissions was available? (Pre-filtered meaning, correct genre, tagged, under 5 mins, radio friendly and well produced.)
Mikey – Sure. That would be fantastic, but this is what interns are for. Ha-ha! But, in all seriousness. We have worked with MusicSubmit and MusicXray. They filter our submissions on the type of music we want to receive. It’s a great service and have been using them for years.
IMB – Do you find a lot of music by Artists posting to your personal Facebook timeline?
Mikey – Yes and No. The kinds of people that post on our timeline are typically Hip-Hop artists. What I discovered is Hip Hop fans don’t listen to indie station that play a variety of music. They only listen to Hip Hop only stations. It also did no good to ask a Hip Hop artists to promote that their song was playing on KGUP FM, because few to none would. They would harass us for months, but as soon as we accepted their songs and started playing them, they would disappear off the face of the earth and we never heard from them again. We found Hip Hop to be a BIG waste of time, so we got rid of the genre altogether.
IMB – Do you notice many artist’s that are willing to work with one another?
Mikey – The short answer is “NO”. Most artists live in a bubble within themselves. When I owned the Artists In Music Awards from 2011 to 2015, I witnessed some artists that did promote each other, but it was in a different way. I created an environment that encouraged the building of friendships with other Artists (peers). Some artists would congratulate another peer when they accomplished something. Without the awards platform, no one does this anymore. I am sure there are some exceptions I am not aware of, but from my experience no one does anything anymore unless they are touring together or they are instructed to do so by a label or agency.
IMB – What would help you most to do your daily tasks for your station?
Mikey – I would love to see more interaction from our fans and artists. Artists don’t often have managers, PR agents, and labels that keep us in the loop with their new music. We often have to dig for it and ask for a new song.
IMB – What genre or sound does this station lean towards?
Mikey – Indie, Indie Pop, Indie Rock, and Alternative
IMB – Does your station play unsigned bands and artists?
Mikey – We primarily play unsigned artists, but we’ll also play signed artists. It just depends on their popularity. For example, we used to play Ed Sheeran when he was relatively unknown, but when I heard his music on all major FM Pop stations in LA, I pulled his music off the station. We’re here to help Artists gain attention and entertain audiences that have not been exposed to indie music, not sound like the typical FM station you hear every day.
IMB – how is your station taking advantage of new technology and listening trends?
Mikey – We haven’t really taken advantage of any newer technology. While we try to keep up with the music trends, we are still pretty basic on how we do things here. We just play good music by good unknown artists and we use the internet to deliver our music. Today, more and more people listen through their phones use their Bluetooth devices to listen to us on their cars and home stereos.
IMB – What is your stations’ filtering process for artists? Perhaps their reach (avg listeners) & what they’re looking for song wise, genre wise, etc.
MIkey – We get a submission and it’s screened by actual people. The song is downloaded or we pull up their Soundcloud and just listen. Our panel of judges listens to the track and we ether agree or disagree. Typically, our decisions are unanimous. If the song is a toss up, I’ll play the song on the station, because songs sometimes sound differently when you hear it in live rotation. If it doesn’t sound good, I’ll make the final decision to reject the song. We don’t often factor how many fans an artist has or genre of the submission. We used to, but we found that this wasn’t a fair way to measure a songs performance. We just listen to the song and let the music be the judging factor.
IMB – What is the program director looking for in terms of new acts?
MIkey – As a Program Director, I’m really looking for Artists that are proactive. I want to see excitement by the approved Artist. If we Tweet something regarding them, I’d like to see a Retweet, a share on Facebook or at least a “Like”, a Regram on Instagram or a even a “Heart” will do. Many artists are silent and don’t appreciate anything we do. It is what it is. We can’t force anyone to do anything.
IMB – How would your station prefer to be introduced to new music?
Mikey – Our contact page is open to the public and nothing is ignored. It may take awhile for us to get through all our submissions, but we will eventually get to it.
IMB – What are your Listening statistics?
Mikey – That’s a pretty serious question! Let’s see. Let me tell you how many listeners we had for one day. On June 9, 2017, we had exactly 421 listeners from 39 different countries. 117 of those listeners listened for 4 or more hours. That’s 176 GB of data. We reported to ASCAP that there were 4,058 sessions! Yes, we file a report to ASCAP each and every month. (Screenshot attached)
Here are some other statistics to fall asleep to:
KGUP Audience Overview:
Core age demographic: age 25-34 (34%) age 18-24 (27.5%)
Other combined (23.5%)
KGUP’s Listener Geographic Market:
US – 43.75%
UK – 37.50% Australia – 16% Others combined – 2.75%
IMB – What has been the greatest challenge for you so far?
Mikey – Getting the people of Los Angeles to recognize KGUP FM as a viable Independent radio station lol
IMB – What has been your greatest triumph so far?
Mikey – I think getting the station off the ground and keeping it on the air for the past 5 years has been my greatest accomplishment.
IMB – Can you tell us of a time that may have been difficult with an Artist who may have reacted poorly to rejection? How did you handle it?
Mikey – One particular Artist was blocked from our social media and blocked from future emails. Luckily, he never got a hold of our phone number. He didn’t like that I thought his music was outdated. It really sounded like a continuation of the album Aladdin Sane by David Bowie. Not only was it out-dated…it was terrible. Even after several years had gone by, he never got over it either. I forgot to delete him from our newsletter subscription and he responded with a nasty email. He’s been since removed and blocked.
IMB – Can you tell us of a time where you had a sticky situation where you promoted an Artist and they may have not reciprocated their thanks, or worse, made you regret supporting them in the first place?
Mikey – lol many times with many different artists. It’s hard to remember them all.
IMB – What do you feel the trend in Radio is heading for in the next, say, year to five years?
Mikey – Right now, Spotify and Pandora is all the craze, but there will soon be a shift. Soundexchange (digital performance rights organization) is bankrupting the streaming industry. They nearly collapsed my licensing company and KGUP FM nearly went off the air, because Soundexchange is asking for too much money from streaming small independent radio stations. This is happening because Artists and Record Labels are struggling to make money from music sales. No one is buying music these days. The only way to make money is through streaming services and touring. Spotify and Soundcloud are in financial trouble as we speak and Pandora will soon be too. If streaming services like Spotify and Pandora collapse, then labels and artists will need to find a new way to make money, because they will be in trouble too. You can’t keep squeezing money out of streaming radio stations if they can’t make enough to stay in operation. What is coming next…I don’t know.
IMB – Do you attend a lot of live shows to discover new music?
Mikey – I don’t go out as often as I used to, but I try to go as much as I can to support local artists. It’s a great way to network and for Artists to know KGUP FM is there.
IMB – Have you been invited to live shows where the expectation was to play the Artists’ music on your station? If so, how did you handle that if the music wasn’t what you expected?
MIkey – I get these invites everyday, but if I see an Artist live, it does not obligate me to play their music. I don’t often let someone know I’m there until after they’ve played. This way, if they “Suck”, I don’t bother to introduce myself lol
IMB – What can an Artist look for in terms of acceptance or rejection from your station?
Mikey – To avoid rejection, it is best to listen to the station for an hour and objectively decide if you belong on rotation. If you think you belong on the station, by all means, please send us your music.
IMB – How can an Artist send you their overall best presentation of themselves?
Mikey – We have a submission form on our submission page that asks all the relative questions that we need to know.
IMB – How much is ‘too much’ information that can be submitted for your station?
Mikey – I don’t like it when Artist’s tell me what other DJ’s and magazine writers have said. I prefer to let the music to do the talking.
IMB – Are there any specific Artists that you favor over others and why?
Mikey – Always. Artists with great music and show appreciation by talking about us get the most attention and promotion from KGUP FM.
IMB – How is your Station different than others? What sets you apart from the crowd?
Mikey – I don’t think we stand out or do anything differently than other radio stations. We are just more focused on Independent music. I think it’s great that other radio stations promote their favourite Indie Artists, but we definitely need more proactive Indie radio stations. There aren’t enough good indie radio stations. We try to do as much or more than other radio stations.
IMB – Do you feel there is a lot of competition among stations?
Mikey – For indie music, I don’t think there is enough stations to worry about being shut out or forgotten. My biggest competitor is Spotify.
IMB – What is your biggest challenge when competing for listeners against other stations?
Mikey – Our biggest challenge is not having a Like or Dislike button to switch to the next song. That would cost too much for us to develop and create. I wish we could, but we have no budget for it.
IMB – Do you look to Artist competitions run through entertainment websites in terms of sourcing out new talent? SMC & Indie Music Bus have run Indie Music competitions quite regularly in the past and present….
Mikey – I watch competitions, but they are often not good measurements of talent. Artists that typically win just means they have a more active fan base. I’ve discovered that lots people vote based on the name they recognize and don’t even bother to listen to what the other Artists sound like, so when someone wins, it doesn’t necessarily mean they sound better. Music always tells us who the real winners are, but not everyone is being fair when it comes to voting polls.
IMB – Who would you like to give a ‘Shout out’ to in terms of being a huge supporter of your station?
Mikey – Let’s see. A special shout goes out to HR Cole, Mark Harker, Michaela Julia, Jenna from Southampton, UK, Tobi from Luxemberg, A Wild Frontier, The Como Brothers, Luke Potter, Little Empire, Dig the Kid, The Controversy, Magic Giant, and Ghost Lit Kingdom.
IMB – Have you ever come across an Artist whose high demands were a turn-off?
Mikey – Indie bands that refuse to do anything unless they’re paid irritate me. We never get paid nor do we make money for putting on live events, so when Artists turn us down when offered to perform at one of our live shows because we can’t pay them, they can go (bleep) themselves.
IMB – Have you ever come across an Artist who was a ‘dream Artist’ to work with?
Mikey – Glitter Rose would be that dream artist. She promoted the station more than anyone I’ve come across. She won awards based on how well she promoted to get votes. She attended every event AIMA and KGUP FM hosted and sponsored and we attended all of her shows and events. Little did we know that she and I would become an item! Almost immediately after I stepped down as Executive Producer from the Artists In Music Awards, her and I started dating and she even started working for KGUP FM as a Producer. There have been notable artists over the years that I love working with like the one’s I gave shout outs to, but no one has promoted the station as much as Glitter Rose has. It’s a very tough industry where everyone looks out for himself or herself and sometimes this practice can impede your ability to progress. Sometimes you need to go the extra mile to promote the radio station that is spinning your music.
IMB – In terms of your Station and radio shows, how many do you host and what do you look for in an Artist to bring them live on your station for an interview or live acoustic performance?
Mikey – I’m embarrassed to say that we haven’t had a live guest on KGUP FM in almost 4 years. As an independent-self funded private owner, we haven’t had the luxury of hosting live radio shows with live guests. Other radio station owners that have stepped away from broadcasting on the independent side know how difficult it is to balance a full-time career and live broadcast from a radio station where there is no salary for doing so. Back in 2014, I nearly stepped away from it all and let it go to the way side, but I decided to just make KGUP FM a music only format. We continue to add new music and we rotate the music on a continual basis. We even custom make our own commercials, but we don’t interview artists anymore. I always talk about doing interviews again and we might in the future.
IMB – Which Artist has brought your station the largest number of listeners? Is there a trend you watch out for and notice when that certain Artist is being played?
Mikey – To this day, our biggest audience draw is Matt Cardle. He won The X Factor (UK series) in 2010. He was voted number 1 over One Direction, Cheryl Lloyd, and Aiden Grimshaw. While he is mainstream in the UK, his music is not on the air in the US, so we still to this day play his music. We also play music by Aiden Grimshaw and Cheryl Lloyd. Other indie artists that draw a lot of listeners today are Little Empire, The Como Brothers, and Luke Potter.
IMB – What are the top five things you look for when sourcing out an Artist in terms of their Social Media and media platforms?
Mikey – We monitor all Artists social media. This can make or break a decision when we’re on the fence about adding a song or cutting a song from rotation. We go to their social media to help us decide what to do. We look and see if they are listing the stations playing their music and if they are telling their fans to listen to stations playing their music. Most of the time they aren’t. They will promote a song playing on Spotify or tell their fans purchase their music on iTunes. Most artists don’t say anything beyond that.
IMB – Alright, final question: If you were not a Director at KGUP FM Emerge Radio, you would be _______________. (finish the sentence)
Mikey – Unemployed lol
IMB – Thank you Mikey! We look forward to sharing this insightful interview with our readers at Indie Music Bus!
Contact Info for Mikey Jayy & KGUP FM Emerge radio: