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Broadcast area Internet
First air date 1999
Format electronic, jazz, indie pop, others
Language(s) English
Owner Rusty Hodge

SomaFM is a listener-supported, commercial-free[1] Internet-only streaming music station, which started broadcasting out of founder Rusty Hodge's basement garage in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. SomaFM broadcasts electronic music, indie rock and lounge music, among other genres.

SomaFM began as a micro-power radio station broadcast at the Burning Man festival in 1999. The response to the project was sufficiently positive that Rusty Hodge launched it as a full-time internet radio station in February 2000. Taking its name from the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco and Soma, "perfect pleasure drug" from Brave New World, and marketed entirely by word of mouth, SomaFM's twelve channels reached a peak listenership of 10,000 concurrent listeners by 2002. SomaFM reported over 6 million listener-hours in December 2008.[2]


SomaFM initially offered nine channels of music, which has now grown to twenty-four, plus three seasonal channels. The most popular channel is Groove Salad, with well over 4000 average concurrent listeners in 2010. Secret Agent, Drone Zone, and Indie Pop Rocks come in second with over 500 average concurrent listeners. Most channels play genres that are rarely heard on commercial radio or are "not being done right" according to Hodge.[3] Thus it plays a certain role in creating genres or keeping them alive.

Station Genre Date Added
Groove Salad Downtempo 2002/1
Secret Agent Lounge/jazz with James Bond theme 2002/1
Drone Zone Drone 2002/1
Cliqhop Intelligent Dance Music 2002/1
Indie Pop Rocks Indie Pop/Indie Rock 2002/5
Beat Blender House/Downtempo 2002/5
Lush Trip-Hop/Downtempo with a focus on female vocals 2009/6
Digitalis Rock 2009/6
Space Station Soma Ambient 2009/6
Sonic Universe Modern jazz/Fringes of jazz 2008/2
Illinois Street Lounge Lounge 2009/6
Boot Liquor Americana 2009/6
The Trip Trance. Formerly known as "Tag's Trance Trip" 2009/6
Doomed Industrial/Ambient 2009/6
Mission Control NASA mission broadcasts and live shuttle coverage mixed with ambient music 2009/8
PopTron! Electropop and indie dance rock with sparkle and pop 2009/8
Covers Cover songs 2009/8
Suburbs of Goa Desi-influenced Asian world beats and beyond 2009/8
Underground 80s Early 80s UK Synthpop and a bit of new wave 2010
BAGeL Radio "What alternative rock radio would sound like had Nirvana never happened." Formerly known as "480 Minutes". 2011
South by Soma Music by artists from the 2012 SXSW Festival 2012
SF 10–33 Ambient music mixed with the sounds of San Francisco public safety radio traffic ("10–33" is police radio code for "alarm sounding") 2012
102.3 Black Rock FM The prototype broadcast for 102.3FM in Black Rock City for the 2012 Burning Man Festival 2012
Dub Step Beyond Dubstep, Dub and Deep Bass 2012
Folk Forward Indie Folk, Alt-folk and the occasional folk classics 2013
DEF CON Radio Started as a temporary special event channel from DEF CON 21. It may be rebranded in the future. 2013
Christmas Rocks Holiday-themed indie/alternative rock Seasonal
Xmas in Frisco Eclectic and irreverent winter holiday-themed music, some which is "NSFW" and offensive. Seasonal
Christmas Lounge A "family-friendly" holiday channel featuring "Chilled holiday grooves and classic winter lounge tracks" Seasonal

No longer broadcasting[edit]

  • Squidradio Downtempo (1/2002-6/2002)
  • Squidradio drum'n'bass (1/2002-6/2002)
  • Soma House Party (1/2002-6/2002)
  • We are Electro (5/2002-6/2002)
  • Jazz Masterz (5/2002-6/2002)

Awards and Credits[edit]

DJ Elise Nordling, Music Director and DJ of SomaFM's "Indie Pop Rocks!" station, was awarded the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best DJ of the Bay" award in 2005, 2007, and 2009. In 2007, they wrote, in part: "DJ Elise is renowned for her impeccable taste, encompassing everything from bleeding-edge unsigned bands to classic small-label favorites... Because of this pioneer's curatorship, Indie Pop Rocks! has become required listening on a global scale."[4]

The San Francisco Bay Guardian also awarded SomaFM a "Best of the Bay" award in 2005 for "Best Way to Avoid the Top 40."

Track history[edit]

SomaFM makes a two hour track history list for each station available, longer last-played track listings and station history are available through per station Twitter accounts accessible through a link near the bottom of each stream's Song History page. Song history for each station was unofficially tracked by Somaseek.[5] Somaseek is not affiliated in any way with SomaFM and was operated and maintained by a fan of SomaFM. Somaseek is not currently online.

Conflict with SoundExchange[edit]

In May 2002, the DMCA CARP rate ruling came into effect, requiring internet broadcasters to pay a per song per listener royalty to SoundExchange for the performance of the sound recording, retroactively through October 1998. Hodge estimated that the station could have been forced to pay over $1,000 USD per day to continue operations. The royalty was later reduced by half, but that rate still would require payments by SomaFM that exceeded their revenues.[citation needed]

In June 2002, SomaFM ceased broadcasting. Hodge was one of several webcasters who testified before the U.S. Congress in 2002 in the hopes of reducing the royalty rate.[6]

Subsequently, Congress passed the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002 (SWSA) on November 15, 2002,[7] which enabled small webcasters to negotiate a lower rate with SoundExchange.[8] SomaFM resumed broadcasting in late November 2002 under this new royalty structure.

On June 26, 2007, SomaFM participated in the "Internet Radio Day of Silence"[9] [10] in protest of the Copyright Royalty Board's recent decision to raise royalty fees for internet radio stations.

As of December 2008, SomaFM has not yet settled with SoundExchange.[11]


  1. ^ Hodge, Rusty. "Donate to SomaFM! Support Commercial-Free Internet Radio". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  2. ^ Hodge, Rusty (2008-12-07). "Holiday Channel Traffic!". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  3. ^ "About SomaFM". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  4. ^ "Poll Positions". 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  5. ^ Petrow, Sean. "SomaSeek - The unofficial history and search engine!". Archived from the original on 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  6. ^ "Testimony of Mr. Don Henley". United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 2002-05-15. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  7. ^ "Senate, House Pass Bill To End Webcasting Crisis". Archived from the original on 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  8. ^ "Notification of Agreement Under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002". United States Copyright Office. 2002-12-24. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  9. ^ Jake Ward (2007-06-25). "The Sounds of Silence Will be Heard By Millions" (PDF). SaveNetRadio. Archived from the original on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  10. ^ "The Sounds of Silence Will Be Heard by Millions". PR Newswire. 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  11. ^ Hodge, Rusty (2008-12-10). "SoundExchange Royalty Update". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 

External links[edit]