In 2004, Markus Kühn, former musician and marketing manager for Germany’s ZDF and Universal Records, and Mona Rübsamen, the former head of MTV Germany, set up a German radio station that focused on alternative music, with roughly 45 percent of the rotation as new music. The attempt was significant at the time, and it still proves to be significant, because Germany’s radio stations are renowned for playing mainstream top-40 hits. The country also lacks an active college radio community–something that would help foster and support Germany’s alternative scene.
Now, eight years later, FluxFM is an incredibly popular German radio success; the station has a massive international audience of online listeners, in addition to three frequencies that broadcast in the German cities of Berlin, Stuttgart and Bremen. THE BOMBER JACKET spoke with Kühn and Rübsamen about the growth of the station and where things are headed in the radio industry.
TBJ: Do you guys know how many people listen to the radio station outside of Germany? And do you have an audience in Austria and Switzerland too?
Kühn + Rübsamen: The majority of our listeners are from Germany, then other countries follow, but significantly more people listen to FluxFM in Austria, Switzerland, and Great Britain.
Are there other stations like FluxFM in Germany? Do you guys have competition?
To our knowledge, another German station that extends beyond car radio and explicitly focuses on musicians and creative artists to the extent we do does not exist.
How old is the company? Seven years, I think I read?
The company has been around since 2004. We’ve had a radio signal of our own in Berlin since 2008.
You used to be MotorFM. How did you start and how did things grow?
Things haven’t changed that much. We founded the station and have been broadcasting since day one. The rest of the team is the same team we had from MotorFM times.
Did you have any doubts when you started because radio wasn’t so popular and the economy wasn’t doing so well?
No, we didn’t think things wouldn’t work out. We were sure of what we were doing. We are sure that quality radio eventually makes an impact and because of that, we have always believed that there’s a place for radio beyond the traditional mainstream stations.
Do you guys like what you can normally hear on the car radio?
To make a station that we would want to listen to ourselves was an important incentive behind the foundation of the station. Until then, none of us had heard a good classic radio station in a long time. Musically, car radio seems pretty monotonous and unexciting…the shows that are supposed to be funny are just annoying. When people want to totally avoid music, all that’s left is German radio and German radio’s culture.
What is good about radio today? What is bad?
Good is that thanks to the Internet, radio today can also function without a UKW frequency and still garner an audience that way. Bad is that diverse regional options in many places are still few and far between.
What are some other international radio stations that you recommend?
KRCW (Los Angeles), XFM (London), East Village Radio (New York).
How has radio changed in the last ten years?
Not a lot. In terms of competition, it’s been positive; the new possibilities through the Internet always make radio more of a multimedia platform. The social network allows greater contact with listeners, which I think it is a good development–one that picks up on the sense of community which has been so significant for radio since the beginning.
What are your future goals for the company?
To produce quality radio. And to create further UKW-Frequencies in other cities.
What kind of promotion do you do for the website so that more people listen online?
Our website is an active part of the program; it reels in a lot of people. We are also really active in social networking. Most listeners hear about us from friends of theirs.
When did FluxTV come about? What are your plans for the platform?
FluxTV is a music video rotation system for friends with our taste in music. It’s become a part of the programming and the website. Our hope for the platform is that it will grow with the rest of the company.
Other new projects that will come about in the next few years?
Yes, there is something in the works, but it’s still too early to talk about it concretely.