It's amazing what goes on in "your own backyard!" I'd heard about The Dividing Line radio show for years, little did I know it's founder lived and worked a block away from me. I had to make up for that...so here's my chat with Shawn Bishop.
Jerry Lucky: Tell us how and when you came to create The Dividing Line and what prompted you to undertake this idea?
Shawn Bishop: Back in 1999 I was running my own website and playing with streaming Genesis related audio and video which was a very new technology with regards to general internet use at the time. All but only a small percentage of people online were still using dialup so it was a challenge delivering decent sound and video quality. But I loved the music and was all about seeing if I could create a cool site to share it. One of the visitors to my site, a guy named Dale Mugford, contacted me and it turned out he was doing something similar but with audio only. After forming a friendship based on our love of music he suggested we merge our talents into one site that would be an online radio-station. I was skeptical of the idea thinking the chances of it going anywhere at all were second to none, but he was persistent and I enjoyed a technical challenge, and thus The Dividing Line Broadcast Network (DLBN) was born with the two of us doing shows. Sadly after a couple of months broadcasting Dale was not able to continue due to other obligations which required his full time attention Ė but by that time I found I was enjoying broadcasting and decided to continue on my own. Now here I am over 12 years later writing about the stationís creation. Time does go by!
JL: Is that a Genesis reference I sense?
SB: Ah yesÖ in fact the original station was meant to be Phil Collins & Genesis related! It was only with the addition of other people joining DLBN that the scope of the station expanded to encompass the whole progressive rock genre. When naming the station I ran through every single Genesis track title to use as a potential station name. By the time I got to their last studio album Calling All Stations I was getting worried I wouldnít find anything good, but The Dividing Line popped out at me as the perfect attention grabbing name. Plus the song is pretty decent as well so itís a good namesake. Ironically there is now another song entitled The Dividing Line by Frost* which they wrote for us on our 10 year anniversary Ė awesome!!
JL: Iím interested in the general atmosphere you put yourself into and what the response was?
SB: Back then Internet radio was a very foreign idea to the general public so it was initially only the early embracers of technology that became fans of the station. It was a small and tight community of progressive rock fans who we all knew and became amazing friends with. Initially all the shows were live without any archives for later listening so the live community was very strong and supportive. Strong personalities such as Mike Kuhl and Jim Harrell were instrumental in helping the station become better known in those early days. The response was very positive as we were starting to work with artists to bring our audience engaging interviews and music premiers.
JL: How has the Dividing Line changed over time to what it is today?
SB: Initially it was a grass roots operation out of my apartment in Vancouver Canada with a few hundred listeners per month. We had a rough edge and loved what we were doing. Now we have a finer more streamlined edge in terms of our content and we have servers hosted out of Montreal to accommodate our higher bandwidth needs, and we still love what weíre doing! On average we receive a total of about 750,000 visits to the site per month which isnít huge in the world of Internet radio generally speaking, but itís a hell of a lot more than I was ever expecting and it shows what weíre doing is appealing to our listeners. As I mentioned earlier, our audience was initially live only. Now itís almost exclusively on demand listeners who subscribe to our podcast feeds. I canít emphasize enough that itís the broadcast team we have that is the true heart of the station. I feel privileged to know all of our broadcast team as each and every one of them are top notch presenters who bring their own special flare to presenting the genre that we all love. Plus Iíve made many great friendships over the years so I consider myself that much luckier.
JL: Are you open to new participants? How would someone get in touch and what are you looking for?
SB: Absolutely! The Dividing Line is supported by its broadcasters so the more we have the further we can go! The process for anyone wishing to join is very easy as we do all the tech support. The first step is to come up with a show name and concept unique to them (i.e. a show focus point thatís not being covered by anyone else on our current lineup) and submit an application. Once the show concept is approved then we guide them through creating a demo for consideration. Once itís approved then all thatís left is to sign off on our broadcasting manual and theyíre good to go! Full information on this process as well as the new show application form can be found on the Join Our Broadcast Team section of the DLBN site.
JL: Letís go back even before thatÖwhat drew you to progressive rock?
SB: Genesis!! Pure and simple! I was born in 1976 and missed out on all the 70s prog as it happened. I had no idea of anything relating to progressive rock other than old Genesis as I had no exposure to any of it Ė I just knew I liked the Genesis material a lot. I got into Invisible Touch when it came out when I was 10 and slowly worked my way back from the pop through the older more intricate material which I was enthralled by. But it wasnít until others joined in broadcasting on DLBN that I was opened up to the other amazing bands out there and my whole musical world changed dramatically. It sounds weird now, but for me The Dividing Line was my road to discovering the genre through the others that were broadcasting. Now I canít imagine life without knowing about these amazing musicians.