Around 2007, one of the biggest conundrums for us at KCRW - and in the world of public radio in general - was: how do we hold onto our music audience when we switch to news programming (which we do everyday at various times)? We knew that at those moments, some portion of our hard core music audience went away to listen to other sources of music. It was a classic concern for any radio station that broadcasts varied programming.
To address the issue, we started cobbling together a ramshackle online, 24/7 all-music stream, which we called 'KCRWMUSIC.com.' Pretty sexy, huh? But that's exactly what it was. We created the channel by repurposing our most recently aired music shows, patchwork-quilting them together in a retread mosaic. But, we quickly realized the whole exercise took up a lot of studio time, put a strain on the engineering + music staff, and just cost too much to maintain...not to mention, it didn’t sound all that great.
I knew that Ruth Seymour, at that time still our beloved General Manager, was open to finding a better solution. I also knew that Jason Bentley, who's tenure as Music Director of KCRW was just beginning, was looking to make some bold moves. Meanwhile, I had recently worked as a creative music programming consultant at two powerhouse tech companies: first at AOL Music and later at Apple's burgeoning iTunes Music Store.
As part of my role at AOL Music, I had overseen their Spinner radio service, which featured over a hundred streaming radio channels, including an eclectic channel that I curated, and called EclecticXL. I didn't know it then, but that now-defunct experimental channel would prove to be the forerunner of Eclectic24.
Not long after, in the early days of 2009, I pitched Jason and Ruth the idea of creating a 24/7 online music channel with a curated, carefully mixed blend of the best music ever played on KCRW, throughout its history, with an emphasis on the newest artists we were excited about.
All we needed now was a compelling name. We struggled with the name for a couple weeks, with the working title of EclecticXL, but it felt a little off. I felt the word 'eclectic' was important and appropriate, as it was the one word that really summed up our brand at KCRW, with regard to music. But XL didn't really say anything. Then our production director, JC Swiatek, reached out to me one day and said, "How about Eclectic24, like the Hollywood restaurant Kitchen24?"
This was now April 2009, and we decided our goal would be to launch Eclectic24 on Labor Day.
Over the next few months, while JC built the production elements, I got to work building the sound of the channel. The structure of each hour would mirror the typical structure of any one of our DJs’ on air sets. Perhaps we’d go from The Beatles, into a classic Portishead track, followed by vintage John Coltrane. But the whole sound would lean toward the freshest new bands on the planet. Accordingly, the song that launched Eclectic24 - the very first song played - was the first single from a brand new band called Two Door Cinema Club, “Something Good Can Work”. Not a bad lyrical reference to what we hoped for with this new adventure.
Of course, we had no idea if this experiment would work, but we debuted the channel on schedule at 9am, Labor Day, Monday, September 7, 2009, with a rotation of around 4000 songs (today the rotation is almost twice that size).
Looking back, I honestly feel Eclectic24 was unique for its time. It remains unique. Where else can you find a free, curated, 24/7 eclectic mix of the best music from around the world, from all eras, with an emphasis on what's around the bend?
Now, ten years on, Eclectic24 is streamed all around the world on devices of all shapes and sizes. It's been an absolute joy to see it come to life and find its way into people's hearts (and ears).