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Cantore in the (multimedia) morning

San Diego radio is not what it used to be.

Just over two years ago, Chris Cantore took Christmas vacation and did not return to his job at local alternative-rock station, 91X. The station, he learned, had decided to make some unforseen administrative changes. Cantore had been leading the morning show – the longest and highest rated show in the station’s history – for 11 years.

“It was shocking,” he said. “I had a relationship end - overnight - after 11 years. The fears had become a reality and talented people were now on the sidelines.”

Most San Diegans had seen and felt the changes on the horizon with corporations moving in to take over stations, DJs switching channels, stations changing formats and names, etc.

Although Cantore was the first big-name morning show to say “adios,” we now know he certainly wasn’t the last. However, being first might have given him a little bit of leverage in the music game he was suddenly being forced to play.

Cantore graduated from SDSU with a degree in English and Political Science in 1994. He decided to stick around and soon found himself in local radio, briefly working at KFMB-fm and KKLQ-fm before landing at 91X with “Cantore in the Morning.”

Fast forward 11 years, and suddenly, everything had changed. 91X, music and his fans had been his life. As he pondered what to do next, he spent some time with his family, friends and his beloved surfboard. Then, rather organically, it all made sense. His future opened up – and he knew exactly what to do.

“People were finding alternative ways to get content rather than from their radios," said Cantore. "They wanted to listen to their own choices in music instead of having some corporation telling them what to listen to, and there were new ways and devices to do that. I decided to take everything I’d learned in the media and put it online.”

Gary Clapp, native San Diegan and Cantore’s former colleague as promotion director at 91X, shared the same vision. In early 2009, they teamed up to create Cantore Creative, LLC – a full service interactive media agency – and soon launched it’s first property, LegitRadio.com.

Clapp is quick to point out that despite the name, LegitRadio is not just an online radio platform. It is an “online community that centers around music.” They are intermingling and repurposing content over every type of media imaginable, and it appears to be the formula of the future.

Humble Beginnings

Since there is no longer a broadcast involved, there is no need for big bulky rooftop transmitters or space for all the relative equipment. Their new operating space is a converted closet inside The Hive, a “collective” working space located in the East Village of downtown. It is quite humble, with very little overhead. What, exactly, is in that closet LegitRadio calls home? An Apple Mac computer; a PC; two large display monitors; a couple microphones; a table; two chairs and a ton of CDs. That, a little gumption and a new reason for being is all they need.

“We are now a small, passionate group, focused on repurposing content for our customers,” said Cantore.

Sounds like a far cry from radio-land, doesn’t it?

If you take a stroll through the LegitRadio website, you will see what Clapp means; it is not just about playing music. There are live video programs at various times of the day, pod casts of previous shows available, music videos, blogs, a live chat room, twitter streams…and oh by the way, you can listen to live streaming music any time of the day. The website that offers all this to whoever visits, has been developed by some of Cantore’s former 91X listeners. “It truly is a community,” he emphasized.

Cantore himself does a daily hour-long live streaming show, but he is just one cog in the wheel of this new music community. Robin Roth (also previously from 91X) has a weekly show, Rob Molt (who calls himself Audio Assassin) has a bi-weekly show, and several “clients” come down to the studio and stream shows for own their communities.

All of this content is “repurposed” via Twitter, Facebook, Blip, YouTube and other media sources. It’s a commonsense method – consider sending one music video out to your twitter list, and each person on that list sending it out to theirs, and on and on. It has the potential to multiply very quickly. Since they are doing this through multiple interactive media portals at once, it is literally blasting forward to thousands of locations, and potential listeners, at a time.

“This is peer-to-peer communication,” explained Clapp, “which is much more important [to the listener] than coming from a business that you don’t care about.”

There is no advertising on the site, and according to Cantore, that is for good reason. “I’m motivated by community and connecting people, I’m not motivated about money. I’m much more of an artist than I realized.”

That’s not to say they don’t need money to keep things afloat. The website does have a PayPal button for donations and they will be marketing the capabilities of their interactive media agency as their primary revenue source.

But make no mistake, these gentlemen are all about collaboration these days.

“I really believe on a spiritual level that in 2010, if you are coming from a place of competition, you will not survive.”

The work they’ve done with LegitRadio has already caught the eye of NBC San Diego executives, who were also looking for new methods for reaching customers and making use of the social media sites now available and used so prevalently. As a result, Cantore Creative will soon be breaking-bread with NBC San Diego on a new collaboration, called SoundDiego. It, too, will focus on music but incorporate other media (video, blogs) and highlight music venues and artists around the county, as well.

Both Cantore and Clapp understand that a lot of listeners have been frustrated with radio formats. They appreciate all the bands that really deserve the air time, but simply do not get it, due to the revenue driven, corporate behemoth commercial radio has become.

On the flip-side, Cantore Creative is driven by this very principal: local and independent label bands DO deserve to be heard. “The musicians that we will focus on you won’t hear on standard radio. So much magic and talent comes through San Diego and no one even knows about them.”

Case in point: country indie musician Sara Petite was recently scheduled to play at the Belly Up and came down to Cantore's "closet” to do an acoustic show earlier that same day. Her show was streamed live, but also recorded and later made available for podcast. This allows users to listen at their leisure, either online or on their iPod. That podcast was also then blasted forward through all the other available social and media networks to an even wider audience. In an afternoon, Sara Petite went peer-to-peer. That is what Legitradio.com is all about.

On Thursday, January 21, NBC San Diego released the details of their new partnership. According to the press release, “The SoundDiego team will be updating its site with video, pictorial and text contributions, with a series of posts each day, bringing the pulse of the San Diego music scene to the area in a multimedia package unrivaled by its competition in the local online community.” Cantore is all over it. Literally.

So while other out-of-job morning show icons are twittering away their daily trips to the mall, trying to keep their fan base alive until their next “gig,” Cantore is in much better shape. His groundwork has been done, his foundation has been laid and his future seems to be eloquently evolving.

San Diego radio may not be what it used to be, but there definitely is still a pulse in the local music scene, and Cantore, et al, are keeping the beat.