Pat Leonard brings new voices to the internet radio station, which turns five in September

Pat Leonard started Radio 614 in 2015, and from the get-go, he envisioned DJs broadcasting live on the internet radio station from various locations around town. But that was easier said than done.

“Early on, a lot of the content sounded like live radio shows but was actually canned,” Leonard said.

That began to change toward the end of 2018, when Adrian Willis, aka DJ Trueskills, began broadcasting live from the Oracle. Those sessions allowed Leonard to come up with a standardized equipment setup, which he documented. Then, once stay-at-home orders went out in March, Leonard took a photo of the standardized setup and put a call out for local DJs, explaining that he could provide them with all the necessary equipment and training so they could begin streaming live shows on Radio 614 from their homes.

“More people replied than I could eventually cover with the amount of stuff we had. … Within a couple of days, I got the stuff out,” said Leonard, who even loaned refurbished computers to some DJs. “It was a snowball. As soon as one person heard somebody on [the radio station], they’d say, ‘Hey, I want to give that a try.’ In some cases, it was people who have been telling me for months, ‘I really got to get around to doing that,’ and then it's a situation where they're at home and they can't go to the bars or go out to eat, so they look around and think, ‘Oh, yeah. I should do that.’”

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In all, Leonard said Radio 614 added seven new programs, including contributions from Sara Hollabaugh (Heatwave, 614Tiki), Aleha Willis and Moxy Martinez. Some broadcast live from their homes, while others produce one- or two-hour shows and then upload them to the server for future broadcast. (Leonard said he also saw a 53 percent increase in aggregate tuning hours from March to April.)

“The people who are coming to me are bringing unique perspectives and niches, which is what I was after,” Leonard said. “Thank God nobody has come to me yet and said, ‘I want to play Bon Jovi.’”

Radio 614 got its nonprofit 501(c)(3) status toward the end of 2016, and since then Leonard has jumped through the annual and quarterly hoops that allows the station to stream licensed music — unlike DJ livestreams on Facebook and Instagram, many of which have been halted by the social media giants during the pandemic. “If you're streaming anything that's licensed, you've got to be covered yourself, and since it's not Facebook or Instagram's business to be streaming music, they're going to kick people off who are doing it,” he said.

Leonard noticed, though, that music fans seemed to really like the DJ livestreams before they got shut down, which rekindled his interest in getting Radio 614 into the visual realm. “Our only project right now is the stream and the website, but I have a vision of eventually getting into video. Or if there was a band that needed help producing or marketing their work, they could come to us for assistance with that,” Leonard said. “We're trying to help the community and help artists and musicians where art and music and technology intersect.”

On a smaller level, though, Leonard just wants to make the type of radio he wants to hear. “I want to create the kind of music that I like and that my friends like, and also give something back to the community in some way,” he said, “It's really kind of unnecessary, in the sense that there's already WFMU and KEXP — people who are doing it better with bigger budgets. But it's nice to have something that's ours.”