As general manager and co-founder of Laguna Beach’s FM radio station KX 93.5, Tyler Russell rousts himself before dawn to fill the 6 to 10 a.m. weekday slot with irreverent banter about community affairs and music from indie bands.
Since taking to the airwaves in October 2012, 93.5 DJs have also broadcast live from local events, interviewing passersby at an Earth Day fair and providing play-by-play at a dodge ball tournament. Its night and weekend listeners tune in to an even more diverse free-for-all, reflecting the passions of volunteer DJs for everything from blues tunes to talk on relationships.
Now, Russell is broadening that sonic platform further, helping start KX @ One Laguna, a web-based, more news oriented talk station for Laguna Beach’s Firebrand Media, publisher of the Indy newspapers and a dozen other magazine titles.
The station’s operating booth is intended as part of the show inside One Laguna, at 225 Forest Ave., a storefront vacant for months. Now, its exposed brick interior serves as the backdrop for a college art gallery and an innovative bricks-and-mortar digital marketplace focused exclusively on Laguna Beach.
After months in development, One Laguna, also owned by Firebrand’s chairman and local resident Allan Simon, is due to open this month.
Outfitted with dazzling, touch-screen displays, One Laguna is intended to cater to time-pressed visitors and residents alike by inviting them to virtually explore the town and plan their stay. Guests will be invited to create an itinerary by using the displays, which host a visual repository of Laguna’s natural and built resources, from beaches to bikini boutiques, yoga classes to sushi, as well as ads from local merchants. The itinerary can be downloaded to a smart phone or printed out.
“The objective is to plan what you’re doing rather than driving from place to place,” said Simon, who believes One Laguna’s state-of-the-art welcome center can bottle the town’s special qualities, thus improving the visitor experience and helping merchants fill vacant tables and empty hotel rooms.
“It’s all a dream at this point,” said Simon.
Even so, he thinks the web station complements and extends Firebrand’s print and web capability and will add to the fun of visiting the store.
For Russell, who received a six-month, $40,000 contract to outfit the web station and develop its programming, the alliance promises something more.
Firebrand’s eight-person sales force will now also sell advertising for the FM, its digital stream and the new KX @ One Laguna station, splitting proceeds.
“Fifty percent of what Firebrand sells is 100 percent more than what we sell,” said Russell, who counts one sales person among the station’s four-man paid staff. Firebrand’s contract and added sales revenue will help keep the non-profit station’s $299,500 budget in the black, replacing start-up donations.
The already established FM’s programming will not shift as a result of the alliance. “Allan didn’t want to change the content at all,” Russell said.
Nevertheless, in a surprise to the manager, one of the station’s guest DJs quit as a result of the deal. In an on-air announcement, Stu Saffer signed off his final broadcast on Dec. 22. Saffer, who has an online news website, is also the Indy’s founding publisher. The paper was sold to Firebrand in 2009.
“Stu felt he didn’t want to attach his name to it anymore,” Russell explained.
But Russell is confident many others who clamored for programming time that he has had to turn away will show interest as volunteer DJs for the new outlet.
“We’ve said ‘no’ to a lot of talk shows. I think we can build a really intellectual, more social station,” he said.
Russell welcomes programming suggestions to [email protected].