When he went to Stockholm in the 1990s, then-New Yorker Thomas McAlevey founded Bandit Radio, a Swedish rock station.
He sold Bandit – so named because McAlevey’s then-wife called him a “one-armed bandit” after he lost his left arm in a motorcycle accident. He then spent years traveling across Africa. But he never forgot his love of terrestrial radio.
So after settling in Los Angeles, in 2010, he started Radical.FM Inc., a music-streaming service that lets people be their own DJs and create personalized music sets. The Venice company launched its app last month, bringing its catalog of 25 million songs to mobile phones.
Radical.FM might be small compared with music-streaming juggernauts Pandora and Spotify, but McAlevey is counting on his customization tools to get noticed.
“I come from broadcast radio, while my competitors come from music and tech,” he said. “That’s why Radical is quite different from other services. I realized that if I gave the tools to each person that my music programmers had at Bandit Radio, they could, in fact, program the best station in the world.”
Instead of mimicking other streaming services and selling advertising for the free app or charging for an ad-free version, Radical is following the NPR model and asking for listener donations.
McAlevey said some early users have already chipped in, though it’s too early to determine if the app will be a moneymaker. Until the business becomes profitable, the company is relying on seed funding raised through McAlevey’s Swedish radio connections to pay royalties to record labels, artists and composers.
“My goal is to keep this free and user supported,” he said.
– Natalie Jarvey
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