Will This Float? winner Undaground prepares its beta launch
Chattanooga is just about to get a new radio station. Right after winning last December’s Will This Float? pitch competition, Undaground cofounders Dave Castaneda (technical director), Cole Sweeton (creative director) and Ben Park (programming director) started working out of CO.LAB to make their business pitch a reality.
Now they’re set to launch a Kickstarter campaign by the end of January, go live with the beta version of their streaming radio app 30 days later, and roll out the full service some time in 2016.
“Undaground will be a 24/7 curated application with content created and produced by local artists, entertainers and tastemakers ranging from music to culture, comedy and news,” says Sweeton.
“Support for this has already been unexpectedly huge, overwhelming,” says Park. “Our timeline is getting crunched. What should be a month has to get done in, like, three days. CO.LAB has been great. This could not be happening if we weren’t here.”
Six weeks ago at Will This Float?, the partners had verbal commitments from 22 potential content providers, including business sponsors. Now that number has grown to 50, which sounds like a pretty good start on the other side of Undaground: a network that begins in Chattanooga and eventually goes national.
“What we’re going for is a cultural outlet for Chattanooga and for the Southeast,” says Sweeton. “Eventually, I plan to take this network that we build among these local music stations in the Southeast and spread it all the way across the country.”
Plans call filling many more programming blocks than existing online radio stations with a wide variety of local content. Shows could be created by DJs, by artists that want to share their story or by sponsors who want to promote themselves by sharing the music that inspires them.
“Comfort skate shop is doing a history of skate music starting in the 70s,” says Park. “Kenny Burnap of the Shaking Ray Levi Society is interested in doing a history of indie music throughout the southeast, talking about those super small pockets that he was a part of.”
Ryan Darling is talking about doing a comedy show, while The Bitter Alibi is talking about a cooking show. “We don’t want to just have local bands that are really popular,” adds Sweeton. “We want to do something like dive into the Brainerd hip hop scene or maybe go to the Tivoli and talk to the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera about a show.”
“We’ve got 118 one-hour blocks per week that we could possibly fill,” says Park. “Most people would say you’re never going to fill all those with original content every day. But even if it was half that amount, that doubles or triples what any other station like this is doing. When you have that many collaborators you’re representing the arts scene of an entire city.”
Initially, most revenue will be from ads, but eventually, the partners see the business model expanding to include producing events.
“What’s essential for the business model to work is having the streaming services curated by a community,” says Sweeton. “In doing so, we will inevitably create a larger and more tight-knit community of artists and culture creators. So then when we go to a new city, it’s sort of a residual effect that we will have created this network from one city to another. That doesn’t make us an agency, but part of our plan is to produce live events with musicians and bands.”
The upcoming Kickstarter campaign will have a modest financial target, because the partners are doing so much of the work to launch the beta, rather than hiring it out.
“We need the Kickstarter to build the community,” says Sweeton. “If people invest in it, then they become part of it. If 2,500 people donated a dollar, we’d consider it more of a success than if one person came in and donated $5,000.”
For more information about Undaground, visit undaground.co.
Rich Bailey is a professional writer, editor and (sometimes) PR consultant. He led a project to create Chattanooga’s first civic website in 1995 before even owning a modem. Now he covers Chattanooga technology for The Pulse and blogs about it at CircleChattanooga.com