A social triumph for indie radio station Reply

by Hugh Robertson

FBi Social celebrates its first anniversary. Photo: FBi

Barely two years after FBi Radio was in dire financial straits and close to bankruptcy, the radio station’s live venue, FBi Social, celebrated its first anniversary in March with a series of special shows and events demonstrating the breadth of its audience’s interests.

It was late August 2003 that the fledgling Free Broadcast Incorporated (FBi) came in to existence, focusing on alternative music from around Australia and especially from Sydney. It immediately found a small but passionate audience and now, as then, the station is run almost entirely by volunteers.

FBi Social, based at the Kings Cross Hotel, was established in March 2011 with the aim of expanding opportunities for the acts supported by the station itself, and with the added benefit of giving FBi’s listeners a place to come together and celebrate their love of all things indie.

“FBi Social represents the same good music as FBi Radio,” says Kimberley Galceran, the venue manager. “We also represent the local art and culture of Sydney through comedy, fashion, arts nights and informative panels. New emerging acts are our main focus but we like supporting the guys who have gone onto bigger things, too.”Adam Lewis, one of FBi’s presenters, says FBi Social presented him with an opportunity to expand the reach of his show, and to experience the music that he loves in a live setting. His program, Radiant, focuses on largely unknown Australian bands that produce their music independently, and as a result often have difficulty being heard by a larger audience.

“We haven’t seen a lot of this music in conventional venues,” Adam Lewis says, “So it’s been great as a station – and as a show, in Radiant’s case – to be able to bring what we do into a physical realm, and to be able to give our listeners the chance to experience the bands that they hear on the radio.”

Sydney’s live music industry has been hit hard in recent years by the closure of popular venues such as the Hopetoun, the Excelsior, the Forum and the Gaelic Hotel, and many others including the Annandale Hotel and Oxford Art Factory are facing an uphill battle to stay in business.In that volatile environment, the continued success of FBi Social is a source of great pride for those involved.

“Our first birthday is a big celebration,” Kimberley Galceran says. “We weren’t sure if a radio station with a venue would really fly. But we stuck to the same principles as FBi Radio and it’s paid off.”

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