Seoul Community Radio celebrates two years on air

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Seoul Community Radio (SCR), an online radio station operating out of Itaewon dedicated to promoting underground electronic dance music in Korea, celebrates its second anniversary this month.

“Any underground music scene needs a few key ingredients to really come together… you need good clubs, obviously, and DJs, but you also need record stores, labels, promoters, and you need media ― magazines, websites and yeah, radio stations. That’s where we came in ― we were trying to fill that gap,” said U.K. expatriate Richard Price, one of the co-founders of SCR.

“We found that there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the club scene here, but all of that energy was focused on the weekend, on going out and partying. With the radio station, we hoped to channel some of that enthusiasm and interest in other directions, to help the scene to grow.”

An important aspect of the radio station, is that it acts as a kind of incubator for new talent in Seoul and elsewhere, as well as a place where artists and DJs can experiment with things they wouldn’t necessarily get away with in the clubs, Price said.

“There’s lots of competition in the club scene,” he said. “It can be hard for new DJs to get a foot in the door, and even for established acts there’s a lot of pressure to keep the crowd happy, so they might not always feel comfortable taking risks or trying new things. SCR gives them a platform to do that.”

The focus is not just on Seoul, either. “There isn’t that much of a scene outside of Seoul, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people into this kind of music,” Price noted. “SCR gives us a way to reach out to those people, as well.”

Getting the radio station up and running was no easy task, however. “At first, we kind of struggled to get people to even understand the idea that you could have a radio station playing this kind of music,” Price laughed. “Here, you know, people hear radio and the first thing they think of is talk shows or traffic reports, stuff people listen to on the way to work.” The first few months, before SCR managed to secure themselves a physical studio location, were especially tough. “We had DJs recording themselves in their bedrooms, and just sending the recordings in.”

Things have come a long way in the short time since then. Now, SCR is preparing to move into its second, more advanced studio, a move made possible in part through high-profile brand collaborations with companies such as Vans and Nike. Another of their sometime collaborators, Daelim Museum, adds a bit of cultural cachet to the radio station, and the collaborations between the two act as a kind of bridge between Seoul’s art and club cultures. The station received further recognition last year when it was awarded Best Online Radio Station in the Asia/Pacific region in the Mixcloud Online Radio Awards ― a huge honor for a station that had only been operating for little over a year at the time.

Initially, Price said, having foreign guests ― big-name international DJs passing through Korea ― appear on the show was a crucial part of attracting listeners, but as SCR has developed a loyal following of its own he finds it is less and less necessary to have a foreign name on the schedule in order to rope in listeners.

“Foreign guests definitely open up a kind of global window for SCR, sure, but the most advantageous thing about that window is that it gives the wider world a chance to discover Korean artists,” he mused. “It’s advantageous all around, really – the guests get exposed to Korean audiences, which means more people come to their shows here, and at the same time international audiences, who might tune in to hear the guest play, end up discovering some Korean DJs, which raises their profile and helps them get bookings overseas. It’s a kind of symbiosis.”

These days, SCR doesn’t just confine itself to the online airwaves. The station has been involved in organizing a slew of events and parties, including the DMZ Peace Train Festival, held on the edge of the border with North Korea earlier this year.

“That probably is the thing I’m proudest of, personally… it felt like it really meant something, like we were showing the world a whole different side to Korea,” Price said.

In addition, SCR has been instrumental in helping to organize Korean editions of the Boiler Room.tv events, a high-profile series of parties that take place around the world and are livestreamed to an audience sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Showing the world a different side of Korea, bringing global and local attention to the Korean scene, is ultimately what SCR is all about.

Price seems like he never takes his eye off of that goal for long. “People here don’t always know what they could do,” he said.

“There are so many amazing DJs and producers in Korea, so many unknown gems, and if we can play even a small role in helping them realise their potential, I feel like we’ve done something worthwhile.”

By Jon Stein

(Korea Times)

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