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Radio Is Not Dead celebrates music, art, and audio community

Courtesy photo

When Sandcastle Radiofirst launched in November 2022, co-owners Deborah Bassett and Pete Perez wanted to create a space that would support musicians on the local and global level.

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Bassett, a former journalist and research scientist, and Perez, a longtime DJ from New York City, craved connection after the first few years of COVID quarantines and isolation.

“We chose to do this through the healing and connecting power of live radio,” said Bassett.

Sandcastle Radio is a commercial-free digital radio station available via web stream and the Sandcastle Radio app. At its start, the station had nine shows and a handful of hosts. Today, the station boasts 24 live shows and 17 hosts from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, U.S., as well as Pensacola. The station is funded by listeners through Patreon.

“There is no such thing as free air time,” Bassett said with a laugh. “People can subscribe to the station through Patreon with subscriptions starting at $2 a month. We pay our DJs and hosts, and we pay for the music we play.”

Bassett and Perez connect with the community offline, too, hosting dance parties around the Pensacola area. This weekend, they’re hosting a four-day event called Radio Is Not Dead with a schedule of events that begins with WUWF’s RadioLiveon Thursday evening and ends with a gospel brunch on Sunday.

Pete Perez talks about Sandcastle Radio on Acoustic Interlude
Pete Perez talks about Radio Is Not Dead on Acoustic Interlude featuring Tanya Gallagher and Billy Howell.

“Most of our (hosts) are flying in from the United Kingdom and parts of the U.S. to join in,” said Bassett.

The public is invited to live radio shows that will be hosted throughout Pensacola including a show at The Atrium in DeVilliers Square with an all-day lineup of shows including a nighttime salsa party, The Gordon Community Art Center with poet Marc Woodward and Pensacola poets, and Five Sisters Blues Café for the gospel brunch.

“We realized we could do this from anywhere,” said Bassett. “This was an opportunity to enjoy live radio and venues in the community.”

With so much discourse about the future of Artificial Intelligence, and how it’s already being used, Bassett said she wanted to showcase the difference radio makes with a human behind the mic.

According to the PEW Research Center, 80% of Americans listen to terrestrial radio. In 2019, it was 89% but has been stable in recent years. Online radio, however, has had a major increase in audience over the past decade.

Bassett doesn’t see competition when it comes to local radio stations and programs. She embraces them. During the Radio Is Not Dead weekend, she’ll have longtime radio personality Sonshine as her guest on her show “The Secret Place” live at The Atrium Saturday afternoon.

“There’s strength in diversity,” she said.

“I don’t think radio is going anywhere,” she added. “It provides the opportunity for art in all of its beautiful forms. We can dictate the path forward for our community.”

For a list of events during the Radio Is Not Dead celebration, visit facebook.com/sandcastleradio.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.