Sophia, we have to say right up front here that The Casual is the most refreshing radio station we’ve heard for a very long time.
That is so great to hear – thank you! I always hope people enjoy it but when someone takes the time to tell you it’s a win.
It’s so funny how we learn things … we first noticed your station because our old matey Ozlem Esen Mell did a guest spot for you.
Ozlem is just such an amazing woman, her musical taste is impeccable and on a human level she’s gritty, intuitive and kind. That’s my kind of person.
You lived in Bali before, right? And now you’re in New Zealand. Talk us through that journey.
Yes, I lived in Bali for about two years. It is the most wonderful island that just pulsates with creative energy, filled with people actively engaged in a search for something more … whether that’s a spiritual search, catching waves or building a business. That really does flow through the island and it’s a wonderful place to live.
I moved to Bali with my family on my own search, and what I found changed my life. I think it takes a certain personality to live on the island not just holiday there, it’s a sharp dose of reality in both difficult and fantastic ways. It’s honest.
The Casual was actually started because when I was driving around using Spotify and that was too dangerous. And the radio was a no go!
When Covid hit, my husband was living back in NZ already and I was operating my business in Bali. Our kids were with me and schooling on the island and we had to make a choice whether to bunker down without him or return to NZ. Being home in NZ was not my first choice, but it was hard to leave the home I had made for my family in Bali.
How did you end up with a radio stream? If that’s even the right phrase for The Casual.
It is! I like to think of it as an independent radio station. Within the next six or so years terrestrial radio will no longer be the main way we listen. Everything will move online and I am excited to be at the forefront of that with The Casual.
What does it take to set up something like that? I mean technically and financially.
Technically it’s a lot to learn but it’s logical so it’s not hard per se. You need a back end to load all your music into and a playout system, some basic production skills and programmes and then your streaming service … oh and the music library, that’s an essential. Social media wise, I use InDesign to build out the content and load it up most days although this last week I have taken it easy as it’s been the school holidays and I wanted to chill a bit with the squids.
Financially the main things you need to cover are your APRA rights etc that pays for the music royalties as well as the costs for the streaming and website. It is most certainly more cost effective than setting up a mainstream terrestrial station that’s for sure.
How do you go about selecting music for your stream?
I am the sole programmer for The Casual and really it stems from my years of exposure to a lot of different music, and the creative people that have been a part of my life. The criteria is very simple: it must make me feel something. Music is about connection, if it doesn’t connect, it’s not on.
How do you deal with copyright issues and all that? I mean you’re playing everyone…
We pay for it! The Casual pays for all the music licensing that gives us the ability to blanket cover everything from major labels to the Indies.
Integrity is really important to me, skirting this sort of thing is something that a lot of people think they can get away with when you’re niche and online but if you want to have respect and growth in your industry you gotta pay the piper.
The Casual is so eclectic but so right … what drives you and your choices?
Music for me is such a fluid thing in terms of genres. I really don’t have a favourite genre, I think limiting yourself to being someone that “only likes hip hop/rock” really misses the point of the creative process. Music is emotional storytelling and a way for people to express their emotions. People have a wide range of emotions so I don’t see why you can’t love different genres.
I often use music to chameleon into the person I need to be for the day/hour/minute; it might be intense rock for a good run, some classical strings while I wind down with my kids and cook dinner or my morning favourite… house music, it kicks me into gear and I can take on my day.
Long story longer, I like lots of music.
Technically how do you handle a 24 / 7 radio stream? Do you have a huge team?
It’s all me and only me. I enjoy working a lot and outside of my kids it’s the only thing I really do, for this season of my life, and that’s how I like it. I operate my other businesses Monday-Thursday primarily and Thursday evening-Sunday I bring The Casual to the forefront of my work priorities. I am looking at bringing a staff member on next year but for now, I am enjoying it.
Even if it’s just you and a few bros it must be a struggle to just be on it all the time.
It is a lot but I schedule out the tasks I need to complete weekly and just tick them off one by one.”Just keep going” – I often lean on this mantra in my mind and if I do this and focus on one thing at a time it’s manageable and fulfilling.
What sets The Casual apart from everything else out there?
While most radio stations use a format that is based on genre or age demographic I use the opposite. The Casual is an inclusive community for anyone that loves music. It is something that I hope comes through when you listen to The Casual, its inclusivity not exclusivity… you are not required to wear ’70s flares to enjoy indie, in fact there are no requirements for you to enjoy different music whenever you feel like it.
I think our ICON SERIES exudes that too, people that are well known to a degree from many different industries share a bit of their musical soul, the good tunes they love and let everyone shares those moments they have enjoyed!
How are you funded?
The Casual is self funded, at it’s core. It is about community and music so it doesn’t sit right with me to slam the stream with ads that are jarring and take away from the immersive experience.
It’s more important that our listeners can just enjoy the constant flow of music; at some stage we will offer a small amount of sponsorship but it will never be populated by commercial advertisements.
What’s next for The Casual?
The second round of ICON SERIES is starting soon and that’s exciting, I love being exposed to other people’s musical minds! We will also be launching our very own app in early 2021 which is really fun. We will still be available on Radio Schmadio and IHeartRadio too so don’t fear we aren’t going anywhere.
Thanks so much for the great vibes, your music selection makes us happy, whenever and wherever we are.