Ho`olohe Hou Radio. A 24 hour-a-day Internet radio station featuring the 100-year history of Hawaiian music and the entertainment industry in Hawai`i
About The Creator
When people ask how long I have been involved in Hawaiian music, I tell them, “Likely since I was in utero.” For years before I was born, my mother and father led a music and dance troupe on the East Coast which performed solely Hawaiian music and hula. Hawaiian music – if not Hawaiian lineage – was in my blood.
I first stepped on stage with an `ukulele before I was three-years-old. By my teens my obsession became slack key guitar. By my twenties, I was focused on the steel guitar. But my first love has always been the Hawaiian song – the beauty of the Hawaiian language and the way the haku mele (or Hawaiian composer) weaves together words like so many flowers into a precious lei. I learned to sing more than a thousand Hawaiian songs, and I specialized in the art of Hawaiian falsetto singing – eventually taking first prize in both singing and Hawaiian language at the 2005 Aloha Festivals Falsetto Contest on O`ahu.
Today, I perform Hawaiian music up and down the East Coast and occasionally by invitation in Hawai`i. In my spare time, I am the Director of New Product Development for the world’s leading educational research organization. So I understand what “innovation” means and what it takes to bring a new product or service to market.
Why Ho`olohe Hou Radio? Why now?
I love all kinds of Hawaiian music. But the history of Hawaiian music radio – which over the last three decades has largely been a corporate endeavor – dictates that stations play only music from a specific era or only the current hits. For these corporate stations, vintage Hawaiian music merits only an hour per week (or less) of airtime. Even those stations which claim to play classic Hawaiian music more often only play those recordings which remain available on CD or MP3. There is a vast world of Hawaiian music that is no longer commercially available and hasn’t been in decades.
Courtesy of exposure in social media, the Ho`olohe Hou blog simply exploded last year. I published more than 750 pages of information on Hawaiian music artists and composers, and readers responded by clicking on the links that appealed to them. This served as an important form of market research. The more clicks an artist received, the clearer it became that the Hawaiian music-loving world longed to hear those artists again. Interestingly, many of the artists with the widest appeal on my blog also happen to be artists for whom few or no recordings have been made available in the digital era. Take, for example, Haunani Kahalewai – once considered one of Hawai`i’s most recognizable voices around the world courtesy of the weeklyHawaii Calls radio broadcasts. Although Haunani recorded a half-dozen full length LPs for the Capitol and Decca labels, was featured on a third of the nearly 30 total Hawaii Calls LPs on Capitol, and recorded a dozen 45 rpm singles for the Waikiki Records label, only four of Haunani’s songs are available on CD or MP3. The same is true of such venerable acts as Emma Veary, Pua Almeida, Boyce Rodrigues, Alfred Apaka, Sonny Kamahele, Buddy Fo, Sam Kapu, Andy Cummings, Sterling Mossman, George Kainapau, Charles K.L. Davis, Danny Kua`ana, Lena Machado, Kekua Fernandez, Myra English, Lani Kai, Ed Kenney, Nalani Olds Reinhardt, Poncie Ponce, Nina Keali`iwahamana, The Aliis, Pauline Kekahuna, Rodney Arias, The Hilo Hawaiians, Ray Andrade, Ilima Baker, The Surfers, Hilo Hattie, Tony Lindsey, and countless scores of others.
But what really predicated the need for a new and different kind of 24/7 Hawaiian music radio station was the discovery last year that Hawaiian music lovers outside of Hawai`i must now pay for the privilege of listening to the few tired corporate-run radio stations in Hawai`i. Because I sit here amidst these vast archives of Hawaiian music greatness, usually whenever I want to enjoy Hawaiian music, I just turn in any direction and trip over a fantastic recording. But one day last summer after returning from Hawai`i and longing for some “local color” and sitting on my patio out of reach of my collection, I decided to dial up my favorite of the corporate radio stations from Hawai`i via the Internet. I was presented with two links:
- Listen Live
- Listen Outside of Hawai`i
Clicking on the latter link I was startled to discover that those listening outside of Hawai`i must now pay $3.49 / month – or $42 / year – to listen to that station. So I moved along to my second favorite station only to discover the same thing: Non-Hawai`i residents were made to pay $5.00 / month – or $60 / year – to listen to that station. And I thought… $42 a year? $60 a year? For what? 15 minutes an hour of commercials, 20 minutes an hour of news, weather, and DJ gab, and less than a half-hour of music (and most of that the same as the day before).
Not being bashful, I inquired with one of the stations as to these fees, and the explanation is most reasonable: The royalties that traditional radio stations pay only cover listeners within their local listening area. The internet era has made it more expensive for a traditional radio station to do business because they need to pay royalties twice – once for their local airplay, and again for their Internet stream. Because of this, some stations have shut down their Internet stream altogether. Those that have kept their stream must charge listeners to keep that stream viable.
The difference between these stations and Ho`olohe Hou Radio is that these corporations must charge in order to maintain their desired profit margin. I, for one, do not think it appropriate to profit from a culture that does not belong to me. One of the goals of Ho`olohe Hou Radio is to give back to the Hawaiian people the forgotten songs and artists of Hawai`i. While not chartered as a not-for-profit, Ho`olohe Hou Radio merely aims to cover its expenses.
Why should you pay for radio with commercials? Don’t the commercials pay for everything?
For traditional corporate radio stations, commercials are the primary (and often sole) source of revenue. That’s why there are so many commercials per hour. But not for Live365, the hosting service for Ho`olohe Hou Radio. The commercials are aimed at generating the revenue needed to pay royalties to artists and composers. But the rest of the operating expenses – what we would call in the corporate world overhead (electricity, servers, routers, webpages, design and creation of apps) – are covered by subscribers – those individuals like me who desire to host a radio station. The fees can be as inexpensive as $4 / month, but that sort of subscription is limited to five (5) concurrent listeners. When the sixth listeners clicks on the station, then, they receive a message that the station is “full” and to “try again later.” For $39 / month, a subscription will support an unlimited number of listeners but only for a 1,000 total hours. So if a mere 25 listeners were to tune in for only 40 hours – or one work week – the total hours would be exhausted and the station would not be available for the remaining three weeks of the month. This is like putting a parking meter on radio.
For these reasons, I selected Live365’s most robust professional broadcasting package. For $199 / month, the station can support up to 5,000 listener hours. If the station exceeds this (and I hope it will), additional hours will be available at an expense to the broadcaster of $0.05 / hour. This means that Ho`olohe Hou Radio will support an unlimited number of listeners for as long as they wish to listen without ever being rebuffed by a “try again later” message.
But, with the aim of hosting the most unique Hawaiian music radio station in history, I went a step further. The $199 / month professional package only boasts 8GB of storage at the highest available bitrate quality (128kbps). I did some math… At that bitrate, the station would only hold approximately 2,664 songs. This might be a huge collection to many of you, but it would only represent 10% of my vast archives of more than 25,000 Hawaiian recordings. I worked with my Live365 account manager to acquire double the storage space – 16GB – to double the size of the Ho`olohe Hou Radio library to more than 5,000 songs. But each additional 1GB will cost the station $20 / month – or an additional $160 / month – bringing the total Live365 expenditure to $359 / month – or $4,320 / year. This is the basis of my humble fundraising request. The rest of the funds will be used for incidental expenses needed right here in the Ho`olohe Hou Radiostudios (electricity, additional Internet bandwidth to update the Live365 library, hard drives to continuously back-up the collection). There is a stretch goal to attain additional resources such as additional Live365 storage space and hardware and software to make the remastering process more efficient. I’ll tell you more about the stretch goal when we reach our primary funding goal.
I asked myself – long and hard – if anyone would pay for radio. The truth is we already do. 3.3 million listeners are paying $4.99 / month for access to Pandora. More than 15 million of us are paying $9.99 / month for Spotify, Google Radio, Rhapsody, and Rdio. And millions more are paying between $9.99 / month and $18.99 for Sirius/XM (a provider which has long ignored a petition signed by thousands demanding that these services begin offering a Hawaiian music station).
The key is striking a balance between commercials and listener-funding. The question in my mind was not whether or not listeners would pay for radio with commercials. The question really was how many commercials are tolerable? Ho`olohe Hou Radio via Live365 only airs five minutes of commercials per hour – or less than 10% of the airtime. Are you willing to fund the other 90%? Is five minutes of commercials really so terrible? Are Hawaiian music lovers different from the rest of the listener universe in that they actually care that Hawaiian artists and composers get paid? We are about to find out in this grand experiment.
Of course, if you find any commercials at all that offensive, see the list of premiums Ho`olohe Hou Radio is offering – which include both 6-month and 12-month commercial-free listening packages and still for less than the price of any of the other services listed above.
But, most importantly, none of the services above boast the Hawaiian music library thatHo`olohe Hou Radio will offer – because all of the services above only spin recordings that have been made available in the digital era, while much of the Ho`olohe Hou Radio library will come from long out of print recordings.
What does it mean to be “out of print?” What is “remastering?”
In the collectors’ world, “out of print” means “no longer commercially available.” But it is a term that is largely misunderstood. In the non-collectors’ world, it is often assumed that anything worth listening to has been re-released in the digital era in CD or MP3 format, and many of us were encouraged to throw away our vinyl recordings and cassettes because there would someday no longer even be any equipment to play them. Conversely it is often assumed that anything that remains out of print must be from eons ago and the master tapes cannot be found.
Both of these assumptions are false.
Some of the most historically and culturally important recordings in the history of Hawaiian music remain out of print. You cannot obtain, for example, any of Lena Machado’s recordings from the 1930s with Dick McIntire, George Kainapau’s early recordings with bandleader Ray Kinney, or any of Pua Almeida’s recordings on Waikiki Records from the 1950s and 60s. But, for many, the importance of these recordings in the evolution of Hawaiian music is secondary to the reality that they are simply beautiful examples of Hawaiian music – many possibly lost forever except for those few copies in private collections.
But not all out of print recordings are quite so old. There are fabulous recordings from the digital era – as recently as the 80s and 90s – no longer available. This is not because the master tapes are missing. The reason is largely financial. Many musicians do not own their own master tapes. This is why you have not seen re-releases of important recordings by Sam Bernard or Tony Conjugacion. And the owners of the masters have little or nothing to gain financially by remastering and re-releasing them. While it may cost upwards of $25,000 to properly remaster a recording, the recording might only generate $10,000 in sales – a losing proposition (to say the least).
“Remastering” means something different if you have the master tape than if you don’t. Remastering is easier if you have the master tape. For Ho`olohe Hou Radio, the remastering process is a little more difficult. I will be working largely from recordings that have seen the ravages of time and the carelessness of their previous owners. For starters, the biggest offender in record noise is dirt. Records need to be cleaned, and this is a painstaking and time-consuming process. Next, not all styli (or, for the layperson, record needles) are built alike. If the previous owner of a record wore it down with a conical stylus, then an elliptical stylus might track the groove better. If it was worn down with an elliptical stylus, a hyperelliptical stylus might be in order. Did you know that the grooves on a 45rpm record are wider than on an LP record – necessitating a different kind of stylus altogether? And did you know that records pre-dating the stereo era (before 1959) require a different kind of stylus than later stereo records? Matching the record with the appropriate stylus is also time-consuming and is a process of trial and error. Then the record must be transferred to computer and any remaining noise painstakingly removed – one click or pop at a time – using digital tools. And all of this must be done without making the vintage recording sound like some digital remnant of its original beauty. In other words, all of this processing cannot be overdone lest the remastering work become quite noticeable to the listener. A single 40-minute LP record can take up to 10 hours to remaster. Now multiply this by thousands of LPs, 45s, and 78s. I do not require to be compensated for this work. I consider it a labor of love. But each different stylus can cost a minimum of $150. A modest automatic record cleaning machine can cost at least $750. Ho`olohe Hou Radio would be honored if the materials in the remastering process were listener-supported. If Ho`olohe Hou Radio reaches its primary funding goal, a stretch goal will be initiated to attempt to fund the materials used in the remastering process.
Ho`olohe Hou Radio’s Mission
To fully understand the mission of this project, I encourage you to watch the short video above. But at the heart of it is innovation. I didn’t invent radio, and I surely didn’t invent Hawaiian music. But I see an opportunity to put the two together in a manner that has never been attempted before. I call it “Hawaiian Music Edutainment.” Instead of spending so much airtime on commercials, a few minutes each hour on Ho`olohe Hou Radio will be dedicated to educational programming which will help the listener understand the historic and cultural importance of the songs and artists they hear on this unique station. Some of the proposed educational segments include:
- This Day in Hawaiian Music History – Brief remembrances of historically significant events sessions, concerts/festivals, births/passings in Hawaiian music
- Insights and Influences – A look at influential or controversial artists in Hawaiian music and the sources of their new and exciting ideas
- Mele Minute – An examination of the unique Hawaiian poetic style that is the heart of Hawaiian music
- In Their Own Words – Excerpts from interviews with legendary performers – many no longer with us
- Inside the Grooves – Little known facts about some of your favorite Hawaiian recordings and artists
- Then and Again – A look at the same song recorded at two (or more) different points in time in order to examine the evolution of Hawaiian music
- Tricks of the Trade – A brief examination of the essential techniques performers utilize which comprise the unique Hawaiian music idiom
- Islands After Dark – An homage to the 1960s radio program Waikiki After Dark in which a different artist is featured in a performance captured live at a venue on O`ahu, Maui, or Kaua`i
Also planned are monthly shows focused on each of the unique Hawaiian music traditions such as the `ukulele, the slack key guitar, the steel guitar, and falsetto singing. And contests! Tune in every day for the opportunity to earn back your pledge to Ho`olohe Hou Radio.
Finally, Ho`olohe Hou Radio is about memories. Because Hawaiian music is about memories. I am eager to forge an on-going relationship with my listeners and hear the stories of that romance that was sparked when you first heard a song, the venues where you used to spend Saturday nights where these artists performed but which have since seen the fate of the wrecking ball, or that lucky day when you had the rare opportunity to meet your Hawaiian music hero.
What are you waiting for? Listen now! Pledge soon!
Because most of my time is spent at my day job in product development, I understand how important it is to be able to see, touch, or – in this case – hear a product before you invest in it. For this reason, there is already a working prototype of Ho`olohe Hou Radio ready for your preview on Live365. Try before you buy, I say. More than 500 hours of labor went into the prototype – most of it spent on remastering the more than 2,000 songs already in circulation and tagging each one to ensure that each of the artists and composers is compensated accordingly. Listen to Ho`olohe Hou Radio free for the duration of this Kickstarter campaign. If you don’t think that you will be a regular listener, then you need do nothing. But if you discover that once you’ve turned on Ho`olohe Hou Radio you can’t turn it off, then I would humbly ask you to consider your pledge of support. For as little as $2 / month – or less than the price of one venti-sized cup of your favorite specialty coffee – you can support one listener for 40 hours a month – nearly 500 hours a year. If you think you are likely to listen more frequently than that, perhaps you would consider a more substantial pledge and one of the intriguing premiums up for offer. Of course, if we don’t reach our goal by the end of this campaign, Ho`olohe Hou Radiogoes silent…
Mahalo for your interest in this unique endeavor in Hawaiian music edutainment. It is my sincere hope that you believe in this project and that you join the Ho`olohe Hou Radio family of listeners and supporters.
Me ka mahalo,