Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Exclusive: East Village Radio is signing off after 11 years; final day of broadcasting is May 23

[Image via]

East Village Radio, the 11-year-old Internet radio station with a tiny storefront studio on First Avenue, is shutting down operations next week.

"Every time we get a new listener, it costs us more money with licensing fees and Internet costs," East Village Radio CEO Frank Prisinzano said in a phone interview. "After doing some projections, we see that it is going to be very, very difficult for us to continue to break even."

The station ends live programming after Friday, May 23. The stable of eclectic DJs, with shows covering nearly every genre of music, will have the chance to broadcast a farewell show in the days ahead. (In addition, the station is releasing all of the archived shows to each DJ so that he or she can shop around for a new gig or syndication.)

Popularity hasn't been an issue with East Village Radio, who counted more than 1 million listeners worldwide a month (this after starting as a short-lived 10-watt FM radio station in April 2003). However, under the Congressional Digital Music Copyright Act of 1998, Internet broadcasters must pay a digital performance royalty for every listener.

"We pay a higher rate for royalties and licensing than Pandora pays. We live in a world where these behemouth music-streaming services keep going in for more capital," said Peter Ferraro, the general manager/head of programming at East Village Radio. "It's almost like we are being penalized for our growth.

"It's very difficult for an independent medium music company to survive in a world where Apple is paying $3.2 billion for Beats by Dre."

Still, East Village Radio was integral to the success of breaking new acts and giving airplay to musicians you might not have ever heard. The street-level studio was also a popular draw, bringing in celebrated music veterans such as Lou Reed (oops — he was a call-in), Richard Hell and John Lydon, among many others, through the years. You never knew who you might spot inside the studio at 19 First Ave. between East First Street and East Second Street.

[Duran Duran from 2010 via EVG]

While the programming is commercial free, East Village radio has survived by the advertising on its website and, most important, the funding from Prisinzano, the chef who owns neighborhood restaurants Frank, Lil Frankies, Supper and Sauce.

The radio operation was the proverbial labor of love, and a way to do something for the East Village.

"It has always been really pure to me. From the beginning I was thinking I had to give something back to this neighborhood," Prisinzano said. "I was worried about the music scene moving out to Brooklyn. It was important to represent the neighborhood."

So the thought of selling part of the station to secure the necessary funding to continue on with East Village Radio was never an option for Prisinzano and Ferraro.

"I don’t want to give up the integrity of the station. The only way that I really see it continuting is by bringing in another benefactor who would take over part of the station. I really don't want to do that. Pete and I understand the neighborhood. We want to run the station. I don’t want to sell it out," Prisinzano said.

Said Ferraro, "If another media or VC company came in, I don’t know if they would have understood the nuance of being local but global. There was a certain localness that we feel proud to be part of. But the mission has always been to amplify that out to the world, but to have it point back to the neighborhood."

[DJ Hannah Rad photographed last August by James Maher]

Prisinzano said that he isn't done with the East Village.

"I'm looking to come up with something else now. I have a lot of ideas. This particular model failed. We closed it down. I'll build up a little more capital and come up with a different idea," he said. "I'm really sad about the decision, but I think it has inspired people to do similar things all over the planet. We started out as a pirate radio station, and we decided to amplify it and design the local Internet radio model ourselves. The model is untenable. It just doesn't work. It's the system's fault. There isn't any legislation that will ever be written without someone lobbying for it. We can't afford lobbyists."

Prisinzano and Ferraro are still processing what the station's legacy might be.

"I hope that history proves to be kind to us," Ferraro said.

"This was a beautiful, amazing thing. I think something really positive will come out of this," Prisinzano said. "We took it to where we could take it. We are proud of what we did. Now it's time to stop. And that's OK."


  1. "Congressional Digital Music Copyright Act of 1998, Internet broadcasters must pay a digital performance royalty for every listener" - I wonder who pockets this money? I'm willing to bet the artist never see a penny of this.

  2. Blame the 1998 statute on America's only Native criminal class, as Mr. Twain put it. That would be "Congress."

    Bill the libertarian anarchist,
    who doesn't vote in pol. elictions


  3. Very Sad
    Chillin Island
    Jay and Jay

    weekly favs of mine.

  4. Good on Frank for trying so hard to make this work. And for making a killer rigatoni.

  5. Sorry to hear that but you did great ! been a big fan

  6. Gotta say, I love Frank's spot, but his little salads are so damn expensive for no reason. C'mon, Frank!

  7. A small request - it would help if every article would locate it's subject by block (eg First near Sixth St) rather than just what street or avenue it's on.

  8. @ unknown

    I added the address and cross streets

  9. This just ruined my day (as I listen to Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve's "Dig It!" streaming on Eastvillageradio right now).

  10. Time to rename this blog "EV Grieving" or "Grieve's Vanishing East Village" sheesh.

    Time for WNYU to step it up with their programming which is dogshit, now that EVR is shutting down. WNYU should be equal to or better than WFMU and they're not even close.


  11. We, Fat Buddha, wish we knew about this earlier. We would have gladly donated to try and keep the radio station alive! Is it too late?

  12. Very sad, I listened to "Baller's eve" religiously. Always kept me in the loop about new artists and songs coming out before anybody else. They will be missed. Thanks EVR.

  13. If I were using words like capital, lobbyist, and untenable, I'd quit too. You also don't need a storefront, unless a storefront was the point. Go pirate or go home.

    1. Sez the phony internet anarchist...

    2. Sorry I was out of the house for a couple hours...Phony!? I just thought maybe if the owner cared about music and their djs, they would throw down for licensing or provide an underground alternative. Everyone's crying about this loss, but it was their decision to shut down.

    3. Get your facts straight - they have been throwing down for licensing for over ten years and before that they were a pirate station, so they have already done both things you were criticizing them for not doing. The owner lost money on EVR for over ten straight years, do you really think he would do that if he didn't care?

  14. This is very sad. EVR has been a staple of NYC for so many years.

  15. Shit. This is terrible news.

    Delphine Blue
    Eli Escobar
    Queen Majesty
    Peer Pressure
    Cuz Joe and the Black and Blue

    I'd subscribe. I had always wondered what the business end took. I send money to WBAI and WFMU, I would do it to EVR.

  16. I agree, I contribute to WFMU each year, I would subscribe to EVR before dumping money into something like Pandora- maybe there is something to keep these DJ's on some kind of broadcast?

  17. This is devastating news. I only became aware of EVR a couple of years ago by stumbling upon Chances With Wolves. Since then I've listened to pretty much every program, favorites including Chances, Cheap Shots, Chillin Island, The Bobbito show, Peer Pressure...I could keep going, I listen all day erryday! I'm not aware of anything else like EVR and I've learned so much about artists and genres that I likely would have never been exposed to otherwise. Maybe it's because EVR helps me get through life in the Cube, but I've become very attached to the DJ's and feel like I know so many of them. I feel like I'm losing good friends as well as incredible programming. I'll do my best to keep up with all the Dj's I've come to know and love.

    Thanks EVR. It's been real.

  18. ...and I would absolutely donate money to EVR.

  19. Music is on in my home almost all of the time and EVR is what you'll hear 99% of the time. This is seriously one of the best curated internet music stations out there.

    This breaks my (musical) heart...

    Does this mean all of the archives will be taken down as well? It mentions releasing them to the hosts so they can look for other opportunities. I'll certainly follow some of them for sure!

  20. Wow, rough news. It was always such a pleasure to walk by there and watch people spinning discs, or shooting the shit with guests. It felt really communal in a positive way. (So to reference an earlier comment -- yes, there WAS a point to having a storefront.)

    I'd like to give a particular shout out to the cage-free jams of Beyond Beyond is Beyond, as well as Invisible Oranges \m/ EVR will be much-missed.

  21. I'd donate to this before I payed for something like Spotify (which I use every day at work).

    This really, really, really sucks.

  22. Several years ago, DJ's on the station had to pay for their own shows. Either that or we had to go out and get our own sponsors. Being beholden to a single sponsor is not the best way to be truly independent. I don't know the details of how the station has changed their business model over the years, but there was something pretentious and self-serving about it at the time and Frank came off as a bit of an arrogant person. You can't blame the copyright stuff completely for the failure of EVR, that law has been in place for a long time. "It's the system's fault." says Frank. Gimme a break.

  23. Perfect spot for a froyo joint or a Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield joint. Oh, damn, just gave them a n idea.

  24. Peter said it all....."This was a beautiful, amazing thing".

    But HEY....where's all the Village multi-millionaires when you need them???
    There's gotta be some deep pockets out there who cares about this who could easily pick up the slack here......and I'm POSITIVE they could do some creative accounting so cash contributed would be a tax break.


  25. I have been a listener since 09, the station has enlarged my musical palette to something I can actually pride myself on. Just want to say thank you to all the people who have made it happen after all these years like Engineer Joe, the owner Frank of course and to all the DJs in particular Ted, King N Geeve from 40deuce, Jason, StillLife, Chances with Wolves crew, Ronson, Jawnita, the Devil and me dudes, the Baller's Eve crew ; minski, katDaddy and Dirrty.

  26. Damittt- this had wings- or so I thought?

  27. Ugh, this is sad. I'm really going to miss them and the all the activity they generated on the street.

  28. This is a damn shame. Really like the station, listen often to several shows. Hope something works out for it to continue somehow. Good luck to all and thanks for all the great music!!

  29. Isn't this almost exactly what something like Kickstarter was invented for? I have to believe people would donate to keep this brilliant thing going. Maybe it's more than just the money, but a lot of listeners would pitch in.

  30. To waitforwalksignal regarding whether the archives would be available:

    I was listening this morning and the DJ mentioned that he wasn't totally sure at the moment, but mentioned that maybe they would end up on something like grooveshark (this may not have been the site he mentioned, i honestly can't recall, but that was the gist of it). Essentially some internet-based home for them might happen.

    1. thanks!

      Like others on the thread, I too would totally give to a kickstarter campaign...and I would absolutely pay a subscription for EVR.

  31. Well, here's a free idea for someone:

    Between the east village and brooklyn there are PLENTY of bands that would love the exposure of EVR. So play their music in exchange for no royalties.

    Hit up the (few remaining) local bars with music. Get the bands to promote their shows. Provide the music for free, and the royalty problems go away.

    OR get the musicians to get their UNIONS to make provisions for small local operating stations so they don't have to pay such royalties.

    1. I am not sure that you understand the so-called 'royalty problem' here. It is endemic to internet radio. If you are going to be a legit enterprise, you are required to pay these fees based on the size of your audience. This cannot be solved by only having bands who would somehow waive their royalty fee; it is nothing musicians can control. No individually-negotiated provisions are possible. And, just for the record, this digital performance royalty has no equivalent with terrestrial radio, which does not have to pay performance royalties (radio pays royalties only to songwriters and publishers, not to the performers). The system does seem oddly designed to prevent internet radio stations from succeeding.

  32. If the owners are reading this, they should figure out the economics and at least give it a stab of getting there. Their situation isn't unique as there are tons of other publicly funded 'local' radio stations that wind up being commercially viable (or at least surviving).

    The WORST way to go about raising money for a radio station is via advertising on your website. Banner/Display advertising brings in little - 0 revenue (especially off of a site that encourages LISTENERS and not READERS).

    Ideas for making this station work:
    1) On Air Fund-raising drives 4x per year (similar to WNYC)

    2) Listener donations (fueled by local businesses / music groups / DJs / events promoters giving away free stuff / tickets)
    (similar to out of Montreal or WNYC)

    3) Kickstarter - someone else mentioned this

    If it isn't too late, I would definitely encourage the owners to give these efforts a shot. I've been DJing in the East Village since "Buttafunk Saturdays" a Hip-Hop / Acid Jazz / Funk night I started at Korova Milkbar in 1999 and always enjoy the scene outside EV Radio. Hope he doesn't reign in the towel too quick as the station / scene will be missed by many...


    ~DJ Grimace

  33. Personally, for me, this is devastating news. EVR is such an important part of my day, and I listen literally every day. Shows like Pizza Party, The Main Ingredient, Jetlag Noir (I will follow you wherever you go, Ole!), Authentic Shit, Never Not Working, Pop Goes the Future--to name just a few--are such an integral part of my life. Those DJs are friends, their shows are like parties. Their sense of humor and knowledge of music have shaped me the past six years. I can't believe this is actually happening.

  34. Shattered, I've been streaming from my Sydney Studio for the past year, show's like Chances with Wolves are seriously good. I'd be more then happy to pay a subscription fee if this was an option to keep the station alive. Thanks for the amazing shows EVR!!

  35. It will probably be replaced by a Dunking Donuts, Starbucks or a chinese takeout! :(

  36. I've been listening from Sydney Australia for 10 years. Been over a few times and am friends with many of the presenters. Really disappointed, don't know what to do now. As many have suggested, I'd happily pay a subscription, I do it here with my local, but it's not a patch on EVR. Gutted, worst news EVeR.

  37. I have been listening to EVR from Copenhagen right about every (possible) waking moment since a friend tipped me off about the amazing small universe of incredible music and inspiring hosts that is East Village Radio, so I was devastated when I got the news about EVR closing down. It feels like losing a good friend and music mentor and you can't really replace good friends or good mentors, so the loss is greater than I can describe in words.

    I would gladly pay for a subscription and it would surprise me if most of your listeners weren't willing to do the same. Have you considered that solution? If not, will you at least look into it? Given the chance I would gladly pay 10$ or more each month if it meant keeping you afloat, I am aware that no every listener would be able or willing to pay that amount, so you could consider giving listeners the choice of paying between 5$ - 15$ and have a realtime ticker showing how wether or not you have sufficient funds for the next 6 months or so... This might all sound insanely unrealistic and I am aware that it is much easier to throw these ideas at you, than to follow them through in real life, but in my humble opinion (which is not humble at all, really) it can't really hurt sharing... it's not like it will make you close down.

    Let your global community help save a local East Village treasure...

    //Anne Julie

  38. For those who want to donate or subscribe to something like EVR, please remember that the Copyright Royalty Board who set the rates and the PROs who collect the rates collect them on a portion of the stations profits. Once they reached a listenership that went beyond what a .org might be subject to, they surpassed that and are now subject to a higher rate. Yes, banner advertising alone is not going to make you money, especially when you have TuneIn radio and other radio aggregation apps that stream your feed, but don't cut you in on a share of their mobile ad revenue. It sounds to me like they didn't have an instream ad revenue program or a good mobile banner ad revenue stream either. They also could have gone subscription for even just a few dollars a month per listener, which many people would have been happy to pay for, but it doesn't seem like they had the money to invest in someone actually building out a subscription platform for that. Also, hard to do subscription when your feed is being rebroadcast by other apps, growing your listenership, but not giving you the ability to monetize that audience.


  39. Utterly gutted, my soul has been shattered at this news. I too would donate or pay a monthly fee.

    Such superb music and so nice to listen without someone yelling at you to buy car insurance every 20 mins.

    EVR - Forever in my <3

  40. An internet radio station is the kind of thing that could only happen in the East Village. This can never be replaced.

  41. Wow...

    Is EVR's monthly audience more than 5 million tuning hours? Really?

    That's having more than 15,000 people each listening 12 hours a day. Impressive for an independent internet radio station. If so then yeah, they would pay a higher per song/per listener rate than Pandora but only for hours in excess of 5 million/mo. Else it's 10 to 12% of gross revenue escrowed against a 5K minimum fee and relatively negligible fees to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

    That said, this pales in comparison to what their monthly bandwidth costs are at this audience level. How on earth did/do they afford that?

  42. No more Morricone Youth? Really?

  43. Im so far away.. and EVR is a staple for me, this is so very very sad, Im really going to miss them, Chances with Wolves especially-- find a home soon chaps!

  44. This is so, so sad. EVR was my favorite radio station to enjoy during work, chill and doing whatever was to be done. Wouldn't it be possible to reanimate you with some crowd founding project? I am still confused, but I'd spend you some of my money.

  45. Internet radio does and should pay performance royalties -as should terrestrial radio. Doing away with the royalty will harm musicians even more; in fact, the movement is to bring terrestrial radio in line and have them pay the royalty as well, just as it is paid in every other country.

    US radio is the unpleasant exception to the global norm of paying performers, not only songwriters.

    More here:

    "The US is one of the few industrialized countries — if not the only one — that does not have a terrestrial broadcast performance right for sound recordings. At least 75 nations, including most European Union member states, do have a performance right. This means that foreign broadcasters pay royalties to songwriters/composers and performers. But since there is no reciprocal right in the US, foreign performance rights societies cannot distribute these royalties to American performers. This leaves tens of millions of dollars of royalties on the table annually rather than in the pockets of American artists."


Your remarks and lively debates are welcome, whether supportive or critical of the views herein. Your articulate, well-informed remarks that are relevant to an article are welcome.

However, commentary that is intended to "flame" or attack, that contains violence, racist comments and potential libel will not be published. Facts are helpful.

If you'd like to make personal attacks and libelous claims against people and businesses, then you may do so on your own social media accounts. Also, comments predicting when a new business will close ("I give it six weeks") will not be approved.