Fargo-Moorhead radio listeners are getting a taste of something new on the airwaves as of Feb. 1, the launch date of Fargo-Moorhead’s newest radio station Dive95 (95.9 FM). Dive95 calls itself “your local independent rock radio,” and while the music Dive95 plays is different from other stations in the area, that’s not the only reason why it’s unique. The true distinctive feature of Dive95 is its mission for community outreach and social awareness, which it promotes by partnering with local nonprofit organizations, giving concert tickets to listeners in exchange for volunteer hours, and discussing social issues on the air.
Dive95 is a new, independent Low Power FM radio station that plays music that isn’t mainstream, primarily alternative and indie rock. This is music that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere on the dial in Fargo-Moorhead, according to junior Jake Johnson. Johnson discovered Dive95 after noticing one of its flyers at Grand Junction in Moorhead that listed several of his favorite bands.
“You’re not going to hear a lot of the indie music that they play anywhere else,” he said. “Underoath, Devil Wears Prada, Bayside—that type of music you’re not going to hear on a normal rock station.”
Ben Larson, owner and manager of Dive95, was offered to take over the KXBQ-LP station, previously a Christian music station, one year ago. According to Don Rice, chair and professor in the communication studies and theater art department who has studied radio, LP FM stations are radio stations with less watts effective radiated power, which means they reach a much smaller area than full power FM stations. LP FM stations were initially designed for educational purposes, although now they also serve small communities and nonprofit organizations like Dive95.
Larson, an energetic man with shoulder-length silver hair and blue eyes that light up whenever he’s talking about his station, grew up in Fargo. Ten years ago, he moved out to Virginia for college, then lived in Minneapolis briefly before moving to the coast of California to care for his father, where he also played in a band.
He returned to Fargo last summer and wrote up a plan for his dream radio station, but the company that controls that station license initially rejected his format.
They changed their mind eventually though, and Larson received a call a couple of months after his application submission. His plan was now approved and he got the OK to go ahead to begin implementing his vision for Dive95.
Larson had no previous experience with radio whatsoever, but that didn’t matter.
“I am completely rookie,” he said, “but I do know music. And I’m willing to do whatever I have to do.”
Larson moved full steam ahead with his vision: a community-based radio station that seeks to “educate, inspire, and entertain through positive programming that encourages creativity and social awareness in the local and global community while playing some of the best music we can find,” according to Dive95’s mission statement.
Larson said Dive95 plans to fulfill this mission statement in a variety of ways.
First, he said, Dive95 is committed to playing positive music with lyrics that aren’t obscene or derogatory.
“It’s music that is good, but positive and encouraging,” Larson said.
Music featured on Dive95 includes acts such as Anberlin, August Burns Red, Cold War Kids, The Fray, MXPX, Paramore, Relient K, Sparta, and The Strokes.
“Kids have it hard enough at school, home, work, those sort of things,” Larson said. “The last thing they need is negativity blaring at them through the radio.”
Dive95 also promotes getting involved in the Fargo-Moorhead and global community and giving back to others. In fact, that principle is how they got their name, according to Kevin Dawson, a disc jockey at Dive95.
“We just want to encourage community,” Dawson said. “That’s what Dive means—to dive into your community and give back. That’s why it was chosen.”
Larson nods vehemently. “We have big plans for our future,” he said.
These plans include raising awareness of social issues through shows on the station and partnering with organizations in the area like Churches United for the Homeless, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the North Dakota Autism Center.
“We just really want to work hand-in-hand with each other and build relationships with those organizations,” Dawson said.
Instead of giving concert tickets away to listeners for being the ninth caller or answering a trivia question, Dive95 plans to give listeners concert tickets in exchange for donating their time or resources to one of these organizations. For example, a Dive95 listener could earn a pair of concert tickets by spending a few hours volunteering at Churches United, or by bringing in nonperishable food items to the station for Dive95 to distribute to food pantries in the area.
Larson said he hopes that this method will encourage people to continue to give back to the community. He said he thinks that if people donate their time just once, the majority would see that it’s addictive.
“All of a sudden, it gives two people hope,” he said. “You’re giving the person you’re helping hope and you’re giving yourself a purpose to go out and affect somebody’s life.”
Rice said the community outreach approach of Dive95 is one step further than other area radio stations.
“It’s true that there’s a local history with stations demonstrating support for local organizations,” he said. “But usually, they show support at or host events.”
Dive95 also wants to be a venue for open-minded discussion about social issues, politics, and religion, and on a lighter note, new albums, movies, technology, restaurants, and comic books. Larson said he plans to incorporate shows for these discussions in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. As of press time, Dive95 has a few shows in the works that Larson expects to debut on Dive95 in March, including a review show and a show entitled “Freeloader’s Guide,” which will focus on free or cheap things to do in Fargo-Moorhead. Since Dive95 is a nonprofit organization, sponsors underwrite all programs and events. Dive95 is also supported by donations from listeners.
Larson said Dive95 wants to keep its laidback attitude and avoid the corporate feel commercial stations can have.
“We want to be the radio station that nobody expects, you know, the total underdog…we want to have fun,” Larson said with a smile. “We want it to be like a backyard barbeque.”
Since Dive95 is a LP FM station, it only reaches listeners 10-15 miles outside of the Fargo-Moorhead area. But despite the smaller radius, there are people enjoying the unexpected backyard barbeque. Dive95’s Facebook page boasts nearly 500 fans and Larson said he’s received “tons and tons of e-mails” from listeners. However, it’s still under the radar of most Concordia students so far.
“I like them a lot and I’ve been talking about them to other people,” Johnson said. “But no one really seems to know.”
Larson said the majority of the feedback he has gotten from Dive95 listeners is positive.
“[I hear from listeners] that it’s refreshing,” he said. “They say it’s like their iPod is on the radio. I challenge people to just listen, see what we’re doing, and then they can make their own decision.”
Marisa Paulson is a senior and the news & features editor of The Concordian, although she still writes when she can. She plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in fall 2011.