In Amsterdam, on the Oudekerksplein 22, there is a place where a different type of product is promoted. In the form of music difficult to find, often fascinating and generally surprising. Red Light Radio, a platform that, in a broad sense, is the celebration of Red Light Radio, Red Light Records, Vintage Voudou, several recording studios and many other themes, arts and activities related to culture. It has been the occupant of this building during more time, nine years old RDR, has become an internationally recognized platform and a mirror of the musical diversity of Amsterdam… A product of the imagination of Hugo Van Heijningen and Orpheu the magician with whom he has managed to write a rich story for him throughout seven years internationally. It is a recognized station with a significant presence and a demographic group of listeners that extends throughout Europe and beyond. It has become an integral entity within the music scene of the city, helping to promote some of the most interesting producers, curators and disc jockeys of today. To transmit and reproduce sounds from the darkest afro to the coldest wave, breaks, the blackest metal and the newest electronics and everything else, selling albums and publishing quality material since 2010. Its creator, Hugo, besides organizing the programs of Radio, is also responsible for the programming of emblematic festivals such as Dekmantel, Strange Sounds From Beyond, SXSW or Intonal, as well as being responsible for 3 buildings in the city with many creative people, music studios, 2 record stores and their own store RLR AMS SHOP. Yes, Hugo is always busy, he never gives up. But as he says: Expect the unexpected and you will never be disappointed.
How and why did you become involved in your line of work? What would you even call what you do?
At Red Light Radio we’re just all music fans and try to get the sounds we like out there for everyone to enjoy. We started this 8 years ago as online radio station, which is still the core of our platform, but there’s so much more now. We organize concerts, parties, festivals, merchandise, tours and all kinds of musical collaborations all over the world.
How does such a radio manage to exist? What keeps it alive?
Mostly what keeps us alive is our neverending urge and energy to make nice things happen. In terms of business it’s always a struggle to earn the money to survive, but we somehow manage for years now.
How did you come up with the idea for RLR?
I’ve always been making music and sharing music with friends. With the opportunity to share music on an online platform, the idea appeared. There was not something like East Village Radio in New York here in Amsterdam and I really loved that station. With the possibility to rent an old prostitution window and start Red Light Radio, we kicked off and the rest is history.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, your day to day and what is at stake.
So many things going on, since Red Light Radio is very DIY.
So I still do program radio shows, mostly for all our projects abroad. Programming and promoting festivals like Dekmantel, Strange Sounds From Beyond, SXSW & Intonal. I’m responsible for 3 buildings in the city with lots of creative people, music studios and 2 record shops and our own RLR AMS SHOP, where we do little events as well. It’s busy but great to be busy with.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
It’s great to be a hub for a broad music community, not only in Amsterdam or The Netherlands, but worldwide. This keeps me goin.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
So many proud moments. I just came back from Beijing, China, where we did our first outdoor event, which was a big success.
I’m also very proud that we are still an independent radio station with no commercials and every day people coming in bringing the greatest (& weirdest) music.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future, Hugo?
It would be great if we can find a nice solution to copyrights and make sure all we hear at RLR has a track list, cause that’s not often the case and all we want is sharing music and musical knowledge.
In Spain they are creating radios similar to Red Light Radio, in the capitals. What do you think this success is due to?
It’s great to create a place where the music scene comes together and bring interesting music. Every city has their music nerds and collectors. It’s great they all get a place to share their music and stories and have a platform to create positive things.