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La Liga de Las Americas

BNetTejano Webcasting: Changing the future of radio en el mundo


By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent


The Internet has transformed radio broadcasting more than any innovation since the introduction of FM. The most visible—and audible—change has been the widespread acceptance of webcasting: music programming similar to radio broadcasting, but delivered over the Internet.

Freddy Fender with Dave Biondi of BNetRadio


Some astute observers believe webcasting may eventually make radio quasi-obsolete. A webcasting station can be established for under $5,000, and is not as tightly regulated by the FCC as is radio. With over 51 percent of households having Internet access, such accessibility has spurred the growth and popular acceptance of webcasting. Thanks to new technology, users can watch/hear the web from the car, the beach, or on their cell phones.


Several companies provide webcasting sites for listening to a wide variety of music, and Tejano music has been at the forefront. However, no one has impacted the burgeoning global market for Tejano more than BNetRadio - Tejano. The 24/7 webcasting entity, based in Houston, can be accessed on your computer at www.bnetradio.com.


Veteran radio broadcast personality Dave Biondi is BNetRadio’s General Manager and Program Director, and a partner in its operation.


Ask Biondi if he is any kin to legendary Top 40 disk jockey and Radio Hall of Fame member Dick Biondi and he replies, “Dick Biondi was my mother.”


And he means it.


Dave Biondi has worked in radio since he was 16. “As a boy growing up on a farm in Kansas, the 50,000-watt radio station WLS in Chicago boomed in. When I was 14, I was listening to it and writing down what a radio disc jockey’s format was so I could use it for myself when I got to be a DJ. My own name of Pierce wasn’t as exciting, so I took the name of Biondi as my on-air name. That’s how Dick Biondi became my mother.”


The newly-christened Dave Biondi became a phenomenal success in Phoenix at a rock’n’roll station, even snaring a 58 per cent share as afternoon drive DJ. He also hosted one of the local versions of Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” so prevalent in television in the early 1960s.


Biondi eventually gave up DJ chores to spend 23 years in the broadcast industry, in management and engineering. As a broadcast engineer, his firm was engineering for 17 radio stations around Houston. That’s how he supports BNetRadio -Tejano.


BNetRadio is a partnership that is a successor to the former Bandito Net Broadcasting, in which Biondi was also once a partner.


Biondi estimates BNetRadio costs him $7,000 to $10,000 out of his pocket each month just to keep it in bandwidth.


“Right now, we have 25,000 to 35,000 listeners a day. If we had the bandwidth we need, we’d have 100,000 listeners a day. Between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. CST, we are turning away more people,” says Biondi.

“We use the same format as commercial radio. We also stream high school and college sporting events. Lately, we’ve been attracting the attention of national advertisers such as Budweiser and Geico, who are eager to reach the affluent market that listens to Tejano music.


“We even had paid ads for the Tejano music convention in Vegas. We’re looking at our best month financially, and next year looks really good. We’re very close to signing with Lotus Entravision Reps, one of the premiere ad rep firms for Hispanic radio,” adds Biondi.

“Currently, we have eleven disc jockeys who all work as volunteers at this point. They love what they’re doing. And they have to—it is expensive to commute in Houston which is 50-60 miles wide. One of our disc jockeys comes in from Galveston to our studio in the heart of the southeast side barrio. Veteran DJ Ernie G does the bulk of our Tejano programming,” says Biondi.


The other DJ’s include: Johnny Lazo, Poco Loco, Roland Martínez, Bino G, Roddy G, Rene T, Elrod, Ohio’s Bob Olivo, Ms. Liz, and Betty G.

DJ Ernie G


According to Biondi, Internet Tejano radio has more listeners that terrestrial radio because it has a different audience.


“We have an elite group of listeners, more affluent and better educated than terrestrial radio listeners. When we pitch a night club, we know we may not bring huge numbers of listeners out to the club, but we won’t fill it with an audience that will sit and nurse two beers all night,” explains Biondi.


He says the actual penetration of computer users among Tejano music fans is exceedingly high as compared to Anglos. “Tejano listeners are better educated and have higher positions in the community,” says Biondi.


“The bulk of our audience listens to us from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Our main audience listens to us on the Internet, and that’s a situation that won’t change until broadcast wireless is available en masse. Because these are people listening to us on their computer at work, they are in the higher pecking order. They have more money and more spendable income. Because they are listening on the Internet, they do not punch in and out of different stations. Instead, they spend an average of four to six hours listening to us. Terrestrial radio is lucky if they can hold a listener for 30 to 45 minutes.


“If they listen to us for six hours straight to a station they have selected, you have an audience that is very loyal. Most of them are listening to us at their desk with their headphones on as opposed to terrestrial radio playing in the background. During the day, 80 percent of our audience is comprised of repeat listeners. We gauge that from tabulating audience response, how our listeners get in touch with us. I once asked all our disc jockeys to pull all the e-mails and notes they received and we marked the areas they originated from on a big map of the United States. We filled up that entire map,” says Biondi.


But BNetRadio’s listeners are not just restricted to the United States. The station’s audience is global. “We had a caller from inside a tank on operations in Afghanistan who was listening to us while going on a mission to kill people. He picked up our broadcast on the tank’s Internet system. And we’ve heard from listeners stationed with a M.A.S.H. unit in Baghdad and Tikrit. It is just like you see on the TV show. They move to a new location and the first thing they do is set up tents. Then they set up a satellite dish for the Internet. Then they put up a pole and put a speaker on it to play the broadcast.


“We had a soldier and his father who communicated through our radio station. The son was in a M.A.S.H. unit, his father was in Seattle.


“Another time we received a call from a payphone outside an Internet cafe in Baghdad. The caller was live on the air with us. All of a sudden, we heard an explosion in the background. The caller said, ‘Hang on; I’ve got to check this out.’ You could hear him as he ran down the street. When he came back he said, ‘That’s okay, it was just a shoulder-mounted missile,’” says Biondi.


All four of the armed forces radio networks put BNetRadio on their military satellite. That’s in addition to the Internet feeds in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’ll have a soldier call in on an SAT phone. We’ve instructed our DJ’s to expect a delay on SAT calls. One soldier tried three times before he got through because the DJ kept hanging up before the delayed conversation came through.


“We are getting more and more e-mails about the need for what we are doing. Not only are we providing listeners access to Tejano music, but we have become a conduit for the artists themselves. Many Tejano artists listen to the station. If a listener calls in with a question about a song, that artist may call in with the answer. Sometimes I come in to work and there’s Little Joe’s truck parked in front of the studio.


“When you think of Tejano music, you don’t usually think of Billings, Montana as a hotbed. But we get calls from there on our 1-800 line about CD’s by upcoming artists. BNetRadio provides access to expose new quality talent to the world,” explains Biondi.


How many Anglos listen to BNetRadio? “We have a core base of 10 to 15 percent Anglo listeners,” replies Biondi. “We even have some Latinos who are not fluent in Spanish who listen in to the station to learn Spanish.


“We have lots of listeners in the Midwest, especially in the Chicago area, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. There’s a group called the Windy City Ladies who send us e-mail every day. One of our disc jockeys was once a Chicago DJ.


“Our station has listener clusters in Seattle. Our listener base is very heavy in California, Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, the tobacco growing areas of the Carolinas, and, surprisingly, in New York City and Philadelphia,” explains Biondi.


“But most surprising are the listeners we have in Tokyo, Japan—which points to the universal appeal of Tejano music. At 4:00 a.m. CST, there are 300 to 400 listeners in Japan.


How do we know this? We track routes in Internet IP addresses of users. Our listening audience in Japan could be stationed in the military or be Americans working for manufacturing companies, but they’re on their Internet listening.


“We have listeners in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Because we are heard worldwide, our DJ’s have to think globally. They can’t say it is raining outside because it may be sunny in Tokyo. Nor can they give the time; that’s why they always say it is 30 after the hour. Nor do they say good morning or good evening. They have to get the big picture that you’re talking to the world,…to el mundo.


“I can get our broadcast on my PDA anywhere in Houston. Thanks to new cell phone technology, you can get it on your Blackberry. Eventually, you’ll be able to pick it up on every major highway. The technology is friggin awesome,” says Biondi.


Among the other sites offering Tejano webcasting are: www.tejanofm.com
and www.tejanomixes.com, although the latter is temporarily under construction until after New Year’s Day. Twenty types of Latino music—but not Tejano—are available at: www.batanga.com.


Another webcast with a strong emphasis on Tejano is Toledo, Ohio’s own www.kaboomlatino.com. This new station webcasts out of the Spitzer Building with mixed Latino tunes, but with a Tejano emphasis.


Kaboom Latino’s DJ’s are the six Longoria brothers and their father, Rey. They have a long tradition in the Tejano industry as members of Los Aztecas—a Tejano band started by Rey decades ago. Their Tejano roots takes them to Dallas on Dec. 31st to play a gig at the Longhorn Saloon.





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