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Culture

Radio to Download

A new Berlin radio station is hoping to revolutionize the country's music industry with a fresh format that drops commercials for legal song downloads.

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MotorFM broadcasts independent music across Berlin

Once a major player at a major music label, Tim Renner at some point decided the industry couldn't be saved from within. Frustrated by Universal Music's decision to promote easily marketed and packaged international music acts at the expense of local artists, he left his well-paying job at the company's German division in 2004.

Instead of fighting the industry from the inside, he and his partners at the indie label Motor are hoping to revolutionize it from the outside. Starting Feb. 1, the new Berlin radio station MotorFM broadcasts with a new format and business concept including online music downloads.

Focusing on cutting-edge indie and alternative rock, pop, hip-hop and electronic music, the station eschews traditional radio advertising for part of the revenue from downloads and targeted sponsoring of its programming. Eventually, MotorFM aims to have every song it plays available to purchase from its Motor.de Web site.

"Radio stations could be the retailers of tomorrow, radio is the most mobile medium there is. And it makes sense to use that with the strengths of the Internet," Renner told DW-WORLD in a recent interview.

The number of songs on offer to start is small, but MotorFM aims to continually add to its library. The station is using a download portal that was partially developed by the creators of the mp3 digital music format that allows artists or music labels to upload their own songs and set their own prices.

No copy protection

The system, known as Potato, could make it difficult to get the songs from better-known artists since it operates without Digital Rights Management (DRM) copy protection, which the major labels require to limit music piracy. However, with the station's focus on independent artists and new music, that may not be much of an issue to most MotorFM listeners who are hoping to escape mainstream radio in the first place.

Tim Renner, Deutschland-Chef des Musikkonzerns Universal

Tim Renner

But Renner's vision is bigger than simply offering online downloads. He said MotorFM's ultimate goal is to make it possible for listeners to purchase a song heard on the radio by simply sending an SMS text message from their mobile phone. The song would then be automatically sent to the listener's MotorFM account.

The station is also hoping to break from the traditional radio formats by cutting out tired morning shows and other pointless talk and chatter. The DJ will instead concentrate on the music, offering only insights that add value to what the listeners are hearing. Clearly, MotorFM will be radio for hardcore music fans.

"There won't be anything that's playing on the hit parade," station music director Thomas Müller told Die Welt newspaper.

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