Inhailer Radio Wants You to Hear Local Music

A volunteer-based streaming service steps into the void left by the sale of WNKU.

Illustration by Rami Niemi

Coran Stetter has assembled a band of scrappy music fanatics in an office on Sycamore Street in Pendleton, overlooking Ziegler Park. The decor may be muted, but passion is on full blast in this room. Music director and midday DJ Nils Illokken has emerged from the recording studio. Taylor Fox, program director and morning DJ, sits to my left. Rio Van, artist development manager, is on my right. Stetter, who founded the online indie pop and rock radio station called Inhailer Radio in 2017, joins to complete the circle.

We’ve been chatting about the station’s humble beginnings, and the group is answering the question: Why? Why do this for—so far—free? The station makes enough to cover its costs, but everyone involved is a volunteer.

Because “we’re music lovers playing music for other music lovers,” Fox says. Because “this is a passion project—this is where we want to be,” Van says. Because Illokken loves the feeling he gets introducing someone to his or her new favorite song. Because Cincinnati deserves a solid independent radio station, Stetter says, and because the team believes “that communities thrive when diverse people come together for live entertainment, music, arts, and culture.”

Inhailer stepped up to fill the void left by WNKU, Cincinnati’s former independent rock station that went off the air in September 2017 after Northern Kentucky University decided to sell its radio frequencies to Christian radio broadcasters. WNKU had been a great proponent of local music, says Stetter, whose AltPop band Multimagic benefited from WNKU airtime. Suddenly, the platform he and other musicians had relied on to connect with new and old fans was gone. Stetter became briefly obsessed with the idea of saving WNKU, but ultimately decided it made more financial sense to create an online app-based station. Stetter got connected early on with Fox, who did the first Inhailer broadcast from Bunbury Music Festival in the summer of 2017.

The name, Inhailer, says it all. It’s a burst of fresh air—misspelled, Stetter says, to include the word hail, meaning “to cheer enthusiastically.” The station wants to be a cheerleader for the local music scene and the local music lover alike, playing deep cuts and what’s hot in indie pop and rock. The website includes show previews, reviews, and features as well as fun horoscopes, complete with a song of the month for each zodiac sign.

In 2018, the station set and met its goal to have DJs on air, curating the playlist every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. On a recent Saturday evening JD Bruewer spun his mix called 180+ minutes, moving from Depeche Mode to Bikini Kill, Frank Black and the Catholics to Sixpence None the Richer, B-Movie to The Replacements. They invite anyone to send them an audio file that says “Hi, I’m *so-and-so* from *where they’re from* and you’re listening to Inhailer Radio.”

“We have Pandora, Spotify, and other ways to stream music,” Stetter says, “but if you want something human-generated, local to your home, and focused on the events happening in your town with the artists and bands making an impact on your scene—that’s what our radio station is.”

Inhailer made a quick imprint on the music scene in other ways, too, partnering with venues such as The Woodward Theater and Top Cats for special events like the sold-out 10th Anniversary show for The Yugos at The Woodward this past New Year’s Eve. Inhailer has also helped put on the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards at Memorial Hall for the last two years. And this year the streaming channel landed the lead role in organizing the live music for an OTR block party on May 3 that will celebrate the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s 150th anniversary. Free and open to the public, the event (held at 1212 Jackson Street) will include national headliner Diane Coffee with local supporting acts Physco, Knotts, and Ronin Halloway. More than 25 local artists and arts organizations will also participate, collaborating on an interactive pods project that will be collectively called Barrel House.

This will be an important year for the station, Stetter says, with a focus on bringing in more revenue to make it sustainable. “We know now we can make an impact,” he says, “but we’re not going to spread ourselves too thin.”

The beauty in a streaming channel? “As long as you’re on Earth, you can listen,” Fox says. So, if you haven’t already given it a shot, the team asks, won’t you grab onto Inhailer and take a hit?

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