Radio station WMVY officially went on the air 30 years ago. Though block programming and automation had existed on the signal for some time, 1983 was the year that “we basically signed on as WMVY in the format of mixing rock and blues and folk rock,” director of worldwide programming Barbara Dacey said this week.
“We’re a different radio station than we were on May 1, 1983, but that’s what you’d expect,” Ms. Dacey said. “The world has changed since then.”
It’s safe to say that no period has been more full of change than the past several months, beginning in late November last year when the 92.7 signal WMVY broadcast from was sold to Boston-based public radio station WBUR. A massive fundraising effort was launched by the nonprofit organization Friends of MVY Radio, which raised more than $600,000 in two months to keep the station alive as an online presence.
“It was a major thing, doing that Save MVY campaign, not knowing if we made it, then we made it, then we lost the frequency and the deal went through, and here we are online,” Ms. Dacey said. A free app is available to stream MVY programming via a smartphone.
“It’s a fun exercise to rethink how we approach things now,” said program director PJ Finn. “We get to be able to continue to do the things we love to do, just with new ways to support it.”
WMVY is now a noncommercial public radio station operated by Friends of MVY Radio. Mr. Finn said without commercials he enjoys being able to play three additional songs per hour. Listener donations and business underwriting fund the station’s operation, with many former advertisers helping out with underwriting costs. The initial $600,000 raised was enough to cover operating costs for one year.
But the one year is running out and the need continues to raise money to operate the station.
This Sunday WMVY will host a benefit concert featuring English folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling, who takes the stage at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Marling won a Brit Award for Best Female Solo Artist in 2011, at the age of 21. Her fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle, was released in May and quickly entered the WMVY rotation alongside her previous releases. Last year, Island folk singer Willy Mason joined Ms. Marling for several of her American tour stops.
“We have been big fans of Laura Marling for a long time and just recognized her incredible talent right from the start,” Ms. Dacey said. “When we started thinking about it I could see her on that stage — we really wanted it to happen.”
Boston duo Tall Heights will open for Ms. Marling. Tall Heights performed last summer at the Pit Stop.
“It’s great because it’s a way that we can have people support Friends of MVY Radio, and in return we can all be together [enjoying the concert],” Ms. Dacey said. “It’s a double benefit — everybody comes together and we get the support we need.”
Meanwhile, the station is still in the process of forming a board of directors for Friends of MVY Radio, and continues to work toward its ultimate goal of getting an FM signal again. Ms. Dacey said the overall audience for WMVY has increased by virtue of being on the Internet, but she said she hears daily from people asking when the station will again be on the dial.
“It’s essential, absolutely essential that we get back on the FM,” she said. It’s a matter of convenience — many WMVY listeners tuned in from their cars — but also of staying in tune with the Island community.
“The feedback that we get from people is just — I don’t know, maybe all radio stations get this kind of feedback — but it just sometimes is unbelievable to us,” Ms. Dacey said. “The level of connection that people have to the radio station . . . it’s like the level of connection people have to the Vineyard.”
“We’ve taken our community responsibility very seriously, and that’s why people are missing us,” she said. “Because we really . . . were true to the mandate of what we felt was important as a radio station and we really want to keep providing that.”
The WMVY benefit concert with Laura Marling is at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center Sunday. Doors open at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $40. Preferred seating tickets are $75.