Vostok : the alternative radio station that is rocking Geneva

 

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The coolest radio station in Geneva, Radio Vostok, is launching on December 7th, its first online subscription to support its work and create a community of listeners.

Six years ago, Charles, Domenico and Olivier – three friends fond of radio – started Radio Vostok in order to cover the vibrant artistic scene and emergent culture in Geneva.  Vostok plays mostly indie-rock, electro-pop and urban with a strong focus on local bands. The radio station was first launched online and is now available on Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB+ 215 Mhz) in Geneva region.

Year by year Radio Vostok has grown from a team of 3 people to 40 – most of them volunteers as the station is an association – and from a weekly one-hour program called “Planète” in 2011 to a three hour-daily program under the name “La Quotidienne” in 2015.

Radio Vostok fights the notion that Geneva is a boring city. “We have just proved wrong the old saying stating that nothing happens in Geneva. It is simply untrue. The scene is very dynamic . . . Since Vostok started many things have happened and the local scene has changed,” says Charles. He gives the example of the emergence of young music labels in the past five years like Pop Club Records and Cheptel Records.

This season Radio Vostok began hosting “La Planète Bleue”  one of the most popular podcasts in the French-speaking world. Nevertheless, the Genevan station broadcasts other shows such as Downtown Vostok which includes live shows from local events, Mix En Orbite which promotes djs, Quartier Libre for its creative and active members, and Vostok Session which is dedicated to concerts.

The non-commercial way

Radio Vostok is not a commercial radio, it is actually an association. This model was chosen naturally based on its founders’ experience and provides them with more freedom according to Domenico. “From the beginning, it was clear that we wanted to make something different, we didn’t want to create a commercial radio . . . That wasn’t the goal because there were already plenty of them. So, if we wanted to make something different there had to be no ads. Personally, I don’t like to hear any advertisements while listening to the radio, so the associative model was the most compatible with our principles,” adds Charles, co-founder of Radio Vostok.

Radio Vostok has been operating thanks to the efforts of 40 volunteers every season since “La Quotidienne” started. As one might imagine it is a challenge in terms of management. “When it was just the three of us it was kind of easier . . . Then when you start to include more and more volunteers in the team it requires more management especially when we run a daily program,” says Charles.  On the other hand, having a larger team creates a larger pool of opportunities and ideas as well as for meeting people with similar interests in terms of culture.  Domenico mentions that “there are a lot of people, we don’t always meet. However, even though the team changes often, people manage to talk, to hang out and to have fun which in return creates a positive atmosphere.”

 

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Since 2011, Radio Vostok has completed several projects such as recycling a Yellow VW Post Bus into a broadcasting bus and maintaining a regular presence at the annual “Fête de la Musique” in Geneva. However, for Domenico and Charles being available on the  DAB+ (Digital audio broadcasting) and celebrating the station’s 5-year anniversary were important steps for Radio Vostok.  In fact, Switzerland will cease FM audio-transmission by 2024 and for a web-radio being available on other digital platforms allows the non-commercial station to reach a larger audience and be closer to its auditors in Geneva. Charles underlines, “joining the DAB+ was very important because we started as a web radio. . . It is an investment for the years to come”.  Now, the trio look to the future with optimism according to Domenico. “The 5-year anniversary was a extremely beautiful party. We celebrated in our new studio and so many people came,” recalls Charles.

Future plans and Vostok+

In the short term, Radio Vostok would like to continue increasing its audience and get closer to its auditors in Geneva.  “We believe that we are doing interesting work and perhaps it deserves to be better known.  We have to improve our communication. In 10 years we would like to be even more present and have more of Geneva listen to us,” stresses Charles. The future for Radio Vostok relies on its finance which is not regular and secure. The radio station depends every season on public funding, private donations, membership fees, and crowdfunding amongst others. “Some festivals just stopped due to a lack of funding. So for a non-commercial radio like Vostok it is even harder to survive,” says Domenico.  Radio Vostok will have to secure its revenue so that the station can celebrate a 10-year anniversary, Charles tells us.

Recently, the team launched Vostok+, an online subscription to support its financing and create a wider community of listeners. With Vostok+, subscribers receive personal access to audio files, archives, concerts, HD sound as well the yearly radio report and special offers from Vostok partners.

A party is planned this Thursday 7th December. From 2 PM to 8 PM, the radio station will be open to the public and a six-hour program will be aired. Local bands will be showcased and interviewed, including Quiet Island, Capitaine etc. Rootswords, Les Babtous International, The Wugs, Jerrycan, Concrete Jane and The Crags.

The after party will be held in La Gravière from 9 PM until early morning. Babtou international will provide the rhythm on the dancefloor.

 

 

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