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The Fiery Collapse of Utah FM

by Eric S. Peterson
- Posted // 2011-09-29 -

The underground, volunteer-run radio station Utah Free Media announced to the world it was in trouble recently when the small station’s Twitter account was hacked by a surly volunteer who announced: “UTAHFM IS CLOSING ITS DOORS FOR GOOD. You can thank Daniel Swenson for that. Selfish Bastard. Cared only for his show!”

The upstart station had its humble beginnings in the spring of 2008, when a number of disc jockeys left KRCL, Salt Lake City’s first community radio station, after programming changes shifted the station away from unpaid DJs to several paid, regular day-time personalities. With that exodus, a number of DJs formed their own community radio station, with plans to do the live community broadcasting they felt KRCL had abandoned. While the station estimates it averages only several hundred listeners, volunteers have been determined to become a true community radio station.

Now it seems that by mid-October, the station will no longer have a studio to call home as the space they had been occupying rent-freesoon will be rented out to new tenants and the nonprofit station doesn’t have the funds to relocate. This forced departure comes after more than a year of setbacks that have caused concern and confusion among the scrappy station’s staff of radio lovers and caused at least one person associated with Utah FM to not only hijack the station’s Twitter account but also delete the station’s e-mails and Facebook page.

“The biggest issue we’ve had from day one is that this is a volunteer-based community radio station,” says station manager Daniel Swenson. “Every one has day jobs, and after the first year it’s been hard getting people to volunteer for events.” Swenson says that once Utah FM was up and running after the first year, some of the founders had left and moved on to other projects. Swenson stepped in to take over for the station but says that a culture shift seemed to occur. After the first year is “when the station as a whole quit marketing itself,” Swenson says. “Everyone was just marketing their own show.”

With 42 programs a week, Swenson says it became increasingly difficult to communicate with the large volunteer staff to get involved in promoting the station—setting up Utah FM for a series of flops and failures.

But for former DJ and program director “Mental” Mike Olsen, that communication problem—and most of the station’s other problems—are tied directly to Swenson.

Olsen describes working under Swenson’s management as “disheartening,” saying Swenson seemed more interested in his show Dungeon Crawlers than the station itself. “I just kind of resigned myself to being a cheerleader for the station and trying to help with the day-to-day stuff,” Olsen says.

Olsen says one DJ was let go by Swenson for having X96 Radio From Hell personality Kerry Jackson promote his Geek Show podcast on the DJ’s show. “[Swenson] talked to me about it and said, ‘How dare he promote my number-one competition?” Olsen says. Swenson agrees that DJ was let go for promoting the station’s competition, but says, however, that it was Olsen that let him go since he was in charge of hiring and firing.

Swenson says that he did fire Olsen for personnel differences and says he is confident that it was Olsen who hijacked the station’s social-media pages and trashed its e-mail accounts.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Olsen says of the accusation.

But it wasn’t just Olsen who found issue with the leadership under Swenson. Portia Early, who airs her Unsigned, Uncensored show on Utah FM, was disappointed with how the station handled its second annual “Radio Not Included” fundraiser bash. In 2010, the fundraiser Early put together managed to raise $1,111, but this year she says a lack of support from the station resulted in a dismal take of $220.

“[Swenson] told me that the printing fell through,” Early says of the fliers advertising the fundraiser. “He made it sound like it was the printer's fault and so he printed out a bunch of black-and-white [3 inches by 4 inches] tiny fliers that were four-per-page. I was discouraged. I was putting a lot of effort into the show once again, and no one else was following through.”

Swenson points out that the event had other problems, too, that hampered its success, pointing out with dismay that the sound-tech guy for the fundraiser concert showed up intoxicated and was pulled from the fundraiser by police during the event.

Early also agrees that a culture shift at the station happened when a new wave of DJs joined the station, who were enthusiastic about their own shows but didn’t take much interest in volunteering to promote station events. “We definitely had more of a team last year,” Early says.

Angela Brown, editor of SLUG magazine, was once a member of Utah FM’s nonprofit board, and recalls there being only two to three board meetings held during the two years she was a board member. “It just seems like there wasn’t enough of a leader,” with Utah FM, Brown says. She recalls that Utah FM had filed paperwork to host a table at SLUG’s Craft Lake City event in 2010. The festival showcases the eccentric crafts and wares of local artists, and while Utah FM was to host a table to promote the station, Brown says it was a no-show at the first event and lost its table as result.

Brown says that Utah FM was accidentally included in an e-mail to table-holding sponsors for Craft Lake City 2011 even though it hadn’t filled out its paperwork for this year’s event. Utah FM showed up this time, only to find it didn’t have a table.

Such setbacks snowballed to the point Swenson says that the station’s inability to market itself was making it to financially risky to invest in a new studio and music-licensing fees. Going forward, he says Utah FM will live on but with DJs pre-recording their shows and streaming them online.

Meanwhile, Olsen says a plan is in the works for a new underground community radio station to be called Utah Free Radio, though he expects he and other DJs will wait until they have a strong business model in place before launching.

Swenson says that even with the new model, he believes Utah FM will have the opportunity to be reborn as the true community radio station it started as.

“A lot of us have felt kicked to the curb,” Swenson says. “But a lot of people stood up, and we’re really trying to get this back to where we were and get back to our roots and core values.”

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Posted // October 7,2011 at 16:19 So, Daniel Swenson (station manager that killed UtahFM) is so butt hurt that the truth came out about him, he is now going to all UtahFM volunteers, current and ex, trying to get them to sign affidavits to prove I was at fault for the destruction of UtahFM. That alone should tell you something about the man. He never accepts responsibility. Thank you to all of you who called and emailed me with this information. I appreciate your support.


Posted // December 6,2011 at 18:48 - Karma is a bitch huh. Neither Michael or Daniel were good for the station. I for one wanted to make a difference and have a voice to the community. I had that til Daniel and Michael got involved. May I also say that Michael lied about me to the full station. Ha, and you say it was all Daniel's fault? It was sadly both of yours. Its sad to see the station collapese and lose its spot where it once was. The time while I was there was fun and will not forget it.
Also to the guy that wrote this article, you have the wrong info. It wasn't Kerry Jackson at all. Make sure you get the facts straight when putting someones name like into public view when talking about all of this. Anyways the article explains it, I'm glad that this came out finally out into the publics eyes to see what was really going on. Thanks.


Posted // October 2,2011 at 17:46 Whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding? And sometimes rock n' roll?


Posted // October 4,2011 at 00:41 - Jantzie,, it's like divorcing parents. Daniel and I are not in love anymore, but we love you as our talented DJs. It was a good split. I am sure Matt O. will fix UtahFM and it will be back and better than ever.


Posted // October 3,2011 at 09:13 - "Whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding?"

The 80's


Posted // October 1,2011 at 13:54 What happened to this beloved station? What of the passion, ideals and optimism? Seems like a pack of wild dogs attacking one another. From the outside this looks totally insane.


Posted // October 4,2011 at 00:39 - Durin, I don't foresee community and local based radio fading off anywhere. It's a safe bet that Matt O. will develope a new strategy and pull UtahFM up like a phoenix from the ashes. Also several partners and myself are developing Utah Free Radio. Much like UtahFM, but more organized and pure Rock and Roll. I am sure we will see more genre specific community based locally owned web based radio stations. (whew, big mouth full). Keep your eyes peeled and don't give up hope on any of use.


Posted // October 2,2011 at 23:45 - It is really sad to see the station go down. The idea of community and local based radio is one that I don't want to see fade into obscurity.


Posted // October 1,2011 at 15:30 - I agree Patrick. I am terribly sorry for my part in this. I am extremely passionate about it. I want the true story heard in order to prevent it from happening again. The dream and idea can live on. It just needs to be planned extremely well and the pitfalls we've experienced at UtahFM need to be learned from. I am sure with Matt O. at the helm and looking at options and as long as Daniel moves on, then UtahFM will flourish. I also plan to make a rock and roll public web based station and I am positive it will flourish as well.


Posted // October 1,2011 at 09:11 I have to ask the question here why are we condoning a man that hijacked computer systems that affected the radio stations ability to communicate with its hosts and the public? Clearly with Mental starting up a new radio station one has to ask was this done on purpose to get rid of compitition because he knew he was soon on his way out the door?
I can say for sure that there were a number of times that Mental Mike sent out rash and unprofessional emails to everyone in the entire UtahFM community just going off on anyone and everyone. Then he would come back and say. "Hey Gang, I talked with Daniel and we're good." If this Daniel is so horrible then why wouldn't of Mental left sooner and not taken down the station with him? I have to agree with Mix Master, why is it okay for someone to leave a station in a mix of hellfire and he is a goo dguy and someone that has been working hard to keep a station afloat is labled the enemy?? I wasn't let go from the station by Daniel. I was let go by Mental Mike and have to say he was pretty dang rude about it. So how can he say he wasn't in charge of firing??? Or is he saying that he wasn't somone of free will and thought of his own? And that Daniel forced him to do it? If he has so many problems with the way the station was ran why didn't he leave? Walk away??
One has to wonder?
And apparently no one has really doing any research or fact finding here. Did anyone notice that Dungeon Crawlers Radio left UtahFM line up at the end of August? So how could Daniel be pushing his show over everyone else's when apparently he yanked his own show from the station?? All the station has been doing is playing re-run or re-broadcasts of all their shows and if I remember right that was all done through Itunes on a random setting.
Honestly to me it sounds like Mental is the one wanting all the control and when he didn't get it he took over and destroyed everything so he could create a radio station that he could control. I am sad to hear everything that has happened to UtahFM. I hope it returns!!
But shame on everyone for supporting a man that destroyed an email system and hijacked their social media pages.


Posted // October 1,2011 at 15:12 - The interesting points by UtahFM Fan are simple. This person post anonymously. That says a lot right there. Secondly yes I did the firing, but this is after fighting to keep people like Dag. I fought tooth and nail with Daniel to keep Dag, but Daniel was so butt hurt about Dag talking about the Geek Show podcast from X96, there was no chance. Tom Carr had to be let go right away after making threats with a fire arm to me directly. Babs and Daniel were both terrified of his possible actions.
Yes I sent out emails that were rash. Mainly because all my other emails had to be approved by Daniel before I sent them out. Once I caught Daniel lying, I would vent to everyone, definitely unprofessional but effective. After such emails, then Daniel would come to me and make compromises. then I would try to get those out and reaffirm everyone. But interestingly enough, those emails back up my statements regarding Daniel's main focus of being only his show.
As for free will? that was the frustration. We all have free will, but Daniel would not allow it to be expressed. I had planned for two months to build a new studio for the DJs. I had gone out and personally acquired two new computers, mics, carpet, and more. I spent a month framing all the art work and memorabilia on my own investing hundreds of dollars. I planned for two months. I sent emails to Kat and Daniel asking questions and setting things up. I had 16 people ready to show up that Saturday. We knew what had to be done with the equipment, we knew how things had to go. After two months of no replies from Daniel, he sends me an email the day before stating it had to be canceled because he had not approved it. He wanted detailed reports and he had to inspect all the equipment himself. Well Kat knew what was being installed. He is the tech guy, hell Daniel didn't even understand how the mini Mac supported and worked with the station. but because he didn't control the change and didn't take the time in the two months of preparing, he denied the jocks a brand new studio that would have been spotless, clean, running, extra mics, computers, decorations. What would that have done for morale? Was that a bad thing for me to do? But no, Daniel did not control it, so it would not be done. and for that 16 people who were willing to donate equipment and time had to be told no, Daniel won't allow it. I told him point blank, either let me do the studio or fire me. He became pissed because it was a challenge to his authority and hence he fired me. I would call that ego. and that is definitely not me trying to sabotage UtahFM.
Dungeon Crawlers left UtahFM because Daniel has been trying to find a new station for his show because he felt that UtahFM was going down. Interesting enough, the week after he fired me, his show aired 3 times on Monday, once on Tuesday, and I missed Wednesday and Thursday, but was on again Friday. iTunes does not play random shows for rebroadcast. We used that only as a back up when jocks no showed. The archives sever is programmed and therefore his show was given priority . Leaving UtahFM early? Yeah he did that. He knew it was a sinking ship and cared only about preserving his show. Notice my show is down? I didn't plan on leaving UtahFM. I didn't have a backup plan for my show. No, because I wasn't giving up on UtahFM. Only now am I creating Utah Free Radio and providing a place for my show, but this is still at least 6 months down the road. So who was looking after his show more so than the station. Really? Proof is in the pudding.

He often talked to me about starting our own station. He is actually the one who provided the idea for Utah Free Radio. the difference in opinion was simple on that, I wanted rock and roll, he wanted nothing but geek and tech. Which leads to interesting thought, why not several stations with several styles? UtahFM started out much like a KRCL and morphed after the main folks stepped back. Also how would Utah Free Radio ever be in direct competition with UtahFM? They are two completely different stations. It's like saying FM100 is competing with KBER101? Daniel has always thought of his show first and should not have been the station manager. We've thought about this at Utah Free Radio, and actually our station manager will not have a show. His or her soul purpose will be the station. That's the way it should be.
The questions with emails? Really? Less than 1/3 of the jocks had a UtahFM email. Daniel had no phone numbers or way of contacting jocks. Hence the total confusion and breakdown of communication that Daniel spoke of himself. Ask folks about the black box. It was my solution to this problem, and Daniel was pissed over that because I didn't ask him first, but hey, the jocks liked and was relieved to finally be getting information and forms that they needed.

And as far as why I didn't walk away? Simple, I was willing to put up with his crap to save a dream. I believe in the UtahFM idea. I believe it can work. I know there are amazing talents involved. Yes innocent bystanders were hurt. But if you think it was due to my leaving, then consider everything before that. What if Daniel had not screwed up two Craft Lake City events? What if he had bothered to work on Radio Not Included and raised the money the station needed. What if he worked on morale and explained to the jocks in a positive manner that they needed to market the station. Which in the article he complained about but failed to tell the press that he told all the jocks they had to get their own sponsors. Pretty contradictive to his statement. I stayed on in hopes that Daniel would pull his head out. I stayed on to try and raise morale. I sat and listened to DJ's complain and bitch about the status of things. I talked them up. I even begged several DJ's to stay because they had lost hope. I stayed because I believed in the dream. Ask about the Mental's Promise poster I placed in the studio a week before I was fired. Apparently your right, no one has done any real research, including yourself Mr. Anonymous.


Posted // October 1,2011 at 08:00 Not sure why anyone would get on board with Olsen on new station. He left in ball of fire, with lots of innocent bystanders. A lot of volunteers relied on their email accounts, and he was entrusted with power to manage it, only to abuse that. His actions hurt much more then the station manager and are the actions of very unstable person. "Mental" Mike indeed.


Posted // October 1,2011 at 22:19 - Quick reply Mix. I have never denied the fact that I am unstable. That's what works for me. lol. Hence the self proclaimed name of Mental. As for the emails, I did not disable those. I believe Daniel pooched it in attempts to purge admin rights for myself. He was not very familiar with the system. As for it being a communication tool for volunteers, uh, no. Only about 1/3 of them had actual UtahFM emails. Again, as a result of Daniel wanting all the control, he would not allow changes to the system until right at the very end of my year and a half of being there. Again, Mix, unstable? me? Hell ya. I've never denied it. Heavily medicated, yup. A hard worker that believes in a dream? Forever! Thanks for the input.