About a year ago, at some Melbourne CBD cafe over an expensive platter of food and some friendly catch-ups, Tim Price excitedly showed me the soon-to-launch app he’d been working hard away on. This app was for a new digital radio station that he’d conceptualized and had been building up for a while: The Faction. Launching in August 2017, The Faction has grown substantially ever since. Not just from it’s weekly and monthly listenership, but also to the impressions and reach of its social media accounts too.
In terms of heavy music, Triple J boasts The Racket and Short.Fast.Loud, of course, and while some artists do get their songs premiered in the prime time afternoon slots on Monday’s and Friday’s, the realm of rock, alternative, and heavy-inclined music often gets the shaft from the big kid’s table. So for Tim, it was about creating a solely dedicated heavy music program for punters and listeners everywhere. Circumventing the national broadcast network to take advantage of the online world and put it directly into people’s pockets and ears. When a lot of people tell me that print is dead, I point them in the direction of Beat and Mixdown as examples of making it work in current times. And when people tell me that radio is dead, I point them in the direction of The Faction for how such ventures can be made plausible in the modern era. Some media formats die in the face of change, while others adapt and survive in the digital space. The Faction is just one such example of the latter.
With all of that in mind, I recently asked The Faction’s mastermind some questions about the program, namely, it’s growth over the past year; how he’s smartly used the brand since starting; the challenges he’s faced in making it work; and where he’s taking it all in the future. And Tim was more than happy to spill the beans about The Faction’s on-going progress!
First off Tim, has running The Faction affected your mental health at all? Maybe earlier on when it was still growing and developing to where it is now?
“A little. Believe me when I say that I have been VERY lucky in my life to not have experienced mental health issues (and I am definitely trying my best to make sure that I empathize and understand when people are affected by them). I don’t believe that it has affected my mental health, but it DEFINITELY has meant that I have had to compartmentalize and organize my days to split my time between Collision Course PR, The Faction and then my personal life.”
It’s always a balancing act of sorts. So what’s the growth of The Faction been like over the past year? From the streams and listenership to the social media reach?
“It started from nothing obviously but has blown out quite a lot. To see some of our social media posts hit 150k+ reach sometimes is absolutely insane. Over 6000 app downloads across both platforms have also been pretty nuts!”
Solid effort! With having The Faction Facebook group, do you think using such groups are effective in ensuring that users are properly notified of new content or updates and that such info doesn’t get lost in BS algorithms? That a better community space is created?
“Yeah, that’s something I am working on at the moment. I don’t think I have mastered the use of that group yet, but yes, I am definitely figuring out that some content works better there than on the timeline for the facebook page too. I sold 30 The Faction t-shirts there the other day where it obviously felt more one-to-one that the users were buying from me directly or from a small business and felt like they were supporting it, whereas previously I have had a store link and sponsored the post on the page. And I sold none then. So yes, it definitely feels different and feels more like a “community” vibe.”
Right on! With having Browny from Wall Of Sound, Mike Hohnen, Ebony Story, Douglas Harvey, Nev Pearce and Michelle O’Rance doing interviews and new segments, how much further will you be branching out with other writers and media types?
“I have my eye on something pretty cool that I want to make an offer on soon. And that’s pretty much all I want to say here about that!”
Interesting. Anyway, with doing the live Facebook videos from time to time, how important is it that you maintain a real presence as the key force behind The Faction moving forward?
“The live facebook videos were something that I wanted to experiment with; to see how they went. I really want to make sure that the community vibe is kept up and increased and that positive discussion is encouraged. Like it or not (and I definitely do like it), I own and run The Faction, so ultimately, at this point in time, the over-arching voice of the station and app and community is mine! I have been pleasantly surprised by the interaction and the speculation that people have when they come into the facebook live videos and ask questions. I guess working in music PR, the industry as well as in radio/media, I kind of assume that everyone already knows all the news or the inner workings of festivals or tours. So it’s awesome to chat with people about their awe of a band’s latest tour just announced or a festival lineup that just dropped. It’s very cool and humbling!”
I’m the same way: you get taken aback when you realize just how much you hear or know before it’s made public. So, what were the biggest challenge in getting the initial Faction app together and getting the station up and running initially?
“Apple’s app platform! They have so much tighter guidelines around their apps than Google Play. Our first generation app just was never going to be accepted by Apple (despite being told by the platform that built it that they could make it happen) but was in the Google Play store. So in the first three months, it was on the Google Play store, but not on Apple. Seems such a long time ago now, but the re-made and updated version that we have now is so much better. And I do imagine that in the future, we will update and improve again! We were lucky enough that we have used the profits and cash flow generated from running Collision Course PR to float the app idea and to also pay the APRA and PPCA licenses to be able to broadcast. Which I totally understand that some people don’t necessarily have to be able to kick it off. That would have been so hard to do from scratch.”
Well, how much money have you sunk into it the app and station so far? Would you say it was a gamble that’s paid off?
“All told, cash-wise, it’s probably near on $10k. My time and effort – not paid – probably add a hypothetical $40k part-time salary to that. It definitely has paid off. Not in cash yet, but when I hear people say that it’s the thing that gets them through their workday, or that they have been waiting for something like this for ages, or that they’ve found a tonne of new bands from being a listener – that’s worth every cent, man. When I see huge bands re-tweeting that they’ve been played, or hearing artists that I love saying “You’re listening to The Faction” – WORTH IT. It’s so worth it.
One thing that I have fought for from the very start is that even though the projected target market was males 18-35 became absolutely true, I wanted to make sure that there was diversity on the station and community. In the voices being heard, in the people interviewing and being interviewed, etc. So I have fought to discover and play as much music from female or female-identifying artists as possible and I am stoked to have Ebony and Michelle interviewing bands too. So doing that and going to the effort of discovering and exposing those bands – it’s absolutely worth it.”
Agreed – every little bit helps! What’s the on-going management side of The Faction like? What are some things you didn’t perceive at first that have since come up – whether they be good or bad?
“Probably the tech side of it is the hardest thing. Sometimes, if the machine that runs it crashes and I am at home on the weekend or something, it’s hard to get it running again and that initial phase with the app was shit. So many questions and impatience about it. But I kinda took it as that people wanted the product, which was cool. Other than that, it’s all pretty awesome! I love putting stuff on that gets a reaction and I take real pleasure in getting songs on the radio and playing them for people and championing that band or that song ahead of most other radio stations!”
Tech matters can be a headache, for sure. With situations like As I Lay Dying coming back and releasing new material this year, is it hard to decide on programming new music from artists whose actions (or even lyrics) that you personally don’t agree with? Do you feel like you must retain that kind of control in the curating, even if listeners want said songs/artists played?
“One of my focuses from the start was to support women/female & other identifying genders. So I made the editorial decision to not play that song and that band because I personally couldn’t reconcile that. It didn’t at all feel like playing that song was supportive.”
I agree, props for that. Also, regarding The Faction Hardest 100 Countdown earlier this year, will that list return in 2019?
“Hell yes, it will! It will be the Hardest 100 of 2018. So if any heavy band who has put out a single or tracks in 2018, from January 1 to December 31 – it will be eligible to be voted on.”
Lastly, stemming fom my previous question, what about comments that were barely any women included on the first year’s list, despite it being a voter poll?
“We predicted that it would probably fall that way because in the past, heavy music has been dominated by the boys club (and I am STOKED that we are moving away from this viewpoint and attitude nowadays). That countdown was all about the Hardest songs of the past 40 years – which, unfortunately, in that timeframe – the genre was dominated by men for about 30-35 of those. We obviously can’t change vote results, but we can now contribute to a culture that is more inclusive and sees more diverse artists in those spots. What we can do is make sure that there are TONNES of women in the lists to vote for and that we contribute to positively changing people’s views by ensuring that our station plays a healthy proportion of women/female identifying voices on the station; making sure that their voices are heard across the station going forward. I think that people will find that there will be so many more female voices included in this year’s countdown. As I am playing so much of it on the station, there is so much great stuff out there being released now, there is so much more awareness of the gender imbalances, and there are so many more women into/getting into heavy music these days. And if not – what the fuck, dudes? Shake off that toxic masculinity, guys!”
Amen! Follow The Faction here & dive into it all below: