It’s all about positivity at Light It Up Radio, Edmonton’s only online urban radio station. The station came about when founders Nicole and Patrick identified a desire for a radio station playing primarily urban music. Positivity is the theme of the operating philosophy at Light It Up. Nicole explains, “when you say hip-hop the first thing that people think of is violence. We want to remove ourselves from that. If you notice on the station, you’re not hearing any profanities. Everything we put on there is edited. That’s a major criteria for local artists who are sending us their music. We’re not promoting anything with profanity in it… We want to change the image [of urban music]. Especially coming out of Edmonton, if we’re going to be the first to [start an all-urban radio station], we want it to be positive… It takes work to find your edited, clean music.” Although it’s a lot more work finding “clean” music, doing so pays off in terms of making urban music accessible to a wider audience. Patrick adds, “just because it’s hip-hop, R&B, and reggae doesn’t mean it’s all violent like we’ve always known it to be… We want to open people’s minds… Maybe this will fill that void… Hopefully Light It Up Radio will educate a lot of people.”
From the moment the idea of starting a radio station first came up, Patrick and Nicole have taken a do-it-yourself approach. They used Google to learn how to start a radio station. The duo chose the online-only format because getting the license for an FM frequency would have taken too difficult, and they like the creative control that the online format provides them. Additionally, being broadcast online with a one-of-a-kind content, means that listeners can tune in from anywhere in the world. Although the majority of their current listeners are from Edmonton. (Listen here.) Promotion of the radio station has mainly been through word-of-mouth and social media, although, says Patrick, people were very skeptical when Patrick and Nicole approached them to tell them about the radio station that plays only hip-hop, reggae, and R&B music – the duo faced questions about how long the radio station would last, or how long until it would become “commercialized” and play pop or rock music.
Nine months later, Light It Up Radio is still around, and has yet to play a non-urban song. The mix contains a bit of everything urban – from mainstream American hip-hop music to local Edmonton artists. “You’ve got to be creative… and research it, and see what type of music people in Edmonton are listening to… Give them what they’re familiar with, and then once you’ve got them, feed your dream to them… The one thing we don’t want to be known as is the station that plays the same 15 songs over and over again. So we go out and try and find different hip-hop, R&B, reggae songs that people may not have access to here, so we research and bring it onto our station so that when you’re listening to our station, you’re guaranteed to hear something that you may not have heard otherwise.”
Nicole further explains the mix of songs played by Light It Up Radio, “one of the reasons we started the radio station was to get local artists on air. Because… I often think, if I was a local artist, and I’m in the studio, and I’m working hard, where does my music go after? Why do I have to step out of Edmonton to have my music heard? A lot of people will go east, or to the states, so it’s nice for local urban artists to have a place in Edmonton where they can send their music and we can hopefully give them that exposure.”
The station also has a blog, where they showcase other aspects of urban music – but don’t read the blog looking for gossip. Nicole says, “we want it to be more positive, we don’t want it to be a gossip blog, you can go anywhere to read gossip. If we can do things that are more positive, those are more of the topics we like to put on there. If there’s too much gossipy stuff, it causes conflict. People attack each other on the blogs, that’s not something we want the station to be known as.” Patrick adds, “there’s so many people doing that right now, we’re trying to go for something different.”
Artists or DJs who would like to submit a track for Light It Up Radio’s consideration, can do so at the bottom of this webpage. Listeners can stream hear Light It Up Radio through their website or on iTunes radio.
– Jenna Marynowski