Technically Not Tech: G-town Radio, the Sound of Germantown - Technical.ly Philly

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Technically Not Tech: G-town Radio, the Sound of Germantown

In February, residents of Germantown lost two community fixtures when the Journal Register Co. declared bankruptcy and published the final issues of the Germantown Courier and Mount Airy Times Express. It shouldn’t be a surprise for many who have watched the newspaper industry struggle. Small communities are continuing to hemorrhage vital media coverage. Consider G-town […]

G-town Radio is run out of an office space in the Maplewood Mall in Germantown.

G-town Radio is programmed from an office space in the Maplewood Mall in Germantown.

In February, residents of Germantown lost two community fixtures when the Journal Register Co. declared bankruptcy and published the final issues of the Germantown Courier and Mount Airy Times Express.

It shouldn’t be a surprise for many who have watched the newspaper industry struggle. Small communities are continuing to hemorrhage vital media coverage.

Consider G-town Radio a band-aid.

In the heart of Germantown in an office space in the Maplewood Mall, Owner and Station Manager Jim Bear broadcasts an eclectic mix of programming on the Internet radio station. And he’s throwing in some civic duty for good measure.

While Bear says the station doesn’t have the manpower to fill the void where the newspapers left off, it’s certainly trying. Though it’s a small gesture, the radio station has started to maintain a community calendar to keep tabs on what’s going on in Germantown.

“As much as news is important, it’s just as important that we give people a heads up on what’s going on around them. That’s our starting point,” he says.

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Starting point to giving back, maybe. But tune in. Between a Vampire Weekend mashup, Curtis Mayfield classic and a Led Zeppelin ballad, you’ll hear the station’s calling card: “The Sound from Germantown.” It’s a reputation that is gaining momentum.

Each week, G-town Radio broadcasts 15 live shows ranging from A&E and alternative medicine to poetry and personal finance. Cut that with 24 hours of diverse music programming, and you’ve got an excuse to throw away your transistor radio.

“I equate it to the early 70s when AM top 40 pop was the standard and FM radio was the wild west. I think that cycle is repeating itself again. FM is this stodgy standard where a lot of people are dissatisfied,” he says.

“People are filling that void with programming online and doing it better.”

Bear has no formal radio experience. That is, aside from a few years spent with activists, anarchists and geeks who cobbled together an Internet radio studio and blasted programming from computer hand-me-downs in an old house in West Philadelphia – a little project known as Radio Volta, founded in 2000.

He grew tired of lugging his records across the city, and decided to set his aspirations on Germantown, where he has lived for 12 years.

Wanting a way to listen to his vast music collection at an IT consulting gig, and harping on the good old days of D.I.Y. Internet radio, Bear launched a streaming music server in 2004. By 2006, he was hunting for office space to expand the growing community endeavor.

Today, G-town, a non-profit, frequently partners with local organizations to host and help promote events in the neighborhood, and continues to grow its programming schedule, even if at a meager pace.

Bear wants the station to follow in the footsteps of public radio, relying on sponsorships and member support in lieu of relying on business advertising.

While his pace is slow and calculated, Bear can’t wait for next-generation broadband. Access is one of G-town’s largest challenges; you have to be in front of a computer to listen to it. He hopes that speedier mobile broadband networks will change that for stations like his. With fourth generation broadband solutions like Clearwire on the way to Philly, listeners could tune in from mobile devices.

As technology breaks down barriers and becomes more inexpensive to newcomers, Bear says that content will determine who’s king.

“We need to make sure we’re delivering a quality product and something that’s not being offered anywhere else,” he says.

And surely, it doesn’t hurt to have a great team behind you.

“The only reason we got to the point we are now is through the dedication of the people involved. Otherwise, I’d be listening to myself from my corner office,” he says.

“As much technology as is involved in this, it’s still powered by manpower.”

Every Monday, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Philly’s tech scene, but aren’t necessarily technology focused. See others here.

Companies: G-Town Radio
People: Jim Bear
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