Beyond the repetitive tunes of Nirvana and Red Hot Chilli Peppers blaring from every radio station in existence, there exists a realm of incredible new music, artists, and bands just waiting to be discovered.
That is what one popular radio personality and longstanding member of the community wants to highlight.
With the aim of pulling Victoria’s radio scene out of the 1990s and into the 21st century, former The Zone radio host Jon Williams is launching his own station called “What Was That?”
“The way the station has been built, from one song to the next listeners will be going ‘What was that?’ There’s so much new music and so many local artists that we maybe haven’t come across yet that I want to showcase,” said Williams in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.
The idea behind ‘What Was That’ is to host music from all genres—modern rock, alt, hip hop, punk, soul, jazz, and more—but nothing older than 24 months, and up to 50 new songs per week.
Since moving to Vancouver Island over a decade ago, Williams has hosted his own show with The Zone 91-3 before recently deciding to call it quits.
“I didn’t see eye to eye with how the corporation viewed the community and our role within it. They just don’t quite understand how connected The Zone and The Q! staff are with their community in Victoria,” said Williams when asked about his decision to leave, but added that he remains an avid supporter of former colleagues.
“When you start throwing around big city mindset in Victoria, it’s different. Every single village and town has its own feel and it’s got to be respected and understood.”
Disagreements with corporate management at the Jim Pattison Group were not the only driving factors behind Williams’ decision to try going solo.
In December 2019, when he visited his family in London, England for the first time in four years, Williams said his grandfather pulled him aside.
His grandfather, who fought in World War II, expressed how proud he was of Williams’ growth, and hoped that he would soon branch out and do something that would effect further positive change.
One month later, Williams’ grandfather passed away, leaving him CAD $9,500 to invest in executing this dream. That investment allowed the radio personality to purchase the equipment and subscription services necessary to launch ‘What Was That?’.
Set up in one corner of Williams’ studio apartment, the subscription radio service will stream music 24/7 with Williams himself weighing in with commentary six hours a day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., on weekdays.
“In the first month, it’ll just be me surrounded by new music and educating [people] about those bands,” he says, adding that the station will also feature a plethora of interviews with up and coming artists.
‘What Was That?’ will launch as a free app for Android and Apple devices, compatible with CarPlay. After listeners get a feel for what the station is all about, they can choose to pay a monthly subscription fee of $7 or an annual fee of $55.
According to Williams, 50 per cent of any money he makes from ‘What Was That?’ subscriptions will be used to pay his own bills, while the other half will be donated to support local artists, initiatives, and organizations chosen by Williams and his listeners.
“I’m basically trusting people to come along and know that they’re going to be awash with new music. They’ll find that connection,” said Williams.
“Then we will choose where we put that money as a collective, as a family, at the end of each year to support our community.”
Over the past year, Williams has been working to collect and upload 1,000 songs and build an algorithm through an online server called radio.co. He has also created a website and enlisted a friend to help him design the branding and logo for ‘What Was That?’.
If his radio station/charitable foundation-hybrid model finds success, Williams hopes to eventually hire more DJs in an effort to offer a platform for more artists looking to break into the radio industry.
“I would not be able to do what I’m about to do if it weren’t for the growth I’ve obtained from those around me at The Zone and in Victoria. This is not me saying I’m better, but this is how I can effect change for the community,” he adds.
The goal is to eventually be able to funnel $100,000/year back into community programs and mental health organizations.