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Industry Internet radio
Founded 2000
Headquarters San Francisco, CA
Key people
Rusty Hodge, Founder

SomaFM is a independent Internet-only streaming group of radio channels, supported entirely with donations from listeners.[1] SomaFM originally started broadcasting out of founder Rusty Hodge's basement garage in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, 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.

SomaFM takes its name from Soma, the "perfect pleasure drug" from Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World, and the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, known colloquially as SoMa. SomaFM's twelve channels reached a peak listenership of 10,000 concurrent listeners by 2002, and now reports nearly 6 million "listener hours" every month.[2]

List of channels[edit]

Channel Genre/theme Year added
Drone Zone Drone 2000
Groove Salad Downtempo/chillout 2000
Secret Agent Lounge/jazz with a 1960's spy theme 2000
Indie Pop Rocks! Indie pop/indie rock 2001
cliqhop idm Intelligent dance music 2002
Beat Blender House/downtempo/chillout 2002
Sonic Universe Modern jazz/fringes of jazz/nordic jazz 2008
Lush Vocal downtempo 2009
Digitalis Self produced indie rock and electronic music 2009
Space Station Soma Ambient space music 2009
Illinois Street Lounge Lounge 2009
Boot Liquor Americana 2009
The Trip Classic trance/progressive trance. Formerly known as "Tag's Trance Trip" 2009
Doomed Industrial/dark ambient 2009
Mission Control Ambient music mixed with the sounds of NASA's mission broadcasts and live shuttle coverage 2009
PopTron Electropop/dance-rock 2009
Covers Cover songs 2009
Suburbs of Goa Desi/Arabic-influenced worldbeat 2009
Underground 80s Early 80s British synthpop and new wave 2010
BAGeL Radio Alternative rock/post-punk/indie rock/noise pop. Formerly known as "480 Minutes". 2011
South by Soma Music by artists from the SXSW Festival 2012
SF 10–33 Ambient music mixed with the sounds of San Francisco public safety radio traffic 2012
Dub Step Beyond Dubstep, dub, and other bass driven electronic music 2012
Folk Forward Indie folk, alternate folk, and the occasional folk classics 2013
Earwaves Early electronic music/avant-garde music/computer music 2013
DEF CON Radio Music from DEF CON's chill room, provided by SomaFM 2013
Seven Inch Soul Classic soul music 2014
Left Coast 70s Mellow album rock from the 1970s 2015
Fluid Instrumental hip hop/future soul/liquid trap 2015
ThistleRadio Celtic music, was previously broadcast as The Thistle & Shamrock on NPR 2015
Metal Detector Heavy metal 2015
Black Rock FM The broadcast for 102.3FM in Black Rock City for the Burning Man Festival Seasonal
Iceland Airwaves Music by artists from the Iceland Airwaves festival Seasonal
Christmas Rocks Christmas themed indie/alternative rock Seasonal
Xmas in Frisco Eclectic Christmas themed music Seasonal
Christmas Lounge Christmas themed lounge music Seasonal

Awards and credits[edit]

DJ Elise Nordling, Music Director and DJ of SomaFM's "Indie Pop Rocks!" channel, was awarded the San Francisco Bay Guardian‍ '​s "Best DJ of the Bay" award in 2005, 2007, and 2009. In 2007, they wrote that "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."[3] The San Francisco Bay Guardian also awarded SomaFM a "Best of the Bay" award in 2005 for "Best Way to Avoid the Top 40."

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 channel 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.[4] Subsequently, Congress passed the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002 (SWSA) on November 15, 2002,[5] which enabled small webcasters to negotiate a lower rate with SoundExchange.[6] 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"[7] [8] in protest of the Copyright Royalty Board's recent decision to raise royalty fees for internet radio stations.


  1. ^ Hodge, Rusty. "Donate to SomaFM! Support Commercial-Free Internet Radio". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Poll Positions". 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  4. ^ "Testimony of Mr. Don Henley". United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 2002-05-15. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  5. ^ "Senate, House Pass Bill To End Webcasting Crisis". Archived from the original on 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  6. ^ "Notification of Agreement Under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002". United States Copyright Office. 2002-12-24. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  7. ^ Jake Ward (2007-06-25). "The Sounds of Silence Will be Heard By Millions" (PDF). SaveNetRadio. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  8. ^ "The Sounds of Silence Will Be Heard by Millions". PR Newswire. 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 

External links[edit]