We’ve all been hearing stories of resilience, boundary pushing (in a good way), and communities coming together in new ways.
One of our biggest sources of togetherness during the times of shutdown has been livestreaming and radio. “Radio stations are considered an essential business,” says Amanda Guest, founder and director of Best Frequencies Forever, better known as BFF.fm. “So we could have just kept doing things the way we were doing them, but we were concerned as a community, because we have a very diverse group of 125 DJs — that’s a lot of people coming in and out of a very small space.” The station’s community identifies as 50% female/non-binary people, 40% people of color, and 35% LBGTQIA+.
In an effort to keep their DJs safe and to play their part in flattening the curve, BFF closed their doors and encouraged DJs to set up livestreaming systems at home. Weeks into the lockdown, the station posted this pleasing collection of homemade studios, complete with visual tips on how to best dampen the sound in your home space: Be that wtih a closet, a desk, or a comforter.
“If we can figure out a technological solution that would make it possible, it would be healthier and safer for everyone…so we started looking at some technological solutions so that people could work from home.” DJs weren’t shy about signing up. In fact, the station received plenty of applications for new DJs during this time, which was surprising, but also not. BFF provides such a space for community, both between the DJs themselves and for the greater Bay Area.
“BFF has been the most supportive environment. They’re always trying to make it work for you,” shares Erika Delgado, whose energetic show Abuela’s Pantry plants frequent “I Love You” reminders between every few songs. “I want to tell people the things I need to hear, too.”
Delgado is wearing bright green alien earrings. I ask if they glow in the dark, and they say, “No. But! I made these for a recent Bestie Bash!”
An image of Delgado’s new home studio set up, with DJ stand-in
The Besties Bashes, organized by Delgado, occur throughout the year and feature live performances from bands big and small. On March 16, as a flexible alternative to the current shutdowns, BFF.fm started offering 24-hour Instagram takeovers to provide a space for bands to showcase their tunes and projects and to gain exposure during this time when artists are trying their damndest to make ends meet. The artists themselves aren’t the only ones scraping by.
“Audio software isn’t cheap,” says Technical Director Ben Ward, who has been working at the station for six years. He’s happy about the upgrades BFF was able to make that allow more DJs to live stream from home. He imagines what will happen post-apocalypse with these new technological updates. “I can see us doing live streaming concerts after this.”
Ward in his home studio, complete with pillows to help with sound dampening
“That would be amazing,” chimes in Alive Adams via our Zoom call, who truly hopes to see live streaming at real-live concerts a thing in the coming months. “Sometimes people are like, eh ‘radio is dead.’ But I super disagree.” He thinks that BFF.fm is a perfect example of how the wide blend of personalities, tastes and different parts of the music industry all come together to create something very special, very San Francisco, and very vital. He and other DJs have been impressed with how quickly the station adapted and believes there is a silver lining here: there are more and more ways to connect, and once the world re-opens we’re going to be more connected than ever before. But these powers must be used for good and we must keep the lights on, now!
As an effort to help organizations who are in dire need now, Giving Tuesday, the global generosity movement that encourages people donate to charities on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, rebranded their annual event to include an extra special, extra Tuesday. Giving Tuesday Now is exactly what it sounds like: many organizations can’t wait until the fall to receive support. This May 5, 2020, we’re all encouraged to put down the margaritas* and donate to organizations whose work we admire. No gift is too small, ever. The whole “if we all just gave $1…” idea comes to mind here.
What will BFF do with their donations? Aside from continuing to pay rent on a space that’s not being use, paying for staff’s modest salaries, paying song royalties and streaming expenses (the later two of which are often covered by volunteer DJs, read more about that on the BFF site), the station is also fundraising to purchase equipment that will enable DJs who don’t own equipment to maintain access to their audiences and communities. “I miss BFF,” says Delgado. “It was the reason I left the house. It was a space to see friends. BFF provides stability and a safe space for those who join in-person or on air.”
We’re certain that the resilient crew at BFF will push forward and continue creating innovative new solutions to our current situation. What choice do we have? None. So this Cinco De Mayo, treat yourself to that aforementioned margarita* after you donate to your favorite organization or two. And as they say in Abuela’s Pantry: I love you!