From Space Yacht to Fault Radio, Digital .TV Programming is Saving Music Culture
Oct 30, 2020
7 min read
The era of MTV may be long gone, but for the generation who grew up watching music videos on the couch until 3 a.m., the rise of digital channels raised an air of nostalgia steaming. Whether tuning into streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, chatting in a discord server, or tuning into a branded proprietary site, livestream programming is the silver lining to Covid-19’s double-edged sword. The evolution of this .tv culture in the music industry is a child born out of the creative “pivot” many artists and industry professionals were forced to make in the absence of IRL shows.
We’ve been consuming dumptrucks of content from the internet since the dot-com bubble, but quarantine has brought the fact home now more than ever. For most industries, the screens in front of us are the main product drivers. For music, it was the concert. The year 2020 changed that.
It feels odd to talk about any positive consequences that may have come out of this pandemic, especially while we’re still enduring it, but we have to count our blessings where we can. Performances and touring may have stopped, but for creative minds this meant more time at home to focus on projects left on the back-burner.
As gears turned, a renaissance of rebranding and introspective growth came forth. Recent innovation opened the doors for small, local brands to reflect on what really got them started in the first place.
“The future is local,” says Dundee Maghen, co-founder of the San Francisco-based online radio station, Fault Radio. The phrase drove the inspiration behind the platform’s debut two years ago; a goal to become a hub for modern electronic music and DJ culture in the Bay Area.
“The idea was to highlight, promote, and elevate DJ culture,” she says. Over the years, Fault Radio established its digital brand in the Bay Area by partnering with local artists to host live performances in pop-up locations with a livestream component. A “nomadic pop-up station,” as Maghen calls it.
But when the pandemic hit, things slowed down for Maghen and fellow co-founder, Dor Wand. Thinking outside the box, Fault TV was created.
“What drew us to start Fault Radio from the beginning was to have this platform that centralizes everything as a way to get exposed to the local scene,” Maghen adds. “With Fault TV, it has the same power. It’s trying to imitate the MTV experience that we had as kids: one channel of music where you get exposed to what’s going on right now, a resource. We wanted to create something similar that was still an independent, hyper local channel.”
The first episode of Fault TV premiered back in September. The nine-hour block introduced a tab load of programming framed as visually-digestible content in a “TV Guide” format, with everything from guided meditations to panel discussions, a how-to cocktail hour, live production with Ninja Tune co-founder Matt Black (ColdCut), and even a couple hours of their own MTV-style content showcasing music videos from local Bay Area artists.
A video station from the beginning, this wasn’t their first rodeo. But with the saturation of live streams on the internet, they wanted to come up with new, relevant content that stood out. Something interactive that would bring together different people from the community to talk about what's going on in the scene, while also exposing and showcasing local artists and businesses.
“Our mission is to support the Bay Area DJ culture at our core, that’s our value,” Wand says. “When we started Fault Radio, we kind of got lost in that, and to just keep doing live streaming isn’t really promoting anything in the community. It doesn’t solve any problems. As we looked into those problems, we started to think about the content we were going to do [for Fault TV] and try to have a little bit more call to action that spoke to the issues of the fragile music scene in the Bay Area.”
“We always knew what was lacking for the DJ live stream was a voice,” he adds. “As a brand and a community project, we couldn’t really depend only on live streaming because it doesn't really have that voice. It's still very distanced, it lacks an interactive element.”
Plans for the second edition of Fault TV are currently in the works.
Maghen and Wand aren’t the only tastemakers lending a voice to artists and the community during these times. L.A. based party brand Space Yacht has also tuned to the lockdown .tv trend, launching Space Yacht TV to host their new online demo show, Tune Reactor.
Space Yacht started five years ago as a DIY brand in Los Angeles by co-founders Rami Perlman, also known by his DJ moniker LondonBridge, and Henry Lu.
During pre-COVID times, they were known for throwing weekly parties at nightclubs in L.A. where they showcased newly-discovered talent to their regular tribe of club goers. When venues closed their doors in March, Perlman and Lu had to brainstorm the next steps for their brand.
“The hardest thing for a lot of people during this whole COVID time is how do you stay relevant,” Lu says. “If you just throw parties, what do you do to make people remember that your brand is relevant? How could we continue doing what we were doing? What were we doing? We were unearthing and uncovering extremely talented individuals early on in their careers. And can you do that online? You can.”
Tune Reactor happened to be just that for Space Yacht. Luckily, they had already set themselves up for success.
“The way that this manifested was in the live space,” Perlman says. “There's been a lot of pivoting, though. We’ve been livestreaming our events for the last three years, so I think streaming for us has taken a different direction. We realized you can’t just stream live events and leave them up on YouTube, the content idea is too good for that at this point. For us, we started to think about if we’re going to do a show that’s supposed to be a platform for new artists on Twitch, what does that look like? What does that feel like? And that’s how Tune Reactor evolved out of the live event aspects of what we’re doing.”
Broadcasting three days a week, the duo started Tune Reactor in August as an artist discovery hub for bedroom producers. In a nutshell, it’s a reaction video crossed with a demo review show with real-time feedback from viewers. In a broader sense, it’s a stepping stone onto the virtual stage for many previously shadowed artists and undiscovered talent.
“The COVID parameter forced us to focus on something that was on our pipeline, the idea [Tune Reactor] was kind of just sitting there,” Perlman says. “We just never had the bandwidth to do it before, and when events went away we found time to do all these things with our business and continue the mission from every single angle possible.”
In just two months, Perlman and Lu have listened to more than 1,000 demos. They’ve been able to double up on A&R work, signing some 85 percent of demo submissions as new releases on their recently launched record label. As the label releases its first slew of releases over the next few months, fans of the program will recognize what they hear.
Space Yacht announced its first release on the label imprint earlier this month with CLB & Formula’s “Moving Forward,” a drum & bass producer initially discovered through Tune Reactor.
“Our booking philosophy has always been about learning about the artist, getting really deep in with them, and understanding their passions,” Lu says. “What are we? We’re a platform for new artists.”
In today’s world, these kinds of platforms are just what new and local artists need to gain exposure and support themselves financially. The distance factor is here to stay, but for now, brands like Fault Radio and Space Yacht will continue to provide essential space for growth and an ever-present intimacy with fans.