May 30, 2024

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An Online Radio Station Where Everything Is Eclectic

In 2015, NTS expanded, opening a studio in Manchester and one in Los Angeles the following year. Currently, NTS hosts around 700 shows a month — roughly 600 from residents, who host weekly, biweekly or monthly shows, and 100 or so from guest D.J.s — which come in from cities across the world, including Beirut, Lebanon; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Melbourne, Australia. NTS broadcasts without advertising, instead relying on income from its commercial activities and a membership program called “NTS Supporters” to keep the station afloat. In March, the station averaged 360,000 listeners a day, according to its chief executive, Sean McAuliffe.

Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura, the director of music and programming at NTS, said that the station “was the first platform in London that really reflected the breadth” of her taste as a young Black music fan with a genre-agnostic mind-set. It was that boundary-dissolving character that brings people to the station, she added.

Dill said the station could also act as a bulwark against the idea that listening to music is a passive experience. “I want people to not think that music is just a background thing that’s on Spotify, that rolls into the next song and they all sound vaguely the same,” she said. (Around 40 percent of the music played on NTS is not available on the streaming service, McAuliffe noted.) “I want people to think that music is a really valuable, amazing art form, like a painting or a sculpture,” Dill added.

Although it is based in London, NTS has global appeal. Nabihah Iqbal, who has been broadcasting on NTS for over a decade, said that she once received a message from a man in the Nubian Desert who listened to her show from the one spot in his Sudanese village where he could get cell signal.

“What NTS reflects is the way that music consumption and connecting through music has changed because of the internet,” she said. “Listening to the station live, and being part of the chat room and connecting to people that way is a very real way of feeling like you’re part of a community.”

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