OTTAWA, Ontario — On Nov. 10, 2014, DJ John “Milky” Mielke and his fellow on-air talent at Ottawa’s CKKL(FM) — BOB-FM — were unexpectedly laid off when CKKL changed its format from’70-’80-’90s pop to new country. In response, Mielke launched his own internet radio station BlastThe Radio.com from his basement studio. RWI covered his efforts in 2015: Radio Station Not Required.
Today, BlastTheRadio.com (aka “BTR” to its many fans) continues to stream Milky’s live show 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., plus content from other contributors who have joined BTR’s roster and automated music playout 24/7. It all originates from his house in suburban Ottawa, Canada.
“When we started it was just me on the air,” said Mielke. “But as things have progressed we’ve been able to add other on-air shows. Veteran broadcaster Brian Kelly was the very first to reach out to us wanting to participate. He voices tracks six hours both Saturday and Sundays now.”
Also playing on BTR are podcasts from a number of former Canadian radio DJs such as Jesse and Jenna, Scotty Mars, and Jeunesse; plus weekday sports reports from Bruce Barker. Many of these are recorded in BTR’s “Podcastle;” a studio put together in Mielke’s dining room.
“We’re working with a number of local clients to develop podcasts for them,” Mielke said. “Some of that programming is also sourced for on-air broadcast, and I’ve just started hosting a weekend countdown show that airs Saturdays and Sundays.”
Since launching in 2015, BTR’s audio stream has racked up almost 600,000 “Listens” (unique streaming sessions), and built a fiercely loyal fan base in Ottawa and around the world.
“Initially we started off on one streaming platform — making it very easy to see just who was listening and when,” said Mielke. “Over the years we’ve added other audio streams in order to serve our audience via our phone app, smart speakers, and most recently an in-studio video feed.”
To build its brand awareness among Ottawa radio listeners, Mielke takes BTR on location whenever he can.
“We co-host an annual Superhero Breakfast where families are invited to a local restaurant to have pancakes with their favorite superheros,” Mielke said. “I emcee countless events. Every Christmas several of us install Christmas lights in exchange for a donation to a local crisis line, and we solicit donations on Taffy Lane [a street in Ottawa where every house is decorated] over the course of two weekends. Plus we make bumper stickers and magnets available at various locations as well.”
“Our fans are our biggest form of advertising, really,” he added. “They take it upon themselves to do things like put www.BlastTheRadio.com on computers on the sales floor of the local Best Buy, or on cellphones at various mobile retailers. They also send me countless photos of them having spelled out BTR or even BlastTheRadio with monogrammed coffee mugs and towels they’ve found at stores.”
Like the commercial radio station Mielke used to work at, BlastTheRadio.com is a money-making venture. Given that BTR is very much a one-man-band, “ad sales are the big challenge as I’m busy hosting a daily show, uploading content, producing podcasts and producing station imaging; plus I have other businesses that I run,” he said. “The sponsors we do have are people who have come to us through — mostly — word of mouth.”
“I’m very lucky in that I run a successful web enterprise that services conventional radio (www.MilkmanUnLimited.com) that provides me with an income,” Mielke continued. “I do some voice work for local clients as well as a few international ones. Most recently I was signed-on to be the voice of ABC Local Radio Networks’ New Country format.”
Challenges aside, Mielke loves being the voice of BlastTheRadio.com, and doesn’t regret leaving on-air work behind.
“Online is the most freedom I’ve ever had in a 30-plus year radio career! “ he said. “I can’t think of anything more exciting than being at the forefront of what is going to carry the medium I love so far forward.”