Musicians need to be heard. DentonRadio.com makes it happen
For an aspiring musician like Ellie Meyer, there isn’t much that’s more difficult, or more essential, than simply having people hear her music. You can have all of the talent and ambition in the world, but if no one can hear it, it doesn’t matter — you don’t have a chance. Luckily for Meyer and her fellow Denton artists, Bone Doggie — the Denton music lifer and open-mic promoter behind the Hickory Street Hellraisers — and Jake Laughlin, the enterprising, energetic founder and CEO of DentonRadio.com, understand this, and want to do something about it.
“Every artist told me the same thing: ‘We never get booked, nobody ever listens to us, it’s difficult for us to get heard,’” Laughlin says. “So we said, ‘if nobody else will play them, we will.’”
From that germ of an idea sprang DentonRadio.com, a 24-hour radio station that plays only Denton artists. It can be heard online at www.dentonradio.com and at partner businesses like the Best Western Premier Crown Chase, which hosts occasional live Denton music.
“It’s pretty cool because, if it’s online, it’s pretty much anywhere,” Meyer says, “so you can have your phone with you walking down the street or have your computer at a coffee shop, and you can always listen to it.”
The plethora of ways you can listen to the station allows for greater diversity within the station’s audience and, consequently, the artists it plays, something that isn’t an accident.
“If it’s on the actual radio station, you won’t ever hear that kind of music. You’ll just hear like Rihanna and Bruno Mars like a million times on [over-the-air] the radio,” Meyer says.
Like many of DentonRadio.com’s artists, Meyer connected with the station through one of Denton’s many open-mic nights. She was looking for places to play, anywhere really, where someone might hear her music, her voice and connect with it.
She ended up at Banter, a place just off Denton’s square that’s equal parts coffee shop, bar and restaurant, playing regularly at their Thursday night open-mic. It was there, through her evocative performances of her deeply personal songs that she connected with Laughlin and Pat York, another longtime member of the Denton scene integral to the project. It was 2012, DentonRadio.com was in its embryonic stage, and they wanted Meyer to be a part of it.
Meyer got what she needed, consistent exposure, and Laughlin and York got something they needed too, although he may not have known it at the time.
Soon, Meyer became a sort of de facto ambassador for the station, playing many of DentonRadio.com’s curated gigs. Eventually, she even began recording commercials for the website.
“Jake will contact me to do some of the radio spots, like the commercial spots, like ‘hey, we need a promotional spot, do you want to do it,’” she says. “It’s pretty cool how supportive they are.”
Meyer exemplifies the kind of artist DentonRadio.com feels compelled to help. Those humble, talented types that are a bit more about substance than style.
“Ellie is a very interesting woman, when she’s onstage, she’s very emotional,” Laughlin says, “she just gushes these emotional lyrics, but when you talk to her, you’re not going to get that at all.”
Her self-effacing manner, reflected in things like her enthusiasm for recording those commercials or the way she bashfully talks about winning the Kerrville Folk Festival’s songwriting competition, belies her talent.
“Music to DentonRadio.com’s artists isn’t just music like it is to you or me, it’s their lives,” Laughlin says. That’s why, he says, the outlet DentonRadio.com provides is so important, and something he plans to keep going for a long time.
“It has just been a remarkable ride,” Bone Doggie says. Before he can finish, Laughlin chimes in “and we’ve just begun to scratch the edge of the iceberg.”