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World wide from Canton

By Sarah Kucharski — Staff Writer

John Anderson’s boisterous voice streams out from the computer speakers.


Announcing the lineup for this week’s edition of the On The Horizon radio show, he rolls right into a segment featuring his daughter’s tale of a lackluster Christmas. She didn’t get a gift card that would allow her to buy a satellite system to take over the world. She’s a show regular, and the segment is a quirky bit of banter before Anderson cues up a guitar-driven instrumental.

“The key to the whole thing is keeping it fast and keeping it fresh,” Anderson said.

This is the third year Anderson’s Internet radio show, On The Horizon, has been in production. The show has gone prime time with broadcasts in Los Angeles, Rochester, N.Y., England, Australia and Russia. Not bad for a guy with a day job as operational manager for New Look Door company. He puts together his show from a home studio in Canton.

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Anderson got his start in 2001 when Bill and Theta Messic — founders of New Artist Radio — talked Anderson into doing a segment called “Idiots of the Week” for the .net Web site. Based on the Darwin Awards, which honors those too dumb to remain in the gene pool, the segment ran for a year and a half.

Anderson says it was more the content of the story than his presentation that made “Idiots of the Week” a hit.” In one story a guy outside Philadelphia decided to rob a house. Once inside he filled a pillowcase full. Intending to head out the garage door, he closed the door to the house behind him and hit the automatic door button. But the automatic door didn’t work. The would-be burglar stayed locked in the garage for eight days, living on a fridge full of Diet Pepsi and dog food. When the homeowner returned and the burglar was freed, he filed suit against the homeowner’s insurance company, winning $450,000 in damages.

“Who’s the bigger idiot?” Anderson asks.

The segment’s success gave Anderson an idea to capitalize on a talent and an interest he’d long harbored. Using his home computer he began piecing together a program designed for the benefit of the independent, unsigned musicians. The way he figures, every great musician started out with nobody knowing or caring who they were.

“Charlie Daniels started out unsigned,” Anderson said. “Elvis started out unsigned.”

Anderson doesn’t hem himself in by genre or geography. Musicians featured on the show come from the world over. The show’s most requested songs last year, “Coaltown Babies” and “Crescent City,” were by the quartet MINiMAL out of San Francisco.

He and Elly Cirino, his public relations manager, listen to everything that comes in — a task that can be both enlightening and enslaving.

“You never know where the jewel is going to be, you never know,” Cirino said.

Anderson also throws in a few local notables, like the group Stone Black, which often plays in Haywood and Jackson counties, and Bobby G, a Cruso-based guitar player who was the 16th most requested artist last year. However, including more local music is hard.

“We don’t have too many local artists available to us,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s set up isn’t conducive to live music, and many local music groups haven’t yet recorded their songs. Stone Black already has one self-produced album out, and headed to Nashville to begin working on their second this past weekend.

Even with his radio show broadcast in six countries on 14 AM and FM stations and five Internet stations, Anderson isn’t making any money from On The Horizon. It’s a labor of love.

“It’s something I can’t put down, and there were times that I really wanted to put it down too,” he says.

The agreements he signs with musicians featured on the show state that the airtime is royalty free. It’s a set up much unlike most commercial radio where pay-for-play arrangements keep songs in constant repetition, regardless of demand. The structure can create a hit rather than let the market be driven by consumer choices. Anderson’s musicians are on the low end of the music business food chain and must rely on getting heard before anything else.

“They’re looking for the exposure to maybe get some interest from the record labels or promotional teams or something along those lines,” Anderson said.

Listeners email in, send instant messages or even call to make their requests for the weekly program. Anderson spends about five to six hours in production to make the one-hour show, which he then uploads to his Web site every Sunday.

Though On The Horizon is re-broadcast over the airwaves during the drive to work in L.A., there’s no local station that’s carrying it — so far. Anderson is looking to expand, but moreover, he’s looking for sponsorships. What’s hard is that since his show is aired internationally, a local company won’t have much resonance with a listener in Australia. The sponsors need to be recognizable on a grand scale — McDonalds, Coca-Cola — but in order to secure the backing, On The Horizon has to have something to offer.

And it just as well might. While there’s no truly accurate way to gauge online listening — a system such as Neilsen ratings doesn’t exist for Internet radio — the industry is paying attention to what Anderson’s playing. New Music Weekly magazine awarded IRADIOLA, a station on which On The Horizon airs, Internet Radio Station of the Year. Anderson also co-hosts the station’s “Indie Traffic Jam” program with Mark “Maverick” Coon, and Carmen Allgood, the producer of the “Colorado Wave” Internet radio show.

“This thing has come a long way,” Anderson said.

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