Radio has had an uneasy relationship with new and multimedia technology over the last 10 years. The World Wide Web offers emerging and established broadcasters alike access to wider audiences beyond FM and even DAB but there are few in both broadcasting and internet development taking full advantage. One person who is looking to push the venerable medium further is James Mulvany, whose new company, Radio.co, is offering full automation and storage in the cloud.
Since launching in July this year, Radio.co claims 915 streams and 35 million hours being listened to on the platform as of October. At the age of 28 Mulvany is an established high-tech entrepreneur and set up his first company, Igniso, in 2005. There is the perception that young people have no interest in radio, but for Mulvany (pictured), both then and now, it still has a future and possibilities for success.
“Far from killing off radio, the internet has in fact made it stronger than it has ever been,” he says. “Research proves that people are increasingly turning away from on-demand music and content and back to live because, in our busy lives, we tend to trust our favourite DJs and presenters to select or ‘curate’ for us rather than always having to search for ourselves.”
Radio.co is described as a “live streaming platform that allows anyone to build an online radio station and broadcast globally”. Among the early testers and adopters of the system is Sunset Radio, based in Manchester, as is Igniso and Radio.co. Another recent user was pop-up station Radio Everyone, part of writer–director Richard Curtis’s Global Goals sustainable development venture. The system is aimed at a variety of radio operators, from conventional broadcasters to hobbyists.
Mulvany’s new platform is a move on from Igniso’s first product, Wavestreaming. While he says this “wasn’t particularly innovative”, it did provide the means for early internet broadcasters to get on air and reach an audience, with tools including Shoutcast and Cloud DJ. “But there was more demand for something user-friendly instead of a lot of different services plugged together,” he explains. “I thought I could streamline the experience.”
The Radio.co package includes automation but also with live broadcast capability, with presenters able to cut into the stream from wherever they are in the world. Other features include analytics, online station management, a customisable web player, an optimised stream for mobile reception and integration with social media.
“The tools and players are all built within the system so there is no coding knowledge needed,” Mulvany comments. “For more advanced users there is an API and a player kit, which allows them to go deeper into the web experience.”
Mulvany acknowledges that he was “lucky” already having a successful company running to launch his latest venture. This allowed him to self-fund Radio.co and remain debt-free. His first start-up, Igniso, began to take root while he was studying interactive and multimedia design (“A posh term for web design”) at the University of Huddersfield.
(Pictured is Aaron Corkin, Radio.co operations manager, and Mike Cunsolo, marketing manager, at its Manchester HQ.)
“I was very young at the start, 17 or 18,” he says. “I got things going by bootstrapping, although it wasn’t called that back then. I didn’t have a lot of outgoings and fell into doing this by accident while I was at sixth form. I wanted to go into radio but didn’t want to be a DJ. I got experience working at different stations and saw the demand, which led to starting a website that grew over time at university.”
Although he “umm-ed and ahh-ed” about going to university, Mulvany, originally from Guildford in Surrey, is glad he did because he ended up working in a shared office, which he describes as an “incubator” and that allowed him to gain life skills and see what other people were doing. After graduating he moved to Manchester, which is now a major media hub in the UK.
While others might see online video and multimedia as the growing areas, Mulvany still views radio as “exciting”, with modern technology bringing both new talent and a wider audience: “There is a push to get stations on to digital radio but there are also lots of people listening on their phones.”