Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. My guest today: Pat Fant, co-founder and COO of RFC Media. RFC Media, right?
Pat: That’s right. How are you?
Russ: Great. (Pat: Good seeing you again) Welcome back to The BusinessMakers show.
Pat: Thanks so much, Russ.
Russ: You were on 5 years ago (Pat: I know, I know.) and it was impressive then and it’s more significant now. Our viewers that might be looking in might not realize it but we’re in like a online digital radio station network, is that accurate?
Pat: Well it is. You know, 5 years ago we knew we were ahead of our time. We didn’t know how much ahead of our time we were but 5 years later we’ve caught up and the clients that we have conversation with about, you know let’s produce for you a branded, custom radio channel, national network station online; mobile that tells your story, gives your brand a voice. Now they look at us like, ‘oh, I can see how that would work,’ whereas 5 years ago it’s, ‘what? Tell me again now, how does that work?’ So I think what’s happened in the 5 years, Russ, is that we have commercialized online radio.
Russ: Oh wow, ok.
Pat: Online radio for, you know, you could kind of sort of do it 10-15 years ago but it was a 13 year old kid in a basement with a laptop, and that was online radio. So what we did is say we can build private label stations for brands, events, and ideas that appear online, mobile, on your website and on the network aggregators (there are many) that we work with that, where you’re in the directory of stations and then you promote it in the natural way you already do social media.
Russ: Ok. And an aggregator is like, TuneIn. Would that be-
Pat: TuneIn is a great company based in San Francisco and we’ve worked with TuneIn now for about 4 years and we are a content provider for TuneIn. So for that company we build– we’re a content company, not really a technology company. We use technology, we know how to turn things on (Russ: That’s good), but we create custom content and the radio stations are much more to do with social media than they are with radio, and that’s an important distinction because we’re really not selling ordinary radio. We’ll talk to people sometimes and they think we’re selling radio spots. I go, I’m not selling radio spots. I’m going to build you a machine that makes all the impressions you want for as long as you like, and you own it; your brand, your message, your station.
Russ: Cool. Ok. How many radio stations are broadcast online digital radio sta-are broadcast from this setup right here?
Pat: We’re putting about 32 out of here right now.
Pat: We have fiber optic service, from Comcast actually (Russ: That’s good to hear) to help pull this off. It’s a twenty-four hour, seven-day a week operation; people come in, go out, that do everything from voice tracking, radio stations, setting up music logs, writing, producing. So it all comes down to being able to serve the client because we’re not in the ad business. We don’t have a sales department to go out and sell radio advertising. When we start a radio station we’re paid a fee for service to produce/maintain the station on an ongoing basis. Some of them that we do are called pop-up stations, where they might be built around an event. So we might do a ninety day radio station around something called the Stagecoach Festival; Toyota’s the sponsor, we build it for TuneIn, it’ll do a couple of million listeners in a month and then it goes away.
Russ: Wow, interesting. And back to this aggregated thing, so of these 32, a portion of them are aggregators but some of them are people that came to you directly and you’re just running, and I remember this and I think this one’s still running: 5 years ago, Spec’s, the liquor store was a big customer.
Pat: Right. We do a couple of retail based radio channels and one of them is for Spec’s, the world’s greatest wine, spirits, and finer food system in the state of Texas (Russ: I’ll drink to that). Then we took on the Timewise chain of stores; based here in Houston, a great company, locally owned, and so Timewise radio is another one. So when you’re a retailer and your radio station that talks about just you and all the things that you– and it’s branded for you and it plays in your store. That’s not background music. That’s now a foreground, attention getting sound; a audio expression of who you are and what you do, where you’re wrapping your arms around your customers every day, come on in, welcome, we’re so glad you’re here, by the way, did you know that this down the hall—and it’s conversational.
It doesn’t sound like it does at the grocery store when the song is playing and in the middle of the song comes a commercial for Sara Lee pound cake and then the song sort of starts up again. This is personal, and it’s online and mobile.
Russ: OK, so but do you actually have disc jockeys? (Pat: We do) Ok, that are talking between (Pat: and they’re really good) ok.
Pat: We have network level, decades long, accomplished, not only speakers but people who know what to say and how to communicate and not sound like they are on the radio.
Russ: OK, now that’s kind of interesting because now that the world is all connected I guess they’re not necessarily all right here in your office. They might be all over the country-
Pat: That’s right. We work with producers, writers, people that do various elements of the process. And we’ve got a guy in Philadelphia that we work with a lot that produces material for us. We’ll write it, send it to him, they’ll voice it, cut it, produce it, send it back, it goes on the air that afternoon. But, you know, a lot of radio companies operate this way. We just operate that way too. So, the kind of systems and software and the way it’s all integrated that we have is run as a professional broadcast group. It’s not a 13 year old kid in the basement with a laptop anymore. But thanks to the Pandoras of the world. Thanks to them for introducing the idea that music and entertainment can come online into your phone and your computer versus the over the air radio stations. And that’s been the difference.
Russ: Now, you mention over the air radio stations. I’m sure we probably have some younger viewers in our audience, (Pat: We’ll have to explain what that is.) yeah they don’t know what the hell that is (Pat: How does that work?) but what’s sort of interesting about it is that, man, you’re kind of the Godfather of Houston FM radio broadcasting.
Pat: I’ve been called worse. No, I think you’re right. I put KLOL on the air, played the first record in the summer of 1970 from the Rice hotel downtown. And from there I started The Buzz in ’95, and I ran KRBE for a while. That was my last ordinary radio job and that’s been 6 years ago so , but we’ve kinda hopped the fence to, you know, custom produced stations for brands and it’s been very personally rewarding because we’re all real creative people and we do a lot of very creative work.
Russ: Well that’s really cool. One thing on that 1970 launch of KLOL; that was back in the era, I had just discovered FM radio about that time.
Pat: So did the owners. Wait a minute we have a license in the bottom drawer. What is this? Oh, FM. Look, if we don’t turn this on in 6 weeks we’re going to lose this.
Russ: But it was such higher quality sound (Pat: Well sure.) at the same time. But I remember them calling it underground radio.
Pat: You know it was, really. The format, I tell people when I do panels and things and they ask me to tell them about the format of KLOL, I say it’s real simple. When one record’s over it’s time to put on another record. And that’s as complicated as it got but it was very fresh and exciting, it really (Russ: It got real big) well it got huge. We were station of the year for Billboard in 1990 and you know we managed to– I got in the Texas radio hall of fame for it (Russ: Congratulation) so you know a lot of things have gone right.
Russ: Yeah, cool. Well it’s kind of interesting that you were on the very beginning of that and the very beginning of this too and it really looks like you have it humming now.
Pat: Well you know we are, and we’ve looked, I’ll tell ya we don’t know of another company. We’re a highly specialized company and we don’t know of another company that does exactly what we do right now. You ask younger adults, let’s say under 35 crowd; where do you go for music and entertainment on the air? Likely they’re going to tell you’re they’re into streaming radio, and that makes sense. They didn’t grow up with FM radio like you did. That’s not where they go for music. When’s the last time you went to Best Buy and bought a radio? That’s been awhile. (Russ: Do they still sell them?) And it used to be in the automobile I had the KLOL, and The Buzz, when you’re in the car you’re mine. Now when you’re in the car you’ve got your Bluetooth, it’s connected to your phone. I’d drive around listening to our streaming stations all over the country, not just in one market.
Russ: Cool. Pat, I really appreciate you updating us on your story.
Pat: Thank you. Thanks Russ. Thanks so much.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Pat Fant, co-founder and COO of RFC Media. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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