Internet radio

Play/Pause/Play Local Internet Radio Station Has Stopped Broadcasting

What began as an SA music blog founded by Luke Penman over a decade ago has grown into a multi-faceted project with the goal of growing our state’s local music scene. In December 2020, the Play/Pause/Play stream went silent.

End of November 2020, CityMag sat down with Play/Pause/Play founder Luke Penman to talk about his Best Innovation win at the SAM Awards a few weeks prior.

It had been a year of ups and downs for Luke. Keeping the Play/Pause/Play radio station alive would always take a lot of energy out of it – especially mid-year, around the time of the annual radiothon, which would raise funds for license fees and running costs. .

Given the state of the arts industry in June 2020, he decided against launching a crowdfunding campaign last year, believing both that the money might be better placed to support venues and that he wasn’t sure how much longer he could run the station.

But for all the toll of the pandemic, it also gave Luke the opportunity to focus more on Play/Pause/Play.

As an individual entrepreneur, Luke was eligible for JobKeeper payments, meaning the major stress of running a grant-funded and publicly funded project like his (earning enough money to justify the effort) – was taken care of in the short term.

He also received a grant from the Music Development Office to fund a new project, a 10-episode podcast series covering 50 local South Australian acts.

The money would have been better spent, says Luke, on the radio station itself, but a stipulation of the grant was that the application had to be for a New project.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity to work on the new podcast project this year. But having to come up with something new to apply for project funding means I can’t do what I really need to. to do, which is to develop a wider audience with this brand,” says Luke.

Early October, Luke posted on Twitter about the sense of worthlessness that was dawning on him, in relation to his work with Play/Pause/Play and his place within the South Australian and Australian music industry. The Australian Independent Record Awards were in town, and he hadn’t been invited – a down.

A week later he was notified of his nomination for Best Innovation at the SAM Awards, and a month later he would win the award – another spot.

By the time we sat down for an interview after the awards show, Luke wasn’t sure about the long-term future of Play/Pause/Play.

He had opened the vote for the Heaps Good 50, which he has led every year since the radio station launched in 2018. The event, a beautiful moment of connection within the South Australian music industry, has always fanned the fire in his belly to keep the radio alive.

He wasn’t so sure the flames could be fanned again in 2020.

The vote tally for the Heaps Good 50 reached 1,400, and on Boxing Day the tally saw Teenage Jones take first place in the countdown of the top 50 South Australian artists.

A few days later, around 1 a.m. on December 29, the Play/Pause/Play radio stream went silent.

The first iteration of Play/Pause/Play was launched in 2009 as a music blog. Luke’s ultimate goal at the time was to promote concerts and give people the opportunity to hear local music and get excited about going to concerts.

It was a time before Spotify and other streaming platforms made access to music easier, but confusing.

“A big part of it for me was getting my homies to come see this local band, and they would come and have a great time,” Luke recalls.

“I would have a great time, and they wouldn’t necessarily be interested in coming back or not. But if I could play them a song, they could learn the hook, learn the chorus, they would come out and see them, that song would play, their face would light up, they would sing together, and suddenly they were having a night 10 /10 instead of one night 7/10.

“[And] what i’ve found with a lot of local gigs is that one person can bring 10 friends, and that can be 40% of the crowd at some of these gigs. So [getting] this key person who already knows and loves the group… [and] their friends to hear this song.

Play/Pause/Play became a podcast in the early 10s, and Luke then decided to volunteer at Radio Adelaide to develop his presentation skills and learn the ropes of radio. The PPP website became inactive until around 2018.

There were redundancies at Radio Adelaide in 2017, which got Luke thinking about the future of community radio stations and how operations of this scale could be affected by automation.

He set about designing his own digital radio station, drawing on his thoughts on the changing industry and implementing the use of algorithms to create 24-hour playlists.

“At that point, the University of Adelaide decided they didn’t want to fund [Radio Adelaide] more, and we were going to have very serious conversations about staffing levels and the number of people needed to run a station,” says Luke.

“And there were over 200 volunteers doing this content for 100+ hours a week. So certainly I was [looking at it as]’Cool, but if I pass X the number of hours spent on the automation and running it on its own, and then how much extra time do I have to do other things, like promotion, online content, social media, etc. »

This led to the relaunch of Play/Pause/Play as a radio in 2018.

This new iteration of PPP has allowed Luke to continue his quest to develop South Australian artists and the local live music scene.

“The most important thing for me is that I’ve seen so many amazing artists perform in small venues, and they deserved to perform in front of bigger audiences,” says Luke.

“So the idea for me was, if I can create something where people believe what I’m playing is good, if they’re likely enough to hear it three or four times, get over the initial feeling of ‘ I’ve never heard this song before, I don’t know if I like it,” to the point of “Ok, now I like it.

“Guess what? They’re playing the Jive this weekend, or in two months. You can buy a ticket now.

The radio station was founded with the help of a $5,000 grant from the City of Adelaide and a crowdfunding campaign of $15,000, and an additional $15,000 from the City of Adelaide within the framework of a “strategic partnership”. But it relied almost entirely on Luke’s boundless enthusiasm.

In order to make the most of the funds given to him, Luke needed to focus his attention on building an audience. This required many attention. It was hard for Luke to find work – he would be candid in interviews about what Play/Pause/Play meant to him.

Eventually, Luke’s passion for the project began to cause inconveniences in his personal life.

Luke with his wife, Amy Moran

“I’ve done what I can for the past two years, but there have been way too many times where my wife has had to pay rent, groceries, dog food and everything. There’s so much you can pass up before you say, “Well, actually, I’m just annoying the family here,” Luke says.

There was also the effect of no longer being able to afford to go to concerts, isolating him from the live music community he worked so hard to serve.

“The biggest thing for me that I started to think about is that I feel like I’ve barely been to a gig in the last two years since I’ve been running this thing,” says- he.

“If I had, I probably would have felt a lot better and a lot stronger, because every time I go to a concert someone mentions it, or someone I’ve never met. said, ‘Are you the Play/Pause/Play guy?’

“If I can’t even afford to take a bus to and from town, then I’m not connecting with the community, with the public, and I’m not getting that feedback.”

Luke landed a job he loves with the Adelaide Festival team last year. As much as anything else, it got him really thinking about the future of Play/Pause/Play.

He is now part of the Adelaide arts community and make a living – something he has been striving for since launching the radio station.

Although the flow has stopped, the Play/Pause/Read website is always live. As we speak in November, Luke is uncertain about his future.

“Social media will stay there, the website will stay there, the podcast I created this year, which was funded by the Music Development Office… will at least stay there,” says Luke.

“But I just don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I know I have a full time job for the next few months, and I can just focus on that and try to see my friends and play video games and catch my breath.

There are few voices left in Adelaide’s media dedicated solely to our live music industry. It’s easier to tell the ones we lost: Rip It Up, dB, B-Side and Yewth. Another 2018-era venture, The Australian Underground, announced in October last year that it was on hiatus. Community radio stations Radio Adelaide, Fresh 92.7 and Three D Radio thankfully remain.

Without a media ecosystem supporting and telling the stories of South Australian musicians, the job of getting noticed by major players in the Australian music industry located on the east coast is all the more difficult.

The loss of a radio station entirely dedicated to the South Australian live music industry, and the dedication of its founder, is a significant loss to our local industry.

But again, the future of Play/Pause/Play is still uncertain.

Despite our (perhaps too) dramatic reading of the situation, Luke is confident in the ability of the South African music industry to persevere in the future.

“If Play/Pause/Play, Sunny Side, Space Jams, Radio Adelaide, Fresh and 3D collapsed tomorrow, there would still be some sort of industry, but it would be weaker,” he says.

“I think individual artists can still do what they’ve always done and will do. I think there are places like Lion Arts Factory and the guys at UniBar, especially the College Green stuff they do, and especially the connection to the Beer & BBQ Festival.

“We definitely need places that can say, ‘This is what we want to be, and this is the artist we’re going to do and the community we’re going to cultivate around this. And the Wheatsheaf is a fantastic example of that. So many people don’t care who plays Wheaty, they know they’re going to like it.

Whether Play/Pause/Play will have a role in that future, however, we’ll have to wait and see.