Owner Sean Mulrooney poses in The Moon's downtown broadcasting location. (Kaitlyn Wimmer/Chemeketa Courier)
“We’re not a political station, we’re not a talk station, but we could do a lot with music, and that’s what we’ve chosen to do,” said Sean Mulrooney, owner of Salem’s homegrown radio station 105.5 The Moon.
For over a year, The Moon has been drenching the airwaves of Salem with a rock catalog spanning the last several decades. With charismatic DJs, clever introductions and quirky music selections, it comes off almost like a college radio station.
From the edges of downtown, The Moon and its volunteer DJs provide a unique radio experience for Salemites by participating in the local arts scene, hand picking music libraries and not running advertisements.
While The Moon formally launched in October of 2017, Mulrooney has been a voice on the FM airwaves since college. Bringing a following from an online station called SalemFM.com, Mulrooney was offered a frequency in 2014. It took three years to get the station up and running, but it now operates just off Southeast High Street. Even The Moon’s broadcasting antenna is located in Salem.
“We’re not getting the signal from Portland. I get to talk about why I love Salem, and the things that are in Salem that I love … I’ve lived here since ‘91, so I’m familiar enough with Salem to be able to make inside jokes and to tease ourselves a little bit about the nightmare that is Lancaster Drive,” said Mulrooney.
While typical community radio stations’ playlists are dictated by whichever DJ is currently on the air, The Moon operates differently.
“I didn’t want to do it that way. I wanted a core sound. I wanted to find DJs that liked that core sound. I was curious if my taste in programming theory and music would actually translate,” Mulrooney said.
The station has DJs who play songs of their choice, but they are chosen from a library of 4,322 rock songs collected by Mulrooney in order to maintain that core sound.
“While I thought I was being risky with the format to begin with, when we launched, Salem was much more ready for it than I had given them credit for.”
When the station is unmanned, the songs aren’t playing at random. Mulrooney designed an algorithm to keep broadcast flowing.
Mulrooney said, “The algorithm that I use to present the songs is very calculated. Every song is hand picked. It’s play one from this category, then play one from that category … I’m real fond of ebb and flow when it comes to tempo, and so the broadcast sort of reflects that.”
Without corporate backing, The Moon has creative control over what they broadcast. Because of this, Mulrooney avoids playing popular singles and instead focuses on the rock songs that aren’t always featured on the FM radio.
“Right now we are enjoying a nice run of bands that have a power-pop sound. Bands like Merrymakers, Squeeze and Jellyfish enjoy a lot of representation on The Moon ... We will represent classic rock with obscure and less heard Queen songs ... When a bandlike The Claypool Lennon Delirium comes along, we pay attention to that whole album,” Mulrooney wrote.
Volunteer DJ Vikkye Fetters-Delfino said Salem has responded well to the The Moon’s broadcast.
“There’s already been so much positive traction in the way of The Moon and ... our comedy scene, our music scene, our art scene. But, I feel like there is kind of a stop gap between those projects and just everybody in Salem. The Moon kind of helps bridge that gap a little bit between those things,”Fetters-Delfino said.
The Moon has promoted itself recently in the community as well. Vinyl store Ranch Records is participating in Record Store Day. During this event, customers can order limited edition vinyls and buy them from local record stores on April 13, 2019.
The Moon and Ranch Records have an agreement in which, after customers purchase a vinyl on Record Store Day, they are encouraged to then head over to The Moon’s broadcasting location. Customers can then request a song off of their new vinyl and then introduce it to listeners.
“People would come in and out throughout the entire day and I would que up one song from the record they bought. They would sit across the table and introduce live on the air a song that they love. So they got to play a little bit of the guest DJ thing,” Mulrooney said.
Mulrooney has also managed to keep advertisements off The Moon's airwaves by having businesses underwrite for the station.
“For a financial contribution they will get on air exposure and thanks for helping us keep the lights on. It is whatever they want to contribute, we will tailor a package exactly for them … our license doesn’t even allow us to play traditional commercials,” said Mulrooney.
Listeners can also text song requests to The Moon at (503) 409-4218.
“Our tagline is … music for people who are into music,” Mulrooney said. “I really believe that.”
Kaitlyn Wimmer is a journalism student at Chemeketa Community College and editor-in-chief of the Chemeketa Courier. This article is part of a partnership between the Courier and Salem Reporter.
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