Aardvark Radio Network Antes Up on the Internet

Internet radio has become a thundering business — Pandora claimed to have 72.4 million listeners in November and an 8.44 percent share of all radio listeners. Pandora’s success had led to other large companies jumping on the bandwagon, like Apple and Spotify.

But there are those with more modest aims. Mark Ramer of Little Rock, for example, started his own Internet station, Aardvark Radio Network, almost two years ago, with the simple goal of playing classic rock music.

Ramer, who makes his living teaching golf lessons at a course he owns, said he has “always had a passion for music.”

“A lot of people listen to music over the Internet but are not able to find a music station they like, so I figured I’d start my own,” he said.

The station plays mostly classic rock from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s with a little bit of Motown and country thrown in.

Why classic rock?

“There’s an old saying: ‘If you want to get listeners, put on classic rock,’” Ramer said.

Ramer also hosts a sports show each morning at 10.

“I do hop on there and DJ and do promotional stuff,” he said. “I am on periodically, especially throughout the winter when I don’t have a lot of golf lessons.”

Ramer said he chose the Internet over traditional broadcast means because of cost and availability. He doesn’t have to maintain a tower, he said, and doesn’t have to hire a huge staff.

“I broadcasted at KLRG before the station sold last January,” he said. “With their AM locator, it could reach over 5 million people. But now, anybody with Internet service is a potential listener or customer.”

The station has about 2,500 listeners per day, he said, 60 to 70 percent of which are in central Arkansas.

The rest come from all over the country and world.

“We’ve got listeners from Ukraine, Croatia, Ghana — every country on the globe,” Ramer said. “Every part of the world. We’ve got a lot of U.K. and Australian listeners.”

The downside of Internet radio is building the listenership: Ramer’s listeners can’t switch on their car radio and happen to find his station. Ramer said he’d like to have 10,000 to 12,000 listeners per day, but it’s “a slow increase.”

He advertises mostly via social media like sponsored Facebook posts, which Ramer said are more cost-effective than traditional advertising methods. Ramer also sells ads, mainly to local restaurants.

At the moment, the station is breaking even, Ramer said.

“If I wasn’t already in the golf business, this would be a tough way to make a living,” he said, but he added that he’s optimistic about growing.

“This is the wave of the future,” he said.

“I’ve created an excellent product. I can survive on what I’m doing until I get about a 6,000-listener threshold, until I create an atmosphere for national advertisers like Taco Bell, KFC and what have you. I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there.”