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SACLIVE: Sacramento's First Internet Radio Station
by Alex Cosper

Take a virtual tour of Sacramento at SacTV.com

see also Sacramento Music and a brief history of the local scene.

It was at the height of the dotcom boom - but it was never meant to cash in. It was simply a service for people I cared about: the musicians of Sacramento, CA. I had become familiar with many locals bands from my experience as Program Director and Air Personality at alternative FM station KWOD, where I created a local music show and even played a lot of local music in regular rotation. With the signings and national successes of Cake, Oleander and Deftones, Sacramento was finally getting attention from the music industry. So together with business partner George Grady, we created Sacramento's first 24 hour streaming internet radio station, SacLive. The format was all local music all the time.

The original website in 1999 was called "Sacramento Music Scene." The site featured links to hundreds of local artists and their discographies. By the summer we decided we wanted to take the music live to the world. Internet radio was still pretty new. Most users still associated internet music with downloading songs for free from Napster or some other on-demand service. The idea of live streaming internet radio had been around as early as the mid-nineties, but audio quality was spotty even with the best internet connections and the best computers.

By 1999 we discovered it was indeed possible to stream CD quality music over the internet without buffering interruptions. Using Windows NT server and its multicasting capabilities, we were able to launch the station in June 1999. We also purchased broadcast automation software similar to what terrestrial stations used, which was the key to our 24 hour continuous programming. If I had to do it all over again - considering all the technological breakdowns - I would start with a Mac.

Our first promotion was a slide of the "Sacramento Music Scene" logo on movie screens in a Century Theatre during the run of the latest Star Wars movie Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The ad got the attention of a TV news producer from KCRA Channel 3, Sacramento's most watched television station. He interviewed me for a feature story. It was that broadcast that propelled our weekly visitor count to jump from the hundreds to the thousands. Then KOVR (Channel 10) did a news story on us soon after.

In October 1999 we made the cover of California Computer News, a free publication at supermarkets throughout Northern California. The Sacramento Bee, the city's only daily newspaper, also became interested and entered a promotion partnership with us in April 2000. We were a top link on their sister Sacramento.com site.

By that time we came up with "SacLive" as the name of the radio stream and began to focus on SacLive.com as the primary domain. We moved our studios from Downtown on K Street to the Arden/160 area at a place called "Studio Center," a full-service media production facility where they made television commercials and other high end video production. At that point we started doing live shows that featured local personalities and live performances. Every night we had a local personality host a local music show for a few hours and then we'd flip the station back to automation. Those live hosts included Kevin Seconds, Amp Gouvea, Vyan Walton, Warren Bishop and me. Froggy from KDVS showed up for a gig in the beginning. We also had other hosts and lots of different bands visiting the broadcast.

SacLive continued to have a growing following throughout 2000. Then that summer I had a job offer to go to Los Angeles and write full-time for a radio industry magazine, VirtuallyAlternative. I had written for them as a freelance writer since 1997 about the state of the radio industry. My partner George also had other business to attend to, so we pulled the site down until further notice. The site made money but was not making a profit. Even so, for one year it was something the local music community could feel good about - that someone wanted to hear and even help elevate their music.

Our only public appearance was at the Grand Opening of Guitar Center on Alta Arden in which a handful of SacLive personalities got together and played local music on a sound system under a big SacLive banner. It was actually the third day of the grand opening. We were not allowed to be present on the first day because one of the FM stations had reserved that day for their promotion and they considered us "competition." We were flattered that they thought of us that way.

Unfortunately, the L.A. job never materialized, as I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and got back into my mobile sound business. Later that year dot coms began to go bust. But George and I never said we would completely discontinue SacLive. The fact that it went away while it was ahead of its time does not mean that it is gone forever. Some day it may return in an even bigger, more exciting way.

© 2004-2009 Alex Cosper. All Rights Reserved.