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A startup indie radio station gains a toehold in an unfriendly universe

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"Matt and Brain from A.R.E. Weapons are here, and they got a new record," Wowch said into the mike. "Tell us what it is."

"It's called 'Radio, Radio,' " said Matt, and just like that, A.R.E. Weapons got some precious airtime with a radio audience.

It's a refreshing change from the "payola" practice of commercial radio, where big labels offer favors (and sometimes, illegally, cash) to program directors in exchange for preferential treatment, resulting in a canned mix of commercial music fighting for airtime between commercial jingles.

With EVR, DJs are given a two-hour time slot and carte blanche.

How a start-up like EVR can gain a toehold in an industry that for decades has been unfriendly to the little guy can be summed up by a slight tweak to the illuminated sign hanging in the booth: In place of the familiar "ON AIR" is a sign that reads "ONLINE."

"Clear Channel" – the multibillion-dollar radio conglomerate – "kicked out a lot of people wherever they could, and just beamed in from another city," says Wareham. "Now, with the Internet, you don't have to have this huge transmitter."

With more than 1 million listeners a month, EVR is at the forefront of this emerging medium. In addition to fostering more independent voices and breaking underground acts, EVR has become a must-visit for big-label stars like Wareham and, more recently, Big Boi of the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling hip-hop group Outkast.

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