The Chicago Independent Radio Project
story by Mike Scales
This past month the Chicago Independent Radio Project, an endeavor two and a half years in the making, reached its first and most important goal of bringing a truly independent music, arts and culture-based community radio station to the city of Chicago with the official launch of Chirpradio.org. Countless volunteer hours were consumed painstakingly amassing a giant digital library of around 2,700 albums (and counting) while building a fully-functional on-air studio and workspace from scratch, in addition to reviewing hundreds of records for airplay and raising the appropriate funds to support it all.
Needless to say, everyone involved breathed a well-deserved collective sigh of relief after pulling off the sold-out launch party at Empty Bottle (featuring live performances from the Yolks, Hollows and Rabble Rabble) on January 16 and the noontime station launch the next day, which went off without a hitch. Yet no one breathed more deeply or beamed with a brighter sense of accomplishment than CHIRP founder and president Shawn Campbell. Chicago Innerview had the chance to sit down with the 16-year radio veteran and discuss the bright new future of CHIRP and where the group’s constant pursuit of new goals will hopefully bring them in the coming months.
Chicago Innerview: With such a successful launch weekend behind you now, can you give us a sense of where your head is at the moment?
Shawn Campbell: There’s definitely a big feeling of relief. Everything went really smoothly and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback from listeners and from the community at large. I feel relieved that things went well and now we can just be planning for the future.
Chicago Innerview: Now that CHIRP is officially up and running, what’s next on the agenda?
Shawn Campbell: Of course we’ll always be paying attention to how listeners are reacting to CHIRP and seeing what their suggestions are. And there are still a lot of pieces we need to work out. For instance, we are still in the process of building our production studio that will also double as our live sound engineering booth. So, the idea of bringing in live bands to record and figuring out that whole set-up as well as developing some different programming ideas as podcast content; that is what’s next for CHIRP.
CI: With an actual broadcast station still the future goal at the moment, what is the latest update on the Local Community Radio Act?
SC: Well, we’re still waiting on a full vote in the Senate; that’s the last step, the Senate floor. Unfortunately, we don’t really have any sense of when that might happen. Obviously healthcare, climate change and other bills are kind of consuming all the efforts and time right now. But, as we’ve said, the Local Community Radio Act is an uncontroversial bill so our hope is that it will make it to the floor at some point this winter or spring.
CI: Though the majority of feedback and press thus far has been quite positive, how would you respond to skeptics who might say ‘Well, there’s so many internet radio options available already, so why Chicago and why now?’
SC: I don’t think that what CHIRP is doing really sounds like any other station out there but, more importantly, we are treating CHIRP Radio like a local radio station even though it’s on the web. I think the most powerful thing we’re doing is creating a station that has a very clear sense of place in our city whereas most web radio goes in the opposite direction, making it as universal and ‘placeless’ as possible to try to attract as many listeners as possible. We’re all for making CHIRP Chicago-specific.
More information @ http://www.chirpradio.org/