Imagine you’re dining in your favorite restaurant downtown or perusing through a local shop. Instead of, say, Taylor Swift or Adele playing in the background, you’re listening to music from your fellow Raleigh neighbor, coworker or talented friend. In a few weeks, Imurj, a collaborative arts and music space located downtown, is making that scenario possible, bringing to life the dreams of many gifted musicians here in Raleigh and throughout the state.
Imurj Radio began as a passion project for Karl Thor, a former musician. Along with Heather Burns, a hobbyist singer and managing partner at Imurj, Thor started the venture in June with an open call on social media, inviting North Carolina music artists to submit their recordings. Almost 1,000 songs were uploaded into a “locals-only Spotify” station, as Thor calls it, that you can listen to on Imurj’s website.
“When we started Imurj we thought there was an awful lot of talent in Raleigh,” says Thor. “What I’d like to do is open up people’s eyes, that within Raleigh we have a couple hundred musicians that are as good as anything else you’re listening to out there.”
Due to the overwhelming response Imurj received from all over the state, Thor decided to upgrade the radio platform and make it more consumer friendly by beta testing the radio station in local businesses. Thor’s and Burns’ goal is to get local artists’ music into all Raleigh businesses interested in promoting the local music scene to, in Thor’s words, “bring the whole community together in what is local to Raleigh and build our economic structure around that.”
The opportunity allows artists to take their music to the public at large and to collect royalties. Thor and Burns want to increase Raleigh’s visibility as a center for art and music and foster a sense of community. To start out, Imurj will beta test with an indie rock playlist, but, Thor says, the music on Imurj Radio is “free form,” or “without genre.”
“One of my concerns about the music that is popular is that it sounds like it’s written according to a formula; it just sounds the same,” Thor says. “When I was going through the music uploads for Imurj, none of the music sounded alike; it was all original.”
Listeners can expect a range of genres, different moods and diverse sounds. You may hear a blend of reggae and smooth jazz one minute and classical or hip-hop the next, but it will all be genuine, from the hearts of young musicians working their way up in the music industry.
While Imurj Radio is open to submissions from artists in all of North Carolina for now, Thor and Burns hope to break the platform down into hotspots like Asheville, Greensboro and Wilmington and get recruitment centers established in the state’s larger cities.
“Our music is as good as what you would hear on Spotify or Pandora, so why not support the home people rather than all these strangers across the world?” says Thor.
Thor and Burns’ vision for Imurj Radio is for the local listener to have a vested interest in the local music scene, with the help from Raleigh businesses playing their songs. Additionally, because the artists are all local, it’s easy for the listeners to meet them and talk to them in person. Imurj’s brick and mortar location on McDowell Street also helps facilitate the connection between artist and audience. Thor and Burns opened the 6,000-square foot space last year to help develop musicians’ talents and to allocate a place for creatives of all stripes to collaborate on projects and meet fellow artists. The membership-based community holds a range of workshops, meet-up groups and performances, including an open mic night on Wednesdays and comedy and poetry nights throughout the week.
“The energy in here is really amazing for all of our events,” Burns says. “The sound is amazing and the venue feels very warm and welcoming and inclusive.”
Paul Voran, Imurj’s head audio engineer, also runs a production studio tucked into the back of the building. He can record and mix music from full bands, while Oak City Productions curates music videos, Imurj event videos and artist’s videos.
Imurj’s venue, along with Imurj Radio, are groundbreaking ventures that will assist aspiring North Carolina artists in advancing their music careers and ultimately promote the lesser-known but prodigious music scene here in Raleigh.
“Music is a great communication, and alongside that communication is the coming together of diversity,” says Thor. “We’re striving for diversity and a community where people feel loved and happy.”
If your business is interested in beta testing Imurj Radio, email firstname.lastname@example.org. ■