Hannes Richter

Beats, Breaks & Samples

Hannes Richter

by Annette Weber

Some describe it as a narcissistic broadcasting station that differs only marginally from other private radio stations. Others characterize it as a "window to the outside world," providing a universal appeal. But all agree, that if FM4 did not exist, it would be a catastrophe. This station for young people offers a varied program - from chilled-out cosmopolitan radio to news, from special features to music considered outside the mainstream. FM4 was launched ten years ago and is the fourth, newest national network of the Austrian Broadcasting Company (ORF). Starting as an evening and overnight service on the frequencies of the English language network, Blue Danube Radio, FM4 was extended to a full-time program in 2000.

FM4 defines its music as "alternative mainstream." While not intended as a definition of genre, it covers a range of genres including rock, electronic music, Britpop, Hip Hop, House, and Soul. FM4 targets an open-minded, style-conscious and generally younger audience primarily interested in popular culture. It has only 300,000 listeners per day - compared with the 2.9 million listeners of Ö3, the most popular ORF radio station. And this minority audience is considered an elite, which an Austrian music magazine recently named the "FM4 Universe."

The original idea was to create a station modeled on Ö1, generally regarded as one of the best cultural broadcasting stations in Europe, but specifically designed to be responsive to the young, sophisticated generation. The bilingual station FM4 provided a regional and international perspective within their media context. In the process they conveyed to all participants and listeners the feeling of having found "their radio station." The station's slogan, "You're at home baby," strengthened the feeling of being a part of something new, but still comfortably familiar. Today FM4 is helping ORF fulfill its public mandate. This mandate includes promoting people who have been under-represented in other media contexts.

For the last six months FM4 can also be heard online and some 65,000 people worldwide are now frequent listeners. Even a research station in the Antarctic is included among its loyal listeners. Music that is not often played on MTV and VIVA has difficulty reaching an audience. FM4 not only provides such a platform but also plays sample tapes, so-called demos, and gives young artists a chance to perform.

One of the main goals of FM4 is identifying and supporting native artists. Due to the station's public exposure, several small-time players have made it to the top. One example is the team of Kruder & Dorfmeister, two former hairdressers, who were instrumental in promoting the "Vienna Sound."

The Vienna Sound
During the mid-90s Vienna was a Mecca for electronic music which was generally recognized as being of high quality. A universal sound which all of the important musicians produced was as rare then as it is now. Under the title "Vienna Electronic," many diverse musical forms were united, for example disco music of the late 70s or slow downbeat. They were spontaneous grooves and relaxing sounds reminiscent of coffeehouse Gemütlichkeit. No particular category of music or style but the music of a loose network of Viennese artists. For more information, see fm4.orf.at

Annette Weber was an intern with the Press and Information Service. She holds a degree in Communications.