The Top 10 Independent Radio Stations In NYC
The last decade has seen the development of multiple unique, independent radio stations popping up in New York City. Here are our top 10.
New York City has always been known as the self-made city; and the pioneers of these independent radio stations are no exception.
Providing platforms for independent artists of all genres, from across the city, these stations are both big and small, crucially giving artists of all levels access to the airwaves – the well-seasoned vets and the newcomers alike.
These NYC stations curate for the masses and most, if not all, operate right from the heart of your various neighborhoods.
One of the pioneers of free-form radio is WFMU ('free-form radio' means that the station allows DJs and hosts total creative freedom over their shows).
Although WFMU technically operates out of Jersey City, NJ, the station broadcasts across the Hudson River to New York City, Rockland County, Hudson Valley, Lower Catskills, Western New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania and Mount Hope, NY.
Broadcasting on the airwaves, as well as maintaining an extensive online presence, WFMU’s programming encompasses a range of sounds:
“Flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as country and western music.”
Their goals and distinguishable traits revolve around experimentation; allowing their free-form programming to be a solid place for independent artists to send their music in.
Newtown began in 2009 and is now based out of a community space in Bushwick.
As well as housing Newtown radio, the Bushwick location provides a free-form space for artists, radio hosts, musicians and DJs of every genre.
The site's project space for visual artists hosts openings every first Friday of the month, and becomes a backdrop for live sessions on many evenings in between.
If you want to play or have your music played on Newtown Radio, get in touch. Anyone can apply for their own show and/or submit their own music through their website.
3. Rise Radio
Nestled in Williamsburg is Rise Radio Cafe. Rise serves as not only a broadcast station within the cafe, but as a community space for events and live DJ sets.
Rise has a consistent programming geared to highlight local talents, specifically in the DJ scene offering several open decks events.
Whether you’re in the neighborhood or making the trip, the folks at Rise Radio are crucial to meet and connect with, especially as an independent artist within the city.
Operating out of a shipping container in an empty lot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is The Lot Radio.
The Lot serves as an online radio station, streaming 24/7. Their website and online set up is reminiscent of a Boiler Room camera setup while the busy, sticker-filled room adds to the aesthetic of the show.
The Lot has already grown to be one of the most innovative and busy stations in NYC, despite only starting in 2016. The Lot team also host weekly concerts at the church across the street from the station, and promote exciting live events around the city.
HalfMoonBK exists as an independent music and media company that covers and reinforces emerging culture around the world through radio, events, editorial, and educational workshops, from their headquarters in New York City and Los Angeles.
Although the collective mainly hosts events dedicated to the house music scene, their collective tagline reads “ears to the concrete,” and their music programming reigns true to it.
Radio Free Brooklyn is a nonprofit and non-commercial community internet station founded back in 2015, and their values haven't changed, placing a huge emphasis on local issues:
“Local music, local politics, LGBT rights, gentrification, gender issues, food, and more.”
Highlighting original content made by Brooklyn and NYC natives, RBF differs in that it encourages “live” interactions with music rather than focusing on podcasts.
Starting from a basement of a Bushwick bike shop with 17 shows, RBF now has over 120 members and over 75 shows; allowing them to stream 24/7 from an upgraded studio over in Williamsburg.
On the more underground side of online radio is Radio Bonita. Affiliated with the youth organization, Brujas, Radio Bonita is your:
“Go-to source for music and politics from the streets.”
Highlighting Latin American artists and DJs, Radio Bonita was founded in NYC and now also has satellite over in Mexico City. Their goal as a station is to transcend borders and remind the public that we are ungovernable.
Radio Bonita differs from the other stations in its grassroots and revolutionary goal and platform; rooting its foundation in activism.
Playground Radio exists in the Playground Coffee Shop over on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.
The shop itself contains a bookstore prioritizing works written by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Brown, AAPI, Queer and Trans authors, a restaurant, Playground Youth (a community-based organization providing accessible programs and events), and Playground Radio.
Playground Radio is their online open-access platform where they aim to create and share space for musical artists within the community. Emphasizing their collaborative community, Playground Radio is the perfect spot for artists looking to expand their own sense of community within the city.
Established in 2015 and having streamed from a shipping container, a Brooklyn pizza shop window and a “sexy 70’s RV,” comes KPISS.
Being the first and only internet radio station supporting artists directly via Bandcamp, KPISS is truly for the people.
Every show on their site is categorized not only by genre but other categories such as “Call In” and “Anything else I feel like playing;” visually showing listeners the vast range of the running shows on KPISS.
The station and site are huge on the “community feel,” always looking for creative participation and getting folks to volunteer with editing podcasts, filling guest slots and more.
Operating out of Roberta’s Pizza, in a makeshift studio inside two shipping containers, is Heritage Radio Network.
The 24-hour, 7 days-a-week online station is a nonprofit media outlet that focuses on educational storytelling about food in attempts to build a more “equitable, resilient food system.”
HRN has produced 84 podcast series (and counting) along with providing a 6-month internship program to college students about podcast production. HRN also hosts worldwide events geared toward their goal of food awareness and education. Listeners are encouraged to donate or even underwrite for HRN’s shows, allowing for their services to continue on.