I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brian Crawford and Sarah Kremer of The River’s Edge, Pittsburgh’s only 24/7 local radio station playing all local music. Their mission is to bring local music and entertainment into your homes and promote local culture through their network, talk programs, and community outreach.
How did River’s Edge get started?
Brian was involved with his college radio station and then doing a podcast. Both focused on local events/issues/artists and the greater community. He was focused on the Allegheny River. He then got involved with MCDC (Millvale Community Development Corporation) in Millvale. Tina Walker, who is the president of MCDC, was very open minded and was really helpful in making this happen.
Tina got Brian together with Sarah and Tom at a business meeting because they wanted to start a radio station but needed ideas. They combined their equipment and contacts and before the summer was over they had a 24 hour radio station. River’s Edge has been producing for 2 1/2 years now. The station went from being produced in a closet, to an attic, and now to its current location at Mr. Smalls.
All of the music is completely local, correct?
Yes! It is all 100% local. When we first started, we were doing a lot of outreach to bands. Since we are 24 hours a day, we had whole albums starting out–in part because there was space, but also because we had to do paper licensing agreements which really only worked easily for a full album. We have updated to being able to do digital agreements and can get select songs from bands.
Now that the station is established, we work a lot more with bands who are reaching out to us to have their music played. We aren’t having to push as much to get people, and with the amount of content we have we now limit bands to three songs max playing at any time for the station. Soon we will limit it to two songs, and eventually one song for each band which will be switched out so their other songs are still heard.
Even now, you won’t or shouldn’t hear a particular song more than two times in a 24 hour period, even if you want to hear it again. You have to kind of stay on top of it to catch them.
I have the best playlist and I can share it with you
Where all can River’s Edge be accessed?
How are you involved with the various community events and festivals and what are you working on now?
It is a lot of people coming to us. We did a lot with Millvale Music Festival, which led to us doing a lot more outreach to bands to donate their time for than we have been doing. We also were doing a lot of community outreach.
A lot of our work has been done and made possible by Dan Kingerski as well. He added Brian in to a Facebook group for media which has a lot of people who have already been vetted that are actually working in the various media realms which helped us immensely with networking.
Mike Sasson actually started out as a Funny Money guest and had mentioned then that he was interested in having a show. We reached out and made it happen and so he’s a regular on the network.
How can people access your talk shows/podcasts or otherwise hear you?
So all of the podcasts are recorded live and also have local music included. With the current schedule Podcasts run in the morning and are all completed by noon.
We are looking to do some rescheduling which will have podcasts later on (still before 12, but not starting at 7) and on weekends. It will stay the same, however, that it is all music after noon. We are changing the schedule and reformatting it for timing since it is different from a regular radio schedule where people might be listening during their commutes–instead they’re listening when they get in to the office. With this reformatting, the goal will to have niche shows on the weekends and then the variety shows on week days.
You’re now in a new studio space at Mr. Smalls, what’s different and what’s to come?
The main room has floated floors and works both as a sitting/meeting area and a live band playing space. Next there is the space where the interviews and talk shows take place, and really everything that isn’t just the streaming playlist, but many controls are in there as well. There is a primary control room in the space that eventually will be able to control the entire space, allowing for live band shows to then seamlessly transfer to interviewing them. The primary control room also has an old signature from Anti Flag on the wall between the soundproofing.
There will be XLR cables that will let them control and run shows.
What are some local bands people should check out that you’ve been working with?
Working Breed and Tim Vitullo, they have been very supportive and help with promotions and fundraisers
What are some of your favorite local businesses both that you work with and otherwise?
We both get and give support to many other local businesses as well, and Sarah is a part of the Business Association here in Millvale. Millvale is really such a supportive community of those who both live and work here.
How do you support/stay involved with the music community and Millvale?
Each of us have our strengths. It really helps that pretty much every band knows Brian because he goes to shows and really cares for and supports them, he’s not just behind the keyboard. Always looking to listen and support and even stream CD releases.
We are also assisting with the Millvale Studios fundraisers (Millvale Studios was the previous home of The River’s Edge that had a fire leading to structural damage).
At the end of the day though, we can’t do it all, but we certainly can do our part. We aren’t promoters, we can’t be, but we can forward those requests.
What is some advice you wish you had had or would give someone looking to do something similar to The River’s Edge?
If you’re looking to do something similar, be prepared to go days without sleep to make it happen. Really. There are so many people who get this mindset of “oh, I could do that,” but have you done it? It is a lot of work. There is also a huge difference between just streaming music on the web and actually being a part of the community and helping it grow. If you’re looking to go large scale, be prepared to treat it like a(nother) full time job to make it happen.
Do research and seek out resources online. Also know where there are resources in your community. We wouldn’t have been able to do this and work in the spaces at both Millvale Studios and Smalls if we weren’t involved. But that ability to assist came through putting in a lot of work, being involved, improving the community, and being active. There are so many people that want to help, and will, but you’ve got to work with them.
Tina Walker is another individual who really helped to make this happen for us. She actually gave…well…loaned the cow bell that Brian has in the studio to him.
A lot of our equipment was donated or paid for out of pocket. The starting equipment was even partially a Christmas gift. There have also been a lot of volunteers in our network, including Zach Fehl and Jonathan Keilback who are putting together Metal Edge.
Really it comes down to the fact that we love what we’re doing.
You also need to be willing to think outside of the box and be innovative. Know and use your resources and tweak them to meet your needs. Work with what you’ve got. For instance, we don’t have a programmer, but we really wanted a “recently heard” list, so we started a Twitter account that is linked solely to our playlist and tweets out what is being played. We then linked that to our website and so it shows the last 5 songs on there.
Be open minded, don’t put yourself in that box. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What is your favorite pizza here in Pittsburgh?
Brian–all the pizza. I don’t discriminate.
There is even a song all about pizza that plays on our station, you should listen in for it!
What are some of your upcoming events and/or involvements?
Millvale Music Festival for next year.
Brew Fest we are involved with both sessions and will be streaming music between sets.
Indie Rock Fest we streamed during.
We also have our first spin-off station coming up called The Metal Edge. It will feature all local metal music, though we are possibly going to have to expand that to the local tri-state area since it’s such a niche genre.
What are some of the different things you’ve had to learn that you’ve then made changes or had some struggles through?
The sound board. Everyone has a learning curve with it. Sarah is still learning the board and Brian likes the old school boards that are big and have all slider pots.
As far as learning or moving forward, really solidifying the idea that it is up to us to push the station, which in turn pushes the bands
There have been some struggles working with social media as well, tagging people and bands and adding hashtags (to Sarah they will always be pound signs). Making sure we are avoiding doing blackhat hashtagging to pull in new viewers or listeners.