November 20, 2003

New Website Offers Free Ithacan Music

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Ithaca music aficionados can now get their fix of local bands 24 hours a day, thanks to a new Internet radio station. Radio Free Ithaca (, launched in September, features Ithacan music, which it streams to users’ computers for free.


RFI founder Mike Levy, who plays in a local band himself, said he got the idea for the station over the summer when he attended local music festivals. When he discovered a website that hosts radio stations online, he knew one would fit well in Ithaca.

“The Ithaca music scene is just so fantastic,” Levy said. “It’s really the inspiration behind the whole thing.”


I-Town Records, an independent record label in Ithaca, donated its entire catalog to RFI. Kevin Kinsella explained that he hopes that RFI will expose more people to the bands’ music, increasing sales and attendance at concerts. He said that Radio Free Ithaca is “a great way to promote Ithaca’s music, and that’s what I-Town is all about.”

RFI also received music from individual bands. Andrew Farnsworth grad, a member of the local band Mectapus, said that Mectapus offered RFI all of its music in order to gain more exposure and “spread [its] music to as many people as possible.” Farnsworth said that he hopes RFI will increase Ithaca’s already great support of its local music.

“Ithaca is pretty supportive of its musicians, but there is always more room to support creativity,” he said.

Farnsworth said that he would like to see RFI attract bands’ attention specifically at Cornell and Ithaca College. He hopes that the buzz will result in more venues being opened for these bands. He said that the local music scene and the local college atmosphere are both very active, and “merging them effectively and keeping them merged all year long is the key.”

Levy said that RFI already has an international audience. According to a press release, statistics from the site show that users are listening to it from France, China, Latvia and the Netherlands, where one alumnus thanked RFI, writing, “It’s hard to explain to people over here just how special Our Town is.” Levy noted that there are Cornell alumni associations all over the world “who don’t get to hear the [local] music very much,” and said that he expects RFI to help them listen to these bands.

Kinsella said that he hopes that RFI will also catch the professional recording industry’s attention and get some of the local bands discovered. He said that Ithaca’s music scene is strong and has a good deal of talent, but that just getting music to be listened to is very important in the recording industry.

“The music’s excellent. It’s just a matter of getting people to hear it,” he said.

RFI is hosted by, which hosts Internet radio stations for a monthly fee. Stations are programmed by the fans who set them up, allowing each one to cater to a specific need. According to Live365’s site, more than three million users tune in to its various stations each month. Levy said that he pays the monthly fee himself, and that due to legal issues he is not able to receive any money for the station.

“It’s really a community thing,” Levy said. “It was never intended to be a business.”

RFI exclusively plays music from local bands, something which Levy said he does not intend to change. He noted that there will be a few exceptions — groups that start locally and move elsewhere, or grassroots festivals that might include non-local groups, for instance — but that RFI’s purpose is specifically geared towards local music.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit