If you’re as big a fan of Web radio as I am, you’ll want to tip your longneck beer bottle this evening to the memory of Laura Ellen Hopper, who died yesterday. She was the founder and guiding light of KPIG, an alt-country/rock hybrid that not only was the first radio station to Webcast its audio, continuously since 1995, but also showed the world that a Web radio station can make money. As the station describes itself at KPIG.com:
We’re an anachronism - a throwback to the days when real DJs picked out the music, and listeners expected something more from a radio station than just a couple of hundred songs repeated over and over, with some “big voice” guy yelling about how great it all is. We’re also - to the amazement of all of the radio “professionals” who make the rules we thumb our noses at - very successful, though we try not to let it go to our heads.
I remember Laura Ellen from way back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when I avidly listened to local country-rock radio station KFAT. Before its demise, which I covered for the Gilroy Dispatch, she and other deejays there rekindled my interest in radio with their distinct personalities and great, eclectic taste in music. She brought the same feeling over to KPIG, which she cofounded on the Santa Cruz coast south of San Francisco. Where else can you hear Mimi & Richard Farina, Son Volt, and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole within a few minutes of each other? I hope that at a time when the future of Web radio is still uncertain, folks at KPIG and beyond keep both Laura Ellen’s vision and her business acumen alive.