Q&A with Eighteenth Street Lounge Radio: The “ESL Sound”

The Eighteenth Street Lounge made a name for itself bringing in and supporting electronic music in the District. In April they released ESL radio, a streaming web radio station aimed at broadening and democratizing the Eighteenth Street Lounge experience.  Listen Local First’s Matthew Nahmias held this Q & A with ESL Radio founder Rob Connelly to learn more about the stream and to see what they have planned for the future. 

Listen Local First: Right now you have six regularly scheduled shows, but ESL radio is available 24/7. What are we listening to when one of those shows isn’t streaming?

ESL Radio: Similar to most commercial radio stations, ESL Radio has a “format.” Ours is made up of the “ESL Sound,” combining electronic, dub, afro, funk, world, reggae, and trip hop sounds into a blend of programming designed to send listeners into a mild state of euphoria. The programming also features the specialty shows that you refer to. These shows are consistent with the programming of ESL Radio in general.

Is the focus more on streaming performances at Eighteenth Street Lounge live, or is it on giving ESL label artists an outlet to share the music they listen to through their own shows?

Both. Live performances of the DJ sets at the Eighteenth Street Lounge make up the bulk of our “Live from the Lounge” schedule. Think of this as a normal rock station that plays a blend of rock music all day, and then takes listeners “live” in venue for Live from the Lounge as a specialty feature. Of course the core of the program is heavily dosed with ESL artists and other similar artists and friends who’ve created in the ESL sound over the years.

Do you have plans to expand the line-up?

Yes, of course! Radio is a moving, changing, and evolving medium, and as opportunities arise we will use them to create new programming and new ways to collect that programming to deliver the freshest, most unique product on the radio or online. ESL Radio is broadcasting the upcoming DJ set from Ravin for example live at Buddha Bar on Thursday May 10. ESL Radio will also broadcast the full day stage at the Electric Forest Festival in late June.

Are you restricting shows to ESL label artists, or are you interested in adding shows by DJs you like that aren’t on the label?

Everyone is included, so long as the music matches the format and the artist has a unique style. Ravin, for example, does his own stuff like the Buddha Bar compilations.

Have you been tracking listeners so far?

Yes. Statistics are not the best in terms of a really reliable system, but we do get a snapshot and over time that snapshot becomes more of a picture and so on. ESL Radio kicked off April 13-15, and the stats over that weekend showed over 2600 people tuned in in 65 countries. Approximately 2/3 of them were from the DC metro area. For comparison, CNN has 357,000 viewers on a given night. The numbers of listeners and where they are from will become clearer over the coming months.

What is your intended audience?

As with anything, pretty much everyone. Obviously the ESL Brand, style and lifestyle guides our marketing and defines our audience. For the most part, they are upscale, progressive, conscientious stewards of our planet as well as educated consumers of righteous music.

One of your shows, “The Gourmet Lounge,” is billed as a musical cooking show. What was  the inspiration for a radio cooking show, and how do you plan to keep the show engaging without a video element?

ESL Radio extends beyond its music with promotional elements designed to accommodate the lifestyle of its audience. Cooking, food, wine and entertainment is certainly in the wheelhouse. The Gourmet Lounge each week gives a local chef the opportunity to cook, instruct, promote and show the tips and tricks of the pros. A show can actually be more engaging without the video element, as radio has long proven over the years. The mind and imagination of the audience is more powerful, and the relaxed atmosphere of an instructional dinner party on the radio with musical interludes is really quite unique. The show will feature downloadable recipes from the website where listeners can actually create the dishes of their favorite restaurants.

ESL hosts the DC Flag Day concert series and celebrations starting at 8 pm this Thursday, June 14.


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