Photo: Abe B. Ryokan
At the lowest point of the Cincinnati music scene just a few years ago, there was no radio arena that featured independent music performers and local performers.
But then Inhailer Radio came along to bring underground indie music to Cincinnati and beyond, just when the city needed it most.
And now Inhailer Radio is celebrating the fourth anniversary of its mobile app and website this week, and underground alternative rock once again has a permanent place in Cincinnati.
“It’s incredible to see how far we’ve come in just four years” Inhailer Radio founder Coran Stetter said in a press release. “What started as a few music lovers trying to do something to keep the Cincinnati music scene connected has turned into a huge community of independent music supporters, ”
By 1983, WOXY-FM, which was also called 97X and was found at 97.7 FM on the dial, operated from Butler County and was the first of its kind in Cincinnati. It was an independent radio station that played modern rock, embracing the principles of the Glam, Punk, Indie and Alternative genres.
In 2007, Rolling stone said 97X has been one of the best stations in the country – that is, until the station was sold in January 2004. The new owners ended all terrestrial broadcasting of 97X in May, according to Belt magazine, and launched one of the country’s first internet stations. But that also failed, because the web station changed hands several times until it closed in 2010 (97.7 FM is now called La Mega and broadcasts programming in Spanish in Cincinnati).
After the end of 97X, the independent Cincinnati music scene was in dire straits, with Stetter calling it “a very difficult time for the Cincinnati music scene” in an interview with CityBeat. No true independent rock station served the area until 2015, when WNKU-FM began broadcasting the adult alternative music that the city had been missing since 2004, says Stetter.
Owned by the University of Northern Kentucky, WNKU (89.7 FM) has tried to emulate the success of the country’s leading independent stations by following a format similar to that used by stations such as KEXP-FM in Seattle. , which included highlighting local music once per hour that met the standards of all other music broadcast by the station. WNKU developed a passionate fan base of listeners and musical artists before being sold in 2017 due to budget cuts from NKU. The station was sold to the Bible Broadcasting Network, which now broadcasts Christian radio on 89.7 FM under the letters of appeal WYHH.
After the sale of 89.7 FM, Stetter, whose Multimagic group had a song featured on WNKU, came up with the idea of Inhailer Radio to save independent rock in Cincinnati. “We didn’t want to have this void that occurred between WOXY and WNKU during that period of about ten years where there really was no connected scene. The thesis when we launched Inhailer Radio was basically “could you have an app-based radio station that was primarily marketed in a place like terrestrial radio,” says Stetter.
In order to once again avoid the lack of alternative radio in Cincinnati, Stetter reached out to other members of the WNKU community to get the momentum and resources to develop a mobile app and website that would carry the same values. as the beloved radio station.
Since 2017, Inhailer has been playing music on its two iPhone and Android applications, as well as on its website. The station takes inspiration from the late WNKU by playing music you wouldn’t find on mainstream radio and constantly highlighting local independent artists. Inhailer Radio started out with just two DJs and has since grown into 24/7 streaming with nearly 20 volunteer DJs serving around 50,000 listeners monthly, Stetter says.
“Where we really took inspiration from WNKU was this idea of not having a local show at midnight on a Sunday when no one is listening (to play local music),” says Stetter. “We just take the best local music that is presented to us and mix it into our rotation the same way you would hear anyone else.
Inhailer uses the platform to show that the Cincinnati music scene vibrates as loud as the national artists commonly heard elsewhere on the dial.
In addition to broadcasting local music, Inhailer Radio reports to the North American College and Community (NACC) Radio Chart, which means Inhailer receives music directly from music promoters. Reporting directly to the charts gave Inhailer the opportunity to play music from many emerging artists before their songs became popular, and even allowed the radio station to present a live performance of a new one. single from Julian Casablancas of The Strokes.
In late 2019, Inhailer Radio signed a partnership with Cincinnati Public Radio, which Stetter describes as exciting for the business because Cincinnati Public Radio has access to terrestrial radio that Inhailer Radio does not. Listeners can tune the Inhaler radio on the WGUC 90.9 HD3 on radios with HD capabilities, as tuning the frequency on a normal radio will not pick up the Inhaler radio.
Despite the partnership with WGUC, Stetter believes the future of Inhailer remains in streaming due to current trends and the high costs of terrestrial radio.
But Stetter doesn’t stop there.
“We would really like to start partnering with local venues and local promoters to bring artists into town that we have already organized and for whom we have an on-air audience,” he said.
As more and more emerging independent artists come to town, Stetter believes it will have a positive impact on Inhailer Radio’s importance to the Cincinnati music scene. In the long term, Inhailer Radio’s goals are to expand into other formats and apply its model to other genres such as hip-hop or blues.
“We want to take what we think is a successful model to attract even more partners, not just Indie Alternative, but everything Cincinnati is known for,” Stetter said.
Inhailer will be hosting a fourth anniversary celebration at Fretboard Brewing, 5800 Creek Rd., Blue Ash, 45242, 6-11 p.m. June 11. Live music from local indie bands Carriers and Psycho will begin at 7pm. Fretboard Brewing becomes 21+ at 9 p.m. Find out more about inhailer.com.