Sheri Barclay invited the Observer to visit her internet radio station, KPISS, which sets up shop in a nearly empty shipping container in an alley made up of them, in the shadow of the elevated J train in Bushwick. There, she told us about her dream of turning her radio station into a DJ-funded hub to unpack the influences of hot new musicians. Outside, other cargo container contractors were moving bikes back and forth and BS’ing on the makeshift stoop of another container storefront, across from the permanent-looking Porta-Potty.
Ms Barclay has also set up a new radio studio within a telephone broadcasting startup. She’s all internet radio all the time these days.
A former party DJ, Ms Barclay was kicked out of a college radio station in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for antics that included convincing a listener to bring her wine and talking about drinking it on air. She moved back to New York and couchsurfed until she found a job, which, as it happened, was all about internet radio. She now works for Zeno Radio, which she says could be the premier radio source for New York City taxis.
Managing someone else’s station by day and her own by night, she says, “I can never get banned because it’s my station,” she told us during a visit to the cargo container from which its station operates. Through Zeno and KPISS, Ms. Barclay strives to give people new ways to be heard.
Zeno Radio works on a model where radio stations from all over the world can set up to broadcast on one phone number. For example, listeners call a phone number and can hear a radio station from Ghana or Haiti (two of the countries with the most listeners).
So why would anyone want to listen to the radio via a phone number rather than the Internet? Simple: minutes are not data. Basically, no one has unlimited data anymore, but unlimited minutes are available. Thus, some people listen for hours and hours every day to the radio in their country of origin.
Meanwhile, Zeno earns income based on partnerships with rural telecoms who receive a grant to provide services in hard-to-reach places, as this CNBC story explains.
Ms Barclay was recruited to help the company develop a new vertical, however: Zeno Live. They dabble in facilitating live internet radio (although each show can easily be posted on its own website and also turned into a podcast). She set up a studio in the company’s Midtown offices and created Radio Cheri, the programming test bed. She has trained new presenters as they accept the service, to improve what comes out of it.
If Zeno is not the first company to embark on the facilitation of broadcasting, it is betting on interactivity. Live broadcast listeners will be able to call the broadcast on their phone, or directly via the Zeno Live player with one click.
This is what the ZenoLive player looks like. See the button at the bottom right?
Ms. Barclay says she doesn’t know of any other internet radio service that has a call feature built into its player.
For the host, calling guests appear as a queue on their admin page. They can drag and drop the caller of their choice into their mix and let them join the conversation (or not). If the listener is logged in as a ZenoLive user, the host can see information about them before choosing to let them participate in the broadcast.
“People want to know what indie bands like,” Ms. Barclay said, explaining why the station with a punk ethos has a sound that often strays quite wildly from what most people associate with punk. In fact, while we were there, she decided to give us a lesson in the intricacies of on-air Britpop.
Although she was born in Queens, Ms. Barclay has connections in Alberta and Israel. She spent her formative years in Canada. This Canadian connection is perhaps the reason why she has already been able to bring some power to the channel. One of his first shows was hosted by the indie rocker’s girlfriend It boy and Edmontonian MacDemarco, Kiera McNally. Mrs. McNally has 26,500 subscribers on Instagram. She calls her show KPISS K-hole.
Ms. Barclay’s radio station is self-funded and DJ-funded, which allows it to remain commercial-free and also gives its DJs a greater sense of skin in the game. They pay $30 a month to have a show on the channel, and it allows them to easily download the show and use the recording however they want once it’s done.
While the station has only been broadcasting live intermittently for a few weeks, it is about to launch a partnership with an independent venue. The palisades to broadcast programs.
As we sat in the shipping container, DJing largely from YouTube videos as we talked, she explained how she hopes to turn a wall into a little record store for the vinyls and tapes of the bands that stop, and another wall in the smallest art gallery in Brooklyn. AndyAnimal, former Stalkers frontman and music festival promoter, stopped by to say hello. He spoke with Ms. Barclay about putting on a show on the station. He also has a container in the alley he calls the Rat King Emporium, selling novelty items.
“I want to mix it all up, but it doesn’t have to suck,” she said. “I got a Spidey sense for this shit.”
What seems to interest him the most is how people interact with the channel. She said that one Sunday morning she got off at the station and started putting on a show. A guy ventured into the alley and started watching it broadcast through the glass. She showed him how to listen on his phone, and he sat there smoking cigarettes and listening. Eventually, she invited him inside and he told her about the drunken threesome he’d had the night before.
“There is a kind of magic in KPISS,” she said.