If Houston has anything close to an alternative-music guru, it's got to be David Sadof. Last week he rolled out Exposure, his new online station that takes its name from the late-night FM program he hosted on the KLOL in the '80s that was like MTV's old 120 Minutes, except on the radio.
Hosted by the Internet-based platform Radionomy, Exposure is available 24-7 on any Apple, PC or smartphone with an Internet or wireless connection. (Tuesday we were able to tune in via our iTunes, and it is also available through the TuneIn app.) It plays a broad variety of alternative and indie music from the 1960s to the 2010s, as curated by Sadof from his formidable library. Starting out last week with some 500 songs, Sadof is allowed to upload as many as 1,000 files -- songs as well as spoken airbreaks and pre-recorded promotional "sweepers" -- during his first three months, up to a maximum of 3,000. That's a lot of music.
Before you even ask (because we did), Exposure is not a podcast. As Sadof explains, many podcasts have specific lengths, like episodes of a TV series, whereas Exposure broadcasts like a radio station. Also, podcast creators who use music in their programming are responsible for paying licensing fees to the appropriate songwriters' organizations, but Radionomy takes care of all that.
"For me, that solves the major obstacle that has kept me from running a station," he says via email.
Sadof says Radionomy makes money though advertising, up to four minutes an hour for the more popular stations, basing its calculations on a unit of measurement called a "listening hour." After nine months in operation, a station must maintain a minimum of 130 listening hours to stay on Radionomy -- and by that standard, Exposure is off to a fine start.
After two weeks of beta-testing, Sadof went live last week and says he's already on track to reach 130 hours this month; he hopes to reach the much higher benchmark of more than 1,000 listening hours inside of Exposure's first three months. Thanks to Radionomy shouldering those licensing fees, it's all quite affordable, he adds.
Furthermore, if those listenership hours reach high enough, not only will those ads start showing up but Radionomy might start sending Sadof some actual money. (For now, he also works at Houston-based "brand-specific" radio provider RFC Media, which creates custom stations for the likes of NASA and the more seasonally appropriate "North Pole Live.")
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Many thirty- and fortysomethings will no doubt know many songs on Exposure by heart; perhaps the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On" and Weezer's "Buddy Holly," to name two. But Sadof's station is also stocked with current indie stars including Spoon, Best Coast and Vampire Weekend. All in all, he reckons about half of Exposure's content comes from the years 1965-1999 and the remaining 50 percent from the years since 2000. Since his library is so vast, at this point it's probably worth asking what Sadof considers "alternative."
"As a starting point, I begin with Iggy Pop, the Velvet Underground, T. Rex and the 'British Invasion' bands," he says, admitting that these days the lines between alternative and mainstream music "aren't clearly drawn."
"From there, I look to the best of the bands they inspired," Sadof adds. "Most of the bands I play can be linked back to one of those groups. Ultimately, it's about a certain overall sound for the station as if you are choosing from a vast number of colors to create a beautiful painting. A painting that is in motion and constantly changing."
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It might also be prudent to explain the origin of the name Exposure. Sadof's streaming station shares its name with the program he hosted on KLOL Sunday nights starting in 1987, and eventually renamed Lunar Rotation when he and then-KLOL General Manger Pat Fant left Rock 101 to start The Buzz, which in the mid-'90s was located at 107.5 FM.
Not long after Sadof arrived at KLOL -- the album-rock powerhouse for decades known as "Houston's Rock Leader" -- he says Dr Ruth's Sunday-night talk show was ending and he and the station's Program Director at the time, Rick Lambert, were considering what kind of show could take its place. Sadof suggested a specialty show similar to the one he had hosted at Sam Houston State University, featuring "neo-psychedelic" groups at the time like Echo & the Bunnymen, Dream Syndicate and Green On Red. It was "soundly rejected," he recalls.
However, the KLOL Music Director at the time, whose on-air name was "Dr. K," came up with the idea of an hour-long show playing all the new music the station received in the mail. Sadof began submitting his own suggestions and supplying Dr. K with notes; it took about ten shows in the fall of '86 before he was programming the whole thing.
"He would record the show on reel-to-reel at his home studio and I would be at the radio station on Sunday nights playing the tape, inserting commercials and taking calls from people who wanted me to play some 'Skynyrd,'" recalls Sadof.
Less than a year later, he took over as host.
"I morphed it into what I wanted it to be," Sadof says. "I think by the time anyone realized what I had done, there was no need to change it. It was working and getting ratings. It became a micro-radio station [within] KLOL.
"Much of the audience it attracted were people who didn't actually like KLOL, but would tune in specifically for my show, record it on cassette and listen to it over and over in their cars until I came back on the radio the following Sunday," he adds.
Now, with his new Exposure, Sadof has come full circle...sort of. The two aren't quite apples and oranges, he allows, but they're still more alike than they are different.
"More like two very different types of apples," he offers. "Let's go with Honey Crisp and Granny Smith. Organizing a weekly show was a lot of work and I spent way too much time on it. Operating a full radio station on the Web requires a lot of work on the front end, but once everything is in place, it's just a case of updating and maintaining the station.
"I think after the first month or so, it will take less of my time than it does right now," Sadof adds. "But, I could be very wrong about that."
That leaves us with just one question, then. What does Sadof's own, personal music library look like?
"It's neatly organized and alphabetized."
AN AFTERNOON WITH EXPOSURE
- Radiohead, "There There" (12:26 p.m.)
- Tori Amos, "Crucify" (12:42 p.m.)
- Banks, "Beggin' For Thread" (1:08 p.m.)
- The Replacements, "Hold My Life" (1:19 p.m.)
- Spoon, "Rent I Pay" (1:56 p.m.)
- The Kinks, "Victoria" (2:11 p.m.)
- Best Coast, "Fear of My Identity" (2:39 p.m.)
- The War On Drugs, "Burning" (3:31 p.m.)
- Juliana Hatfield Three, "Spin the Bottle" (4:27 p.m.)
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Hate the Taste" (5:33 p.m.)
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