Listener-supported Folk Alley – 24/7 internet radio produced by the FreshGrass Foundation – went online in September of 2003, streaming its unique blend of traditional folk, roots, Americana, contemporary singer/songwriters, indie-folk, Celtic, bluegrass, and other world sounds.
This groundbreaking service originated at WKSU, public radio from Kent, Ohio. The (then) Executive Director/General Manager, Al Bartholet had a commitment and vision for using the power of the Internet to aggregate a worldwide folk music loving audience. Together with veteran weekend folk host, Jim Blum’s deep knowledge and passion for the music and other dedicated WKSU staff – in particular WKSU’s head of IT, Chuck Poulton – the team’s sights were set on the ultimate goal: to become the number one place on the Internet for folk music content and discovery.
Early on, Folk Alley experienced impressive growth – with 23,000 website registrations in the first year alone – and the buzz began. Listeners from all around the globe – from the United States to the UK, from Australia to Brazil, and beyond – were finally gaining access to and enjoying the music they love. Music that was so difficult to find on the radio in the dark ages before the Internet.
Folk Alley’s early momentum lead to hiring two full-time staffers in the spring of 2005. Linda Fahey came on board to manage Folk Alley after spending time in Minnesota working for Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ and Red House Records, and Jim Blum’s former WKSU student assistant and WCPN producer, Chris Boros joined the production and operations team. Later that year, three new music hosts were added to the stream. Minnesota Public Radio’s Elena See, North Country Public Radio’s Barb Heller, and WKSU’s Jeff St. Clair joined Jim Blum behind the microphone.
In the year’s immediately following, Folk Alley’s service and audience blossomed:
The FolkAlley.com website grew into a robust folk music portal for visitors to not only listen to the music streams, but to explore today’s vibrant folk and roots music scene. Whether via blogs posts, album reviews, folk news, ‘Live from Folk Alley’ concert recordings and live broadcasts, exclusive in-studio Sessions with guest artists, or the Open Mic feature for undiscovered artists, there was something for everyone;
Folk Alley also launched its groundbreaking Members-only Fund Drive Free stream, which allows supporting members who donate at the $60 or above annually to completely bypass the periodic fund drives in the main Folk Alley music stream; and
In 2007, Folk Alley teamed up with NPR Music to be one of the 13 founding partner stations contributing content to the new “super site,” and joined them for many live broadcasts from the Newport Folk Festival and Americana Music Association’s Honors & Awards show.
Fast forward to today. Although the staff has changed a bit over the years – Folk Alley continues to distinguish itself among online music services as a respected leader for folk, roots, and Americana content. Whether it’s through the 24-7 hosted music stream, specialty side streams, a vibrant website and mobile app, a weekly syndicated radio show (heard in 60 markets across the US), or the robust Folk Alley Sessions podcast and video series, there’s something for everyone who wants to discover and enjoy contemporary folk, roots, and Americana music for the 21st century.