As 2015 was winding down, shoegaze and dreampop fans all over the world had their usual year-end routines of reading Top 10 lists and sorting out their own interrupted by some pretty sad news. California-based independent radio station DKFM, a staple within the shoegaze community, had announced that at midnight Eastern time the station would cease to be on air. The reason came down to the expiration of the Webcaster Settlement Act, established in 2009, which enabled small and mid-sized webcasters (as determined by a revenue threshold) to pay special, more manageable rates. With the expiration of the current agreement and the Copyright Royalty Board’s newly increased rates, DKFM and its small webcaster brethren are left with uncertain futures, removing from the music world a group of valuable and highly appreciated resources.
Anyway, it’s 2016 right now and no last-minute miracles occurred. DKFM is silent and the shoegaze community is pretty bummed out about it. For the purpose of this post I’ll spare any “little guy getting squeezed out” rants.
I had originally talked to the station’s owner, Greg Wilson, around the time of the first issue of Muso Planet. It was around that time that I’d first heard of DKFM, and I adored the station’s concept. Tuning in for the first time, it occurred to me that good radio was something that was I seriously missed – I’d never really listened to much Internet radio to that point, Chicago had been without a quality radio station for probably a decade, and what I’ve listened to of Japanese radio hasn’t been pleasant. A station devoted 100% to shoegaze and dream pop was just the thing I needed. On top of that, the station’s mission to promote new music from all over the world via its New Tracks Weekend programming was on a much larger scale than what I had intended with my own project. I admired the hell out of what DKFM was doing, and tuning in made my life a little better every time.
A year and some change ago, I was fortunate enough to have been adopted into the DKFM family and given a bi-monthly hour-long slot during which I could share choice tracks from Japan and around Asia. DKFM had no lack of Japanese music in its database, but Greg, fueled by a love of Kensei Ogata and Tatuki Seksu among others, wanted to have programming dedicated to it and I was happy to oblige. Having recorded my own radio shows on a tape deck when I was a child, the opportunity was something of a dream come true. I had a blast working on Muso Asia over the following year and throughout 2015, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
Other members of the DKFM family included Mikkel of Danish new wave/post punk trio The Foreign Resort, Amber of the essential shoegaze and dream pop blog When The Sun Hits, and the somewhat mysterious DJ Ariel. The family was getting bigger, the programming was expanding, and DKFM just kept getting better and better. What seemed like a sudden announcement by the CRB put an end to a good thing, and what we’re left with following the station’s final broadcast on New Year’s Eve is a big hole that all the YouTube spam and description-less Soundcloud links in the world can’t replace.
I get that that last bit’s a little dramatic. The disappointment could very well just be a temporary thing, as there’s reason to believe that DKFM’s absence from our airwaves may be short lived. There are alternatives, and while returning to its previous format isn’t likely, a somewhat modified version of DKFM is preferable to none at all. Twitter activity indicates that the powers that be are working hard to find a solution. While there are no guarantees, shoegaze and dream pop fans can and should hold out hope that the planet’s foremost purveyor of all things blissful will be back sooner than later.