The WFMT Radio Network has unveiled a premium subscription service that provides access to hundreds of hours of archived programs from Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin.
The internationally syndicated classical music series airs on 55 stations and draws a weekly audience of more than 400,000 listeners.
“It’s a unique show and Bill is a great host,” said Steve Robinson, g.m. of the Chicago-based WFMT Radio Network and WFMT-FM. “Since the show started we’ve gotten something like 10,000 emails and this has been one of the things people have repeatedly asked us to do.”
At launch, the new streaming service offers 500 hours of content selected from the show’s 10-year archive. More programs will be added weekly until all 850 hours of Exploring Music are available.
Listeners can chose among three options to gain access to the streaming site: a $50 annual subscription offering unlimited streaming; monthly subscriptions at $7; and a promotional offer for “charter members” to enjoy a two-year subscription for $50, available for a limited time.
WFMT invested nearly $100,000 to build the site, populate its archive and cover its operating expenses, according to Robinson. The start-up costs were underwritten by private donors.
Archives of weekly editions of Exploring Music have not been offered for online listening until now. The classical music audience is wrongly stereotyped as older and technologically averse, Robinson said. He sees the subscription-based streaming service as an attractive offer to listeners who are much more diverse and technologically capable then radio analysts recognize.
“The image of the classical audience as not being comfortable or aware of this kind of technology just isn’t correct,” Robinson said. “We are a different culture now, and things like streaming are ubiquitous.”
Robinson is working on a subscription-based service offering access to another gem in WFMT’s library: programs featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel, who made WFMT his broadcasting home from 1952 to 1997.
“I see Exploring Music as just the beginning,” Robinson said. “We feel the more we have online the merrier. I’ve always believed in the subscription model — if you have something of value people will be willing to pay for it.”