Digital Underground: CHIRP Radio

February 18, 2013 4:24:46 AM PST
CHIRP Radio is an eclectic station for music lovers, where they play a little bit of everything, and nothing is off-limits.

You won't find it on FM or even satellite - you'll find it online.

"The community was so receptive, people were so excited about the idea of there being this independent radio station that would play music you can't find anywhere else on commercial radio, independent music, local music, older stuff maybe you hadn't heard in 15 or 20 years," said Shawn Campbell, founder and GM of CHIRP Radio.

CHIRP Is Campbell's brainchild. After 20 years in commercial radio, she wanted something more listener friendly. It took two years before the official launch in 2010, as it is completely volunteer driven, from building the studios to the on-air staff - who don't need prior radio experience to be on the air.

"I was an English major, I also have a master's in Art History, which, yeah, I had no broadcast experience before coming here. I've always been a total music geek," said Nicole Oppenheim, CHIRP Radio board member and DJ.

There are more than 100 volunteers at CHIRP, who train in all aspects of work at the station. CHIRP, which stands for Chicago Independent Radio Project, has live DJs on every day of the year from 6 a.m. to midnight. The music library contains more than 65,000 tracks.

"The [record] labels send us new music, and most of that comes in digitally, some comes in CDs, and a lot of the DJs bring in their own music," Campbell said.

Because they are a non-profit organization, you'll find CHIRP volunteers at many Chicago events, raising funds and visibility. They stream on apps for Apple and Android. And CHIRP could be expanding again in October when the Federal Communications Commission will accept applications for a limited number of new low-power FM stations. On-air or online, these digital DJs are passionate about their performance.

"Because you love it! You love it, the people I've met here at CHIRP, we're like a family. I've met some of my best friends here, and I don't mind putting in the hours," Oppenheim said.

Because volunteer DJs get on-the-job training, many have used their CHIRP experience as a resume builder and gone on to paying jobs in the broadcast industry.

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