One would think veteran radio personality Sammy St-John Martinez had a detailed strategy in place when she created the Fishbowl Network.  With streaming media currently grabbing headlines in radio, television, and music, you might think Sammi G had the gift of foresight to develop an innovative concept of streaming radio with programmers and directors. Such is not the case. A combination of divine inspiration, the state of flux in the industry, her passion for radio, and the desire to change the diluted programming was the catalyst that prompted her out of retirement into the 13-hour grind that is the nature of the business.  “I really didn’t have a plan,” admitted Sami G, who had a successful 30-year career as a radio personality and programmer . “I am glad it appears that way, but the honest truth is it wasn’t a plan or a vision, but a prayer. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues lose their jobs because of the economy, or because companies were downsizing. Then, I taught broadcasting and the day of kids getting their big breaks didn’t exist anymore because of the corporate structure. I had an amazing radio career, and I felt really bad for these kids that wanted to do what I got to do but weren’t getting those breaks. With my station, I get to help the newcomers and veterans have some of the opportunities that I had in my career.”

Into the ocean of the worldwide web?
After her inspiration, Sami decided to consolidate the good parts of traditional radio with the new methods of streaming. Instead of over-saturating her company with blog talk, she created a velvet rope to avoid the lack of quality in the broadcast of her particular model.  “I wanted to take the good of the old and merge it with the technology of streaming,” Sami G. said. “I had a lot of questions when I first started this, and I just kept telling myself ‘do it,’ ‘do it.’ Now, we have a roster of about half veterans and half of them new to the industry. It’s a good mix because it makes people that are new to the industry become more polished, and it gives those that have been in the industry for a while the platform to be creative without the corporate parameters.”

Sami G, who began booking her first radio acts in August of 2009, has started a trend that many companies have copied, which includes developing a format of streaming radio stations with a more professional quality to them. Although she currently has no broadcasting boundaries, her company follows the traditional rules of the Federal Communications Commission (aka the FCC) in order to maintain family programming and broadcast original content from 9 am to 9 pm, with repeating programs after 9 pm that aired earlier in the day.  Armed with program and marketing directors, it gives those new to the industry an opportunity for professional presentation. It has also spawned a new industry of radio. “I hope to see lots of little Fishbowls everywhere. I don’t know if that is what I set out to do. I was originally retired,” Sami G. said. “Now, I am back to putting in the 13 or 14 hour days. Obviously, with the ways in which we are doing it, it would be cool to place fishbowls all over the world. However, I am in a fishbowl right now, and I am not ready to expand.”

Streaming with the sharks
Sami G said in order for us to gain a firm grasp on the future, we have to look at the devices and ways in which the younger generation is currently consuming information. “You just have to look at the younger generation and how they are choosing to get their information. They stream their music through components such as lap tops, so they don’t really have the radio or record player like previous generations had,” Sami said. “They use their phones, iPods, iPads and listen to stations on the internet.”

Streaming killed the television star?
Sami G. sees streaming as an opportunity to retrieve the creativity that got lost in the shuffle of corporate restrictions that are currently in place with giants such as Clear Channel and CBS affiliates. “The great thing about streaming on the internet is that the moment you turn on the microphone, you just quadrupled your listener base. Instantly, you are all over the world and your audience has increased with the content of your message,” Sami G. said.

As a program director for major radio corporate radio stations, Sami acknowledged that streaming has been something that many companies consider a secondary component of their content, and still haven’t made it the focal point. As far as how it affects the business of music, she sees the new avenues of distribution to be a double-edge sword. “I don’t know. There is a positive and negative side in terms of the music industry,” Sami G said. “Being streamed means an artist can gain exposure without the aid of a record label, and it’s a great thing for a bunch of artists who normally would not have had that exposure. However, there is a negative side. There is no need for a syndicate or a record label because a person can do everything on their own. The dynamics and the traditional methods of how things are done are dying because of it.”  Sami G. believes streaming is going to open the flood gates for the creativity and regional flavor that was strangled by strict corporate parameters in  the medium of radio.

-Jason Blasco