Gimme Radio & Gimme Country are Coming to an End

It was a pretty good idea, at least on the surface. Since traditional radio has virtually abandoned the community aspect of the medium for syndicated national programming and playlists curated from on high that appeal to the widest possible audience and lowest common denominator, why not build a better alternative using the internet?

As opposed to putting big programming directors in charge, put the power back into the hands of the people and even the artists themselves to choose what gets played, and pair it with unprecedented networking possibilities through real-time chat rooms and exclusive merchandising portals to make something dedicated grassroots fans can engage with directly.

They called it Gimme Radio, and it started in the heavy metal space in the summer of 2017, working specifically with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth as their flagship artist, and building a daily roster of shows out from there. Then in 2019, the service entered the country/roots space with Gimme Country. Along with hosting guest shows with folks like Joshua Hedley, Jaime Wyatt and Kristina Murray, Gimme Country was anchored by New Orleans DJ Jimi Palacios and his show Country Du Monde. Palacios won the Ameripolitan Award for DJ of the Year in February in part for his Gimmie Country show. Gimme Country even launched a 24/7 station curated by Jesse Dayton in 2020.

Saving Country Music was approached to do a show early on, and had deep discussions with the format’s creators before ultimately choosing not to move forward for a number of reasons. Despite a strong contingent of artists and fans who found the format fun and engaging, Gimme Radio never really seemed to take off the way the founders wanted. Ultimately, it remained quite niche in a tech environment where scaling up is critical to survival. So on Monday, April 10th, founder Tyler Lenane wrote an “epitaph” for Gimme Radio that will be officially shutting down on April 29th, 2023.

“Our goals were not simple and not small,” says Tyler Lenane. “We set out to create a new platform where fans could have meaningful connections with one another and the artists they loved. On Gimme, music discovery wasn’t going to be dictated by algorithms or editorially driven ‘thematic’ playlists, but rather hand-picked by the most trusted sources—the artists. We wanted to build a venue where fans of genres outside of mainstream hip hop and pop were not marginalized, but catered to.”

Tyler Lenane started Gimme Radio with co-founders Jon Maples, Andy Gilliland, and David Rosenberg, who all previously worked for companies like Beats, Apple, and Google. The company was based in San Francisco. The format attracted hundreds of thousands of fans in total, and hosted shows from some 1,600 artists eventually, often coinciding with the release of a new album or new music. Investors included roots music label Concord, Metal Blade Records, and Sony’s The Orchard, which helps distribute independent music. In January of 2022, huge radio station owner iHeartMedia came in with a $3 million investment, in some ways bridging the two radio worlds, and betting big on Gimme Radio as potentially the future of radio, and music.

But like so many things in the tech world at the moment, scale backs ultimately doomed the service. Having raised $7 million in capital to start and continue the service since 2017, the gravy train of investment has apparently ended, which means Gimme Radio will end as well.

“Even though the music fans, artists, and much of the music industry love Gimme, and even though we proved that engaged communities could generate real money at a higher average revenue per user than other music platforms, we unfortunately find ourselves in an economic climate where we have been unable to raise the financing needed to support the streaming services and grow Gimme to reach all music fans across all genres,” says Tyler Lenane.

This was one of Saving Country Music’s apprehensions when approached by Gimme to do a show or partnership. Though the content was created by the grassroots, the business concept was based on investments, scaling, and other such business instruments. Another issue with Gimme Radio is despite their solid efforts to create ways to compensate DJs via tips and merch sales, it was still mostly volunteer-based. This made it hard to either attract or retain top DJ talent. Some like Jimi Palacios still did it mostly from love, but behind the scenes, Gimme was ultimately a tech business that needed to strike gold through scale, or to sell to a bigger concern. Neither of these things happened.

But as Tyler Lenane says in his farewell letter, Gimme did break ground, and hopefully will set the table for a shift in more user-engaged listening in the future.

“When we started Gimme on a white board in my basement in the Excelsior neighborhood in San Francisco, we knew that we had to create a streaming experience that was exciting and allowed for authentic music discovery. That’s why we chose radio as the core of the experience,” Lenane says. “We also knew that to build communities of music fans you must be authentic. That’s why we built our communities on a genre-by-genre basis. In a world of filters and deep fakes, Gimme was full of real, hot-mic moments that kept listeners chatting in our communities long after the show ended and coming back week after week.”

And who knows, maybe some benefactor will appear to save Gimme Radio before the April 29th closing date. Or perhaps it’s better if the service goes away entirely, and something new that takes the lessons learned from Gimme Radio emerges—perhaps something that doesn’t require big investors to maintain, and just like Gimme’s shows and fans, builds up from the grassroots.

Gimme will definitely be something that the folks who engaged with the service will look back on fondly, and many are currently mourning the news that it will no longer be around.

“My time at Gimme Radio were some of the best years of my life,” says DJ Jimi Palacios. “It’s crazy to say that and know that most of it coincided with the pandemic period, but it’s true. The people I worked with day in and day out were all amazing talented people. I worked harder and longer than I ever did before and loved it … Well, here’s to my Gimme family on what we created and I hope that we get to work again creating something beautiful.”

© 2023 Saving Country Music