We first learned of Nerdy.FM back in March when Programming Manager Marc Sirdoreus approached us about playing our music there. Our first reaction was “A nerdy radio station exists?!? This is pretty much the greatest thing ever!” In this very special edition of “Search for Geek”, we talk to Marc (also known as Marc With a C) about how Nerdy.FM got started and the ins and outs of bringing Nerd Music to the masses 24/7.
How did Nerdy.FM come to exist?
Nerdy.FM sprung from the ashes of Nerdy Show‘s first attempt at having a 24/7 online streaming radio station where you’d be able to hear nerdy musicians from anywhere in the world whenever you’d like. That early incarnation leaned more towards the 8-Bit side of the musical spectrum but when many folks played it in their cars, at work, at parties? It just sort of became a soundtrack to their day, and many of us were very sad to see it go away.
In the ensuing months and years, I’d been tugging at the ears of Hex and Cap Blackard – of Nerdapalooza and Nerdy Show fame, respectively – for a new version of the station to come into being. A version that would unite as many genres of nerdy music together in one place, and hopefully a musical resource that would eventually become the type of radio station that we would have wanted to listen to.
While in talks about how to make Nerdy.FM a reality, we learned that Chuck Silver and Dr. Vern from the geek rock band Sci-Fried were working on a somewhat similar project. None of us are the types to butt heads or try to one-up each other and we’re all very much on the same page of the strength of the nerd music community when we work together, so it was a no-brainer to join forces to make Nerdy.FM together.
Why did you want to create it?
I can only speak for my own reasons, but I was flabbergasted that a radio station dedicated to a variety of nerdy music genres did not yet exist. I’m of the opinion that any musician that has an audience ought to be heard, and if you’ve ever seen the fanaticism and devotion that some of the mightiest of the known nerdy music acts can instill, you’re no doubt shocked as well that this is the first station of it’s kind. I keep waiting for that shoe to drop where someone will alert us to the fact that this is already being done more effectively elsewhere, but said shoe continues to hover.
Broadcasting 24/7 over the interwebs can’t be easy. Tell us about the Nerdy.FM crew!
I’ll do my best. There are six core staff members at the moment, and not all of us have official titles yet. There’s me, of course, and I’m the general manager and programming director. Dr. Vern is our go-to on-air-talent guy at the moment, Cap Blackard and John Hex Carter currently act as sort of in-staff consultants, Chuck Silver has been working the promotions front and John LaValle has been instrumental in making the behind-the-scenes operations possible.
You play a huge variety of songs – chiptunes, nerdcore, nerd rock, TRock and everything in between! Could you outline a few of the most popular nerd music genres for us?
That’s a pretty difficult question, but I’m not one to shy away from a challenge! I find that specific artists have big followings, such as The Protomen, MegaRan, MC Frontalot, etc. Beyond that, many of these genres do not have devout followings that specifically like that sound. I’d say the one with the most ardent group of followers would be nerdcore, which is nerdy rap music. There are websites and Facebook groups devoted to dissecting and critiquing the genre. You’ll even find message boards devoted to established nerdcore artists give advice to young upstarts.
Another popular type of nerdy music is chiptunes – music often made with the same tools that were afforded to the early NES composers. And one can’t mention chiptunes without also pointing out the VGM artists, which are folks that emulate the music of their favorite video games, and often write brand new music inspired by those franchises.
Nerd music is still in a phase where fans of artists feel as if they are the only one that appreciates them. In that way, it’s much like being a fan of independent music was in the nineties. You might feel that you’re the only one listening, but when you end up at a concert for one of those artists, your heart swells at the hidden community with the same interests and ideals that you hold. That’s what we’ve set out to do: unite the different nerdy music genres, and give those spread out fans a destination to enjoy it all. It’s like the weekend concerts at a convention with way more artists and a lot less “con stink”!
Mainly, it’s my own personal mission to keep the very talented “bedroom artists” on an even keel with the heavy hitters of the various genres. Everyone that is good at their brand of nerdy music should have the same equal chances to be heard, and it’s been on the forefront of my mind to keep enforcing that rule when programming.
How do you find the bands you feature?
It’s always different. We couldn’t exist without the invaluable knowledge and fandom of John Hex Carter of Nerdapalooza. He’s such an ardent historian and fan of nerd music, and it’s safe to say that without his input and suggestions, Nerdy.FM wouldn’t nearly be as enjoyable. With some of the staff being working musicians, we often find artists through playing shows with them. A few of us are con-junkies, and that’s always an environment rife with nerdy musical creativity. And of course, some of us spend a lot of time employing good old fashioned web searches to find great nerdy music to play. You’d be surprised at how many of these artists were all but unaware that there was a burgeoning audience for what they create.
This is purely a “Debs is curious” kind of question. How much music, and how many different artists do you have at this point?
Between Hex, Dr. Vern and myself, it’s safe to say that there are hundreds of GB’s worth of material that we have permission to play. It would be very tough for me to calculate how many different artists we have available to play for you, but I can say with wholehearted assurance that we have a much wider breadth of music to choose from than you’re likely to find on any other radio station in the galaxy, with the possible exception of the few still-existing free form college radio stations.
We’ve seen you post on Facebook about listeners and reach (Austria! Iceland!). How do you track how many people have tuned in and How do you then use that information?
The ability to garner that type of information came stock with the backend of the server we’re currently operating with. We are pretty protective about any information regarding listeners for both business and security reasons, but those factors are certainly helpful when thinking about time zones and the like.
For example, when we first began, we were operating with a “safe harbor” mindset, which meant that we attempted to relegate material that might be considered objectionable to being played solely at night. This was an attempt to consider the ears of younger listeners, and our hearts where in the right place, but ultimately, “safe harbor” could only truly exist for our US listeners. Anyone overseas would be listening to some pretty filthy material first thing in the morning, and we’ve certainly had a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to operate in the manner that will give everyone that tunes in the same great experience, no matter where they happen to live.
What sort of feedback have you gotten from listeners?
The feedback has really run the gamut. Of course, when you’re playing nerdy music, you’re going to receive a fair amount of “nerd rage” from some folks, but mostly the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The responses that make me the happiest are when a listener will take the time to post on social media or contact us directly to rave about the new artist they’ve discovered through our station. We always do our best to let the artists themselves know when that occurs. One of the most fascinating aspects of nerd music is that at it’s current level, there is very little divide between artist and fan. They may manifest their fandoms in differing ways, but overall, they’re both geeking out on equal levels.
What have you learned from running the station?
I’m learning new things every day. Each day is an adventure into just how much nerdy music is out there, how many people love it/relate to it, and how to make more people aware of this station and the artists that choose to let us share their craft with the world.
Any advice for aspiring geek musicians?
Everyone’s journey will be different, but the most important advice that I can think of to give is that you have to be yourself. Be true to what you want to create, be married to your art, and remember that no one else has your voice and your specific set of influences. This means that what you want to create is important for the world to hear, and that you should never be discouraged by others that seem as if they’ve done what you wanted to do “first” or “better”. They haven’t done it from your point of view, and that’s reason enough for you to continue.
And of course, I’d like to welcome any and all nerdy or geeky musicians to submit their material to us for consideration for airplay. We listen to everything we’re sent, and we make sure that the cream of the crop gets heard. A good way to catch our ears is to send us a message on our Facebook page. We’re very nice, I promise!
Finally, what does the future hold in store for Nerdy.FM? Any upcoming projects or big plans?
I don’t want to say too much, because once you make your hopes public, most of us will read that as “this is definitely happening”. I can say that we have very grandiose plans to become more user friendly, with more information available about our playlists, and certainly ways to be more interactive with the nerd community, but with us being under a year old as of this writing? We’re taking baby steps to get there. At this moment, I’m concentrating on making Nerdy.FM into the most enjoyable nerdy music station on the planet, and no matter how we may grow in the future, that will always be my main goal!
Nerdy.FM is Nerd Music 24-7! Chiptunes, nerdcore, video game remixes, nerd rock, and MORE!