I love all kinds of Hawaiian music. But the history of Hawaiian music radio – which over the last three decades has largely been a corporate endeavor – dictates that stations play only music from a specific era or only the current hits. For these corporate stations, vintage Hawaiian music merits only an hour per week (or less) of airtime. Even those stations which claim to play classic Hawaiian music more often only play those recordings which remain available on CD or MP3. There is a vast world of Hawaiian music that is no longer commercially available and hasn’t been in decades.

Courtesy of exposure in social media, the Ho`olohe Hou the blog simply exploded last year. I published more than 750 pages of information on Hawaiian music artists and composers, and readers responded by clicking on the links that appealed to them. This served as an important form of market research. The more clicks an artist received, the clearer it became that the Hawaiian music-loving world longed to hear those artists again. Interestingly, many of the artists with the widest appeal on my blog also happen to be artists for whom few or no recordings have been made available in the digital era. Take, for example, Haunani Kahalewai – once considered one of Hawai`i’s most recognizable voices around the world courtesy of the weekly Hawaii Calls radio broadcasts. Although Haunani recorded a half-dozen full length LPs for the Capitol and Decca labels, was featured on a third of the nearly 30 total Hawaii Calls LPs on Capitol, and recorded a dozen 45 rpm singles for the Waikiki Records label, only four of Haunani’s songs are available on CD or MP3. The same is true of such venerable acts as Emma Veary, Pua Almeida, Boyce Rodrigues, Alfred Apaka, Sonny Kamahele, Buddy Fo, Sam Kapu, Andy Cummings, Sterling Mossman, George Kainapau, Charles K.L. Davis, Danny Kua`ana, Lena Machado, Kekua Fernandez, Myra English, Lani Kai, Ed Kenney, Nalani Olds Reinhardt, Poncie Ponce, Nina Keali`iwahamana, The Aliis, Pauline Kekahuna, Rodney Arias, The Hilo Hawaiians, Ray Andrade, Ilima Baker, The Surfers, Hilo Hattie, Tony Lindsey, and countless scores of others.

But what really predicated the need for a new and different kind of 24/7 Hawaiian music radio station was the discovery last year that Hawaiian music lovers outside of Hawai`i must now pay for the privilege of listening to the few tired corporate-run radio stations in Hawai`i. Because I sit here amidst these vast archives of Hawaiian music greatness, usually whenever I want to enjoy Hawaiian music, I just turn in any direction and trip over a fantastic recording. But one day last summer after returning from Hawai`i and longing for some “local color” and sitting on my patio out of reach of my collection, I decided to dial up my favorite of the corporate radio stations from Hawai`i via the Internet. I was presented with two links:

  • Listen Live
  • Listen Outside of Hawai`i

Clicking on the latter link I was startled to discover that those listening outside of Hawai`i must now pay $3.49 / month – or $42 / year – to listen to that station. So I moved along to my second favorite station only to discover the same thing: Non-Hawai`i residents were made to pay $5.00 / month – or $60 / year – to listen to that station. And I thought… $42 a year? $60 a year? For what? 15 minutes an hour of commercials, 20 minutes an hour of news, weather, and DJ gab, and less than a half-hour of music (and most of that the same as the day before).

Not being bashful, I inquired with one of the stations as to these fees, and the explanation is most reasonable: The royalties that traditional radio stations pay only cover listeners within their local listening area. The internet era has made it more expensive for a traditional radio station to do business because they need to pay royalties twice – once for their local airplay, and again for their Internet stream. Because of this, some stations have shut down their Internet stream altogether. Those that have kept their stream must charge listeners to keep that stream viable.

The difference between these stations and Ho`olohe Hou Radio is that these corporations must charge in order to maintain their desired profit margin. I, for one, do not think it appropriate to profit from a culture that does not belong to me. One of the goals of Ho`olohe Hou Radio is to give back to the Hawaiian people the forgotten songs and artists of Hawai`i. While not chartered as a not-for-profit, Ho`olohe Hou Radio merely aims to cover its expenses.

Category:Ho`olohe Hou Radio -- posted at: 6:05am EDT