Few people would associate Puyallup with funk and soul music, but it has been the home of Internet radio station Funk Republic Radio for the past six months.
The station is produced by Jerry Surhstedt, a marketing consultant by day and a DJ at night under the moniker JJ Nite. He works out of his office suite on Meridian in downtown Puyallup.
The station started broadcasting two years ago out of Surhstedt’s house in Centralia with about 30 listeners. Today, it boasts 36,000 listeners around the globe.
Surhstedt’s love of the funk started during his childhood in Tacoma. He played music during parties and shows while he was in high school, and he quickly made a name for himself. By the late 1980s, he was working as a DJ at KTAC 850 AM in Tacoma, and then at KFOX 1250 AM in Seattle, and he hosted an evening show called “The House Party” that focused on funk and hip-hop.
Although he enjoyed it, he felt constrained by the limitations of music styles he could play, so he moved on to other endeavors. He became a marketing and branding professional, and he formed his own consulting company, Heavy Guerrilla, in 2008.
However, his interest in radio and love of funk never diminished. He became interested with opportunities he found on Internet radio. He could start up a station at a relatively low cost with a fraction of the equipment necessary to broadcast on radiowaves.
“I started this station with the idea that I would play what I wanted to play,” Surhstedt said. “I figured with 6 billion people (in the world), someone out there would like it, too.”
It turned out there were others out there who shared his taste — thousands, in fact. He said his demographics are hard to nail down.
“It’s a certain kind of person who listens to radio on the Internet,” he said, explaining Internet radio is a fairly new medium.
Surhstedt figured his listeners would be mostly men and women between 35 and 45, but he was surprised to learn his station was popular among teenage girls in Japan. He pointed to a map that showed listeners in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
“I guess our listeners are just people who enjoy good music,” Surhstedt said.
He said many of his listeners are album collectors and hardcore soul aficionados who enjoy the deep cuts from classic albums he offers. Many can be hard to find, and they’re usually not broadcast.
At the same time, Surhstedt showcases contemporary funk, particularly from local and up-and-coming acts who could use the exposure.
When he moved back to Puyallup, he brought his station with him, something he wouldn’t have been able to do with traditional radio. And while he’s enjoyed the leap to digital and relished the freedom he has as the proprietor, he said there will always be a place for traditional radio.
“For local talk radio and traffic reports, things like that, there will always be a demand for radio,” Surhstedt said. “Radio serves an incredibly important role locally.”
Listeners can tune in to Funk Republic Radio at www.funkrepublic.com, or by visiting iTunes. He hosts “The Funk & Soul Roadshow” from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday nights.
Kevin Knodell is a freelance reporter for the Herald.