|Matt Cheetham (left),
and Hasham Ahmad
You may have noticed bold advertisements
in these pages for an Internet radio station in recent months.
Curious, I sat down with Samurai.fm founders Matt Cheetham
and Hasham Ahmad to get to the bottom of this new addition
to the expatriate media scene.
The inspiration, says Cheetham, a freelance music photographer
based in Tokyo, came about back in the spring when he was
thinking of uploading music onto his photography website.
The lack of good electronic music radio in Tokyo gave Cheetham
the idea to start the station. Building on his contacts in
both Tokyo and his most recent home, London, he began to talk
to labels and artists.
Fellow Londoner Ahmad (who is also development manager for
Crisscross, publisher of Metropolis) came on board soon after,
taking responsibility for technically making the station happen.
My background is in computing and music, he says.
As soon as the idea was there I started contacting people
like mad, getting them to submit, getting them involved in
it. By the time the actual technical side was sorted outit
took a few weeks to decide which servers to use, things like
thatwe had some steam going and everything seemed to
Log on to Samurai.fm (www.samurai.fm)
and youll see a red and black homepage with clean lines
and a simple, bilingual menu with schedules and descriptions
of the many producers and DJs already hosting one-hour shows.
Another click on the listen button, and soon your
sound software is logging on to the stations mp3 stream.
In this writers case, the signal came through Apples
iTunes, which opened automatically and was soon streaming
cutting-edge drum 'n bass, house, breakbeats and all
manner of underground dance music.
Before going online at the end of May, Cheetham and Ahmad
decided to base their station in the US, which they say has
a better legal and technical framework for Internet radio
than Japan. When we were looking to start the station,
it proved much easier to go with an American server,
The American Internet broadcasting policy is pretty
up-to-date in that you can get a cheap broadcasting license,
adds Ahmad. One of the problems in Japanand maybe
why it hasnt taken off hereis that [the country]
doesnt yet have a legal structure in place for webcasting.
Amazingly for high-tech Japan, Samurai.fm seems to be the
first Japan-focused Internet broadcaster of electronica. As
innovators, Cheetham and Ahmad were able to sign on some of
Japans most influential DJs, including Tsuyoshi from
the trance scene and veteran house DJ Ko Kimura, as well as
other big-name international DJs like Danny Rampling and A
Guy Called Gerald.
Having some of Japans biggest names in techno and key
UK clubs like Fabric taking part has drawn interest from overseas.
Cheetham says theyve received hits from over 30 countries
and are now averaging over 750 listeners per day. Yet its
still a two-man affair, which entails a lot of running around
to pick up CD-ROMs of new shows artists have burned.
Samurai.fm broadcasts one-hour mp3 sets that are uploaded
onto a server and then automatically streamed through a broadcast
service called Live 365. The remote nature means that DJs
can contribute music from anywherewhich should eventually
put an end to the running around and picking up CDs. We
try and push the server because it makes things so much easier.
Artists can upload shows from England or wherever, says
Ahmad. Its decentralized in that theres
no studio, which also means people can contribute on their
While at this point still a labor of love (and a costly one
at that: performing copyrights are paid out of pocket), the
pair are encouraged by their listener figures to dream big.
As a content provider, we can provide to anyone digitally,
says Ahmad. Our focus will be mobile streaming. Telecoms
are making huge money on this, and the content in Japan is
minimal for our kind of thing. So if we can provide streaming
audio on the Internet and mobile, we can get some revenue
Chinas the next big market, adds Cheetham,
and penetration of this kind of music is very limited.
If we can get established while the scene is taking off there,
it could be really big.