In the heart of Brussels, where grand palaces and embassies paint a picture of historical elegance, a more unassuming yet equally significant landmark exists - a wooden kiosk in Parc Royal, the home of Kiosk Radio. From jazz's smooth rhythms to the avant-garde echoes of experimental music, from the soulful strums of rock to the pulsating beats of electronic, Kiosk Radio weaves a rich tapestry of auditory selections 24/7 via its website and social channels. 

A Melting Pot of Music

The kiosk itself serves as a communal space, a melting pot of cultures and sounds where locals and visitors alike are drawn by the magnetic pull of music. "Industry doesn't care about community; this industry cares about output. Community is inclusive and open-minded," remarks Jim Becker, one of the station's founders, contrasting the ethos of Kiosk Radio with the often profit-driven music industry. The kiosk's open doors and welcoming aura have made it a beacon for local artists, musicians, collectives, and cultural organizations.

Industry doesn't care about community; this industry cares about output. Community is inclusive and open-minded. - Jim Becker

Transforming a Secluded Kiosk into a Cultural Hub

The story of Kiosk Radio began its journey in 2017, inspired by another globally recognized community radio platform. As Becker tells me, "It started with five friends. A major inspiration was New York's The Lot Radio, also founded by a close friend."

The kiosk structure was built about 15 years ago. Rarely visited by the founders in their youth, the park itself was not a typical spot for family gatherings but a "nighttime meeting place for certain communities," as Becker describes. However, the city's decision to lease the space for cultural purposes immediately catalyzed change. The team's winning bid began a remarkable internal and external transformation. "The physical space of the kiosk was a major motivator. I doubt we'd have started in a private space without it," Becker reflects. "We redesigned it with a small bar on one side, the DJ booth on the other, and two toilets and a storage area." This bar and its subsequent terrace serve daily coffee, local beers, natural wines, and organic soft drinks. It has become a cornerstone of the radio's sustainability, embodying its community ethos. Open from noon to 10 pm, it offers a space for relaxation and social interaction. The physical space occupied by Kiosk Radio and the bar is modest, though. As Becker describes it, "Actually, a lot of people are impressed by how small it is."

This modesty also went for its initial equipment, with the technological setup evolving from essential items to sophisticated broadcasting tools. A camera setup of minimal invasiveness (and cost) was required in a primarily visual broadcast platform. Aside from the DJ setup, "We started with USB webcams, then switched to stable action cams, and now we use Sony Alpha cameras," Becker explains. But with every upgrade, the team's dedication to quality persists, from their choice of Pioneer mixers and ADAM Audio speakers to the professional sound panels.

Progressive Programming

The programming philosophy was equally progressive. Shattering genre barriers, Kiosk Radio incorporates a wide array of music, from rock and metal to classical and blues. "We've always aimed to avoid being pigeonholed," Becker states. The station aims to balance the increasing submissions of hard club sounds and techno with more diverse and experimental content. "We prioritize listening to all incoming demos and giving room to interesting artists, famous or not. We strive to be accessible yet challenging, taking risks and not being exclusively electronic," Becker continues. 

Their curation is intentional and selective, contrasting with the open-source approach of others. "We value curation and selection," Becker notes. However, the station's residency and programming approach has evolved. Initially, the focus was on building a team of resident DJs, but as the project grew, so did their approach. "In the beginning, as our resident base was growing, we accepted most DJs or collectives that we thought were active and had some material to offer." But eventually, the resident group has changed. As Becker explains, "It was a much more family-oriented vibe, where we knew everyone to sometimes not knowing a single person. That said, Becker does state, "We still have a lot of people that have been there since the beginning." Currently, its expansive resident pool includes names like Cleveland, DC Salas, FAUVE Records, Nosedrip, Offen Music, and Ransom Note.

We strive to be accessible yet challenging, taking risks and not being exclusively electronic. - Jim Becker

Adapting to Change

As we all know, 2020 posed significant challenges to gathering spaces. However, Kiosk Radio's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a testament to its community commitment. When faced with restrictions on live broadcasts, the station innovated with remote streams, creating the 'Outsiders' series. Focusing on international content, this series became a turning point, offering a pre-recorded stream from interesting international artists. "It's a mix of one slot at 9 am and one at 9 pm daily, about 40 slots per month," Becker elaborates. Since its inception, the 'Outsiders' series has featured diverse programming curated by Calypso Records, Unai Trotti, Musique Pour La Danse, San Soda, Le Temps Perdu, Mediteranos, Nyege Nyege, and many more. This addition of international features also spread to various guest DJ sets. Gracing the Kiosk Radio decks has been a who's who of global DJ talent, including Ben UFO, Boyz Noise, Optimo, Borusiade, Intergalactic Gary, Tornado Wallace, and SVBKVLT. On the incentive for local and international artists to feature on Kiosk Radio, Becker says, "Even though we don't pay DJs, we offer them a platform, stream, and social media exposure, which has become quite valuable, especially for the younger ones. Bigger names often collaborate with us because they love the project or want to stay relevant."

But aside from the one series, Kiosk Radio utilized the pandemic to solidify its place within the city's wider cultural community. Becker describes this pandemic-era process, "We resumed studio operations with safety precautions. During the pandemic, we became a community hub in the park. We had to navigate restrictions and police interactions, but this period solidified our role in the community. People appreciated our presence as a beacon of hope and connection."


Visual Identity & Authentic Collaborations

Like other aspects of the station, its visual identity and social media strategy have also evolved. Initially heavily reliant on platforms like Facebook for streams and audience engagement, the station shifted focus to streaming from their website as restrictions tightened. "Our branding and visual identity have been a learning curve, more organic than planned," admits Becker. "The emphasis has always been on the vibe around the park and the live aspect, focusing on the DJs' photos and the immediate experience, he continues."

Kiosk Radio approaches collaborations and branding with a keen focus on authenticity and shared values. "We focus on quality events, good sound, attention to detail, and attracting like-minded people. It's about feeling connected with their line-up and ethos," Becker emphasizes, highlighting their commitment to partnerships that resonate with their philosophies The station selectively collaborates with entities like Dekmantel, Best Kept Secret, and Horst Music & Arts Festival, as well as brands such as Hermès and Uniqlo.

We're proud of bringing people together in the name of collaboration and unity. - Jim Becker

The Funding Philosophy

Regarding funding and sustainability, Kiosk Radio is a model of independence. As Becker describes, "We're mostly independent, funding ourselves through bar sales and occasional specific event grants. This independence lets us avoid advertisements or sponsorships that don't align with our values." This funding model has since added a dedicated merch shop, where everything from music releases to scarves to hats to slipmats is available.

At its core, Kiosk Radio is a story of community over industry. The Parc Royal structure has become more than a broadcasting station; it's a space where music is freely enjoyed—a place that promotes collaboration, unity, and shared experiences. This has resulted in Kiosk Radio being named one of The Wire's 100 Essential Online Radio Stations, the Red Bull Electropedia winner of the 2019 Best New Media Award, and amassing one of the most dedicated communities in its city and online radio. At the end of the day, Becker says, "At the kiosk, we've fostered an open, free environment where people can enjoy music without an entrance fee. We're proud of bringing people together in the name of collaboration and unity."