Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer
When listening to the radio, for some, one problem persists: the same collection of songs seem to get played over and over again.
For many, this creates an impasse: Should I delve into endless playlists on many music streaming services to find a few gems? Alternatively, should I join the growing online radio trend and leave it to chance, still finding a few gems along the way?
For this article, we’re going to focus on the latter.
Roughly 64 percent of Americans listen to online radio in 2018 monthly, while in 2014 listenership was at just 47 percent a month, according to Journalism.org.
Following the online radio trend, Pittsburgh has an internet radio station called The River’s Edge, based out of Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale.
The station was started by Brian Crawford and Sarah Kremer three years ago, when the two met at a networking event for The Millvale Community Development Corporation.
It wasn’t until they realized that Crawford, a podcast host who recorded in his attic at the time and Kremer, someone fed up with the recurrence of Taylor Swift on the airwaves, discovered each other’s interests that an idea formed. They realized that there was an opportunity to foster the Pittsburgh music scene and create an alternative to the repetitive radio stations.
Then, Kremer and Crawford put their plan into action by recording more episodes of Crawford’s podcast River Talk in Millvale Studios. While they continued to create original content, they began to recruit bands to play their music on the radio. However, this arrangement didn’t last forever, as a fire devastated their recording studio.
As one of the River Edge’s podcast hosts, Erika June Christina Laing recalled, “Also, Tara [co-host of the podcast Petticoat Rule] and I were there when the infamous fire broke out in their Millvale Studios location, which led to their partnership with Mr. Smalls and obtaining the spacious studio space attached to that venue. Fortunately, we made it out and were able to call 911 in time to limit damage to their equipment.”
Despite this disastrous situation, the station still managed to grow. As Laing points out, they soon moved into a larger studio space where they now record five original podcast shows and seven syndicated programs as well as increasing the number of bands from about 25 to well over 100.
The duo has also created a spin-off station called The Metal’s Edge in response to the jarring transition from soft to heavy songs.
“We had the spin-off with The Metal’s Edge because it was very jarring sometimes. You’d be listening to a bluegrass song, and heavy metal would come on next, and so we made that its own station,” said Kremer.
Soon, they hope to branch out by creating another station just for talk radio featuring their various podcasts while transitioning The River’s Edge from a talk and music station to just a local music (excluding metal) channel.
This new all talk station would include podcasts like Gike’s Got Game; a local sports show featuring Pittsburgh media personality Mike Gajtka; the aforementioned River Talk, a show hosted by Crawford to discuss local issues in Pittsburgh; and That Broadcast, a show dedicated to art and activism on a once-a-month basis.
Still, with a venue like Mr. Smalls welcoming them in with open arms when hard times hit, bands flocking to the radio station in an impressive growth rate and multiple tangential channels arising, the question begs, why do they continue to grow?
What drew in these bands was as Joey Solak, drummer for the metal band Greywalker says, “We knew he [Crawford] had a lot of enthusiasm and energy for local music.”
This passion for the Pittsburgh community can be seen most readily with The River’s Edge Pod Con event for the upcoming International Podcast Day on Sept. 30.
The station has participated in a Pod Crawl in 2016 and a Pod Party in 2017, but 2018 marks the first year that they will participate as a co-host in a Pod Con with The International Podcast Day organization.
“Last year was infinitely better than the first year,” Kremer said. “This year we’re very excited about making it a bigger deal.”
The idea behind the Pod Con is that Podcasters from the greater Pittsburgh area will come together and hopefully form tighter bonds in a community that has seen “growth” every year for the past two decades.
“One [goal of Pod Con] is you’ll bring a bunch of different podcasters together, and they’ll all get to meet one another which is always great to have that network,” Crawford said. “The idea is that I got my fanbase, this podcast has their fan base maybe they can start to cross-pollinate, and everybody can get more listeners.”
What makes the event more significant is the tie it has to International Podcast Day, an internet gathering dedicated to “…the power of podcasts!” as The International Podcast Day site says. Through this involvement, Pittsburgh will be taking part in an event including such countries as South Africa, India and Ireland.
The Pod Con will have a one-hour live discussion panel that will be featured on The International Podcast Day’s website.
For interested podcast hosts wishing to take part in the Pod Con festivities, The River’s Edge has an online form that is available for a chance at being spotlighted at the event.
However, for non-podcasters just interested in diversifying their listening with some local flavor, check out The River’s Edge website to find their shows, featured artists and radio stations: