Those of us old enough to remember listening to obscure blues artists on WLAC, or to the Grand Ole Opry on a transistor radio, thought that the world had changed when FM radio became the big thing. Then, in the past few years, HD radio has changed the listening habits of those of us who have bought HD radios. And, of course, satellite radio has completely blown apart the model of what radio can play in terms of things the FCC will levy fines for, as satellite isn’t privy to those same broadcast regulations.
Internet radio, though, is another animal altogether, and Kevin Nixa realized a few years ago that he can broadcast the music he loves – country – to a worldwide audience without having to worry about hiring an engineer to climb that broadcast tower in the winter to change light bulbs. Nixa is the owner and operator of NixaCountry.com, playing country music 24 hours a day without the overhead of a “real” radio station. And as a bonus, Internet radio allows him to play the music of whatever he likes, which in many cases is the music of up-and-coming country artists he believes have a shot at the big time.
At any given time on NixaCountry.com, you are likely to hear Brooks and Dunn, Jason Aldean or Tim McGraw. But it’s just as likely that you’ll hear the music of John Karl, Derek Joseph, Chris Hurt, Matthew Huff and other people whom, well, you’ve never heard of. But that’s part of the charm of NixaCountry.com, that complete unknowns are given a chance to be heard. Because, let’s face it, everybody who’s somebody was an unknown at one time.
Nixa said that he and his partner, Program Director Val Jean, don’t play just anybody, that there are a few things they want to see or hear before adding someone to their playlist. “A lot of what we look for,” Nixa said, “are things like if the artist is out there performing, if they have a CD, are they touring, basically, are they out there doing it? Or are they just somebody sitting behind a computer waiting for it to happen? What we look for is if somebody is really giving it a shot and has some talent. If that’s the case, we think they deserve some exposure and love to help give it to them if they fit what we do.”
Nixa said his station isn’t real big on the poppier side of country, nor is it big on songs that will put people to sleep or make them cry. “We try to mostly play upbeat material,” he said. “Not a lot of crying in your beer songs, we’re not trying to make anybody depressed. We want listening to NixaCountry.com to be more uplifting for people, to put them in the mood where they want to hear more.”
Using what is now pretty much standard technology these days, Nixa said he can easily see how many listeners he has at any given moment. “I can tell exactly how many computers are listening to us because it’s all done by IP (Internet provider) address,” he said. “We’re up in the thousands of listeners per day, and for live shows and events we pretty much triple that. Those are unique visitors, worldwide, 24 hours a day every day.” Live shows that stream on NIXA include shows from Pick’s in Nashville (notably the monthly “Lyrics for Lyric” benefit shows) and a Thursday night show that originates from the Big Shotz nightclub on 2nd Avenue North in downtown Nashville.
It is a business, though, and advertising is the station’s lifeblood. Nixa said that advertisers for his station come from a variety of places. “Some advertisers are pretty much just interested in our live shows,” he said, “and we find new ones through those shows. But it’s mainly word-of-mouth, and we also do shop the station to potential advertisers.”
Nixa said that he soon will be adding another station to his operation, called NixaMixRadio.com, an all-genre station. “NixaMixRadio.com will include all kinds of music, country, rock, whatever,” he said. “While NixaCountry.com might sometimes play some real rockin’ country, NixaMixRadio will actually play some straight-ahead rock.”
The station has its roots in Southern California, but Kevin Nixa and Val Jean moved to Nashville last fall to be closer to the country music industry. Not that they were strangers to Nashville, though.
“We’ve been coming out here every year for the CRS (Country Radio Seminar) and the CMAs (Country Music Association awards),” he said, “but we really needed to be here full-time. If you’re going to be in country music Nashville is the place to be. The amount of talent out here is absolutely unbelievable. Even the house I live in here now, the entire block seems to be writers and artists. You can’t get any more up close and personal than being in Nashville, that’s for sure.”
For more information about Nixa Country radio, go to www.nixacountry.com.
By Rick Moore