Bonnerfide Radio is the hottest thing to hit the Internet in a very long time and has literally taken the gospel community by storm. With a Stellar and Crystal Mic Award in just two years of existence, many people are wondering, “Where did Bonnerfide Radio come from?” Let’s not forget the controversy that unfolded when Bonner decided to have a very openly gay B. Slade (Tonex) perform at the Bonnerfide Radio party early this year.
Say what you will but Bonnerfide Radio is a force to be reckoned with and a movement in itself. Can somebody say BRC? Meet Gerard Bonner, the man behind the music.
As told to Hasan James- Editor- In Chief, Root Magazine
Root: How are you?
Bonnerfide: I’m good, how are you?
Root: Happy to be talking to you. In just two short years Bonnerfide Radio has become a staple in the Gospel community and beyond. Tell us about how the concept came about.
Bonnerfide: It’s actually funny, I had been doing terrestrial radio for about five years before and back at that time, I started doing some things of the GospellFlava.com, which was like an entertainment report. That turned in to co-hosting a morning show at a radio station. So radio is in me and I parted ways with them in May of 2009; which was the same month that I launched the website www.getbonnerfide.com– which at the time was for photography. So kind of the whole radio situation was still very much in my blood and music has been a part of my world forever. So I really just started thinking about what I could do, since this wasn’t really leaving me. Then it hit me like ok, you already have a website so just do it on the Internet. It wasn’t some great moment in the sky that happened. But I will say that I don’t think that I foresaw at that point what this would turn into. I really had no idea it was going to do what it’s done already. So, that’s how it started. It was something that was in me, that hit me and I still had an outlet with the Internet and the website and I launched it from there.
Root: Internet radio has a huge advantage when it comes to playing a broader spectrum of music; Indies, alternative and things of that nature. Do you feel that Bonneride Radio has helped a lot of unsigned and independent artist get better exposure?
Bonnerfide: I hope we have. I know that one of the things that I have always done, whether it’s been gospelflava.com or with Bonnerfide Radio, there has always been a heart for the independent artist. Let me even go so far as to say a heart for good music. I think where terrestrial radio and mainstream radio has been challenged is they stick with what is safe and what’s safe is usually missing what they are already familiar with. The problem with that is, with the advent of technology and the Internet, you can be heard around the world, where in times past, artist were just relegated to their local market. So, what that does is it opens the eyes of somebody that’s in New York to an artist in California that you would never hear on your local radio station. So the consumer really has a desire for great music. However, the disconnection comes when people at radio just want to play it safe. So for me, my commitment has just been to good music where ever it comes from. If it’s from the major labels or the independents, wherever good music is at, that’s where I want our platform to be. It just so happens that there is a lot of great music in the circuit. It’s so much that it’s a bit over whelming. It’s incredible!
Root: I am sure you get tons of emails and submissions from a lot of people wanting to get their music played. Of course you want to help everyone out but people don’t understand that there is a format and a way of doing things. How do you choose what gets played? How do you choose what gets played on Bonnerfide Radio?
Bonnerfide: It’s interesting because we get anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 hits a month on the station, which is a really neat situation. And the other thing that’s interesting is all of our shows are on podcast as well. So what that does for us is it expands our audience and our podcast audience on average spans anywhere from 15,000 to 19,000 outside of our live audience. On average we are averaging about 60,000 podcast a month right now, which is a really scary number. We were able to start tracking podcasts in March of last year so it’s really interesting because from March of last year to December we did about 280 thousand podcasts and where we are right now for 2011 from January through August we have done over half a million podcast. That’s crazy. So conceivably we could be at 1 million podcasts by the end of the year.
Root: Wow that’s amazing. And although it’s free to get it, just to have that traffic, to have 500 thousand people know who you are is amazing.
Bonnerfide: It is, it’s amazing and it blows my mind every time I look at the numbers. You sit back and you look at the numbers like, “Are you serious?”
Root: In January of this year you did the 2nd Bonnerfide Anniversary party and you received a lot of criticism for having B. Slade (A.K.A.Tonex) on the show. Do you want to speak a bit about that and clear some things up?
Bonnerfide: Sure, what do you want to know?
Root: Basically, going into it, did you think it would be such a big deal having him on the show?
Bonnerfide: It’s funny because when we decided that we were going to have him, I told my team “Let’s prepare ourselves for what could happen”. The whole reason that we wanted him on the show is that we are huge fans of B. Slade. He and I have been friends for many years and so for me it’s kind of like I have a wish list of people I want and what most people don’t know is that he is an avid listener of Bonnerfide Radio. It’s not like we just picked him out of the sky, he’s part of our family. For us, when I brought it to the team, it was an easy deal; nobody was like “No let’s not do this”. The funny part about that whole situation was that we publicized the same show for three months and nobody said anything until the week of the show. That’s where it got really funny to me. It said a lot to me actually so let us say like I said why we did it and then I will give a little commentary to the things the people were saying. We did it because again for us, we love great music we love great presentations and so he has that and he’s a friend to us. So for us it made all the sense in the world. Now there a lot of people there who are hung up on potential life styles, so here’s what’s really funny because we heard all kinds of stuff. There was some pretty nasty stuff that was written.
Root: I read some terrible stuff and I must say it was pretty harsh and uncalled for.
Bonnerfide: Yeah, it was kind of funny that the person who was responsible for writing some of that horrible stuff, when the reporter got back to me on it, I initially laughed because it was like so over the top.
Root: So over the top, because even if you don’t agree with something your commentary should be respectable.
Bonnerfide: Right, it was so over the top that I was just like did anybody actually take this seriously? I read it and I looked at it like it was one of those tabloids. But what’s funny is this, there were people talking about boycotting and everything but on that night when I actually introduced him on the stage, when I got off the stage people literally rushed the stage. There were camera phones out… it was unbelievable! I looked around and it was surreal, because for me it was like I’ve always wanted to have him at one of our functions, but to think like wow with everything that was said, people still came and supported. But what was interesting to me about all of it was that nobody thought about the fact that he had not been in the Stellar Awards environment in six years, since 2005 when he did the Stellar’s. The thing that really humbled me was that he said yes to us and agreed to come. You know, I think people got so caught up; the critics got so caught up on what they think his life style is that they missed the fact that he hadn’t been in the gospel music environment in six years. I just feel like the challenge that the Christian community has is to get past whatever our personal preferences is, or happen to be and look for the greater picture. If we have a chance to build a bridge then build a bridge, don’t destroy the bridge because of your personal preference. Sometimes we think that if we take a stand on something that we are somehow defending God, but God doesn’t need defending! He’s the Almighty God and if He were in need of defending, we aren’t capable of defending the Almighty God; He defends us, we don’t defend Him. So, I think that situation was a really good test for me to say, “Hey, are you going to stick to your guns and stick to what you believe in or are you going to cave in to what everybody else says”. It was a very successful time for us and you know I do believe that you have to be moved by what God has called you to do and other people don’t have to understand it, but it will be successful.
Root: I see you also have some other shows you debuted on Bonnerfide Radio like Love Ludes and some other shows. How are those shows doing?
Bonnerfide: They are doing very well. Those shows have brought a different audience to us, which is what I wanted. Our premise is that we prove what we call life music which is music that addresses all areas of life, so Love Ludes is a show that comes on Monday nights at 9 pm and it is all about love music. The one thing that is really interesting which I know you are well aware of this, is that I’m a believer in this, if one form of music was the end all, be all it should resolve and address all of our issues and concerns, so if gospel music was the art form that resolved everything then how do we explain the divorce rate in the church among Christian being higher than that of the world? How do we explain the fact that our families are breaking apart? It’s because we are not sewing into those things. So for me, this whole idea and concept of Love Ludes is to be able to provide something that speaks to that portion of our lives. We would be lying if we said we were never impacted by love. Whether it’s being in love, wanting to be in love, falling out of love or not knowing how to manage relationships, this show has songs that deal with all aspects of love, including our love for God. It’s one of my favorite shows and we get an audience that comes just for that show, which is amazing. We got “Melodic Groves” on Tuesday which is a jazz show which is…I hate this term, Christian jazz, because I don’t know how you make an instrumental, I don’t know how you make that Christian. Be that as it may it’s real jazz. It’s Ella Fitzgerald type jazz and all of the major cats that are doing that, Traci Lynne does a great job; it’s like going to school when I listen to that show because you always learn something new about artist that you may not have heard. Wednesday nights we have a show called “Women Listen” and that’s a talk show featuring YannyYan, Sharilachelle and Stacey Joseph, and that show is really an amazing show that talks about life and varying issues from a female perspective. We have dealt with hard issues like forgiveness, restoration, coming together with your father to more light hearted shows like the differences between men and women, dating, healthy living and all that type of stuff. On Thursdays, we have a show called “Real Talk Thursday” with Da Gospel Truth, Gerald Jones of DaGospelTruth.com; he brings a really neat element to what we do. He’s a real direct person who says it like he means it and doesn’t really care how it comes out and it’s kind of neat. He has this segment called the “Cricket segment”. I told you before about how we generally don’t introduce music that would set anybody up, not that cricket does, but he just presents it in a forum that allows people to formally say yea or nay. So if they like it its great, if they don’t like it they give it crickets. So it’s his think and it’s quite humorous. Also on Thursdays, we have a show called UK FIYAH, which I’m so proud of as it’s the result of a partnership that we have with two guys out of the UK, their names are Adam and Matt Brooks they have a great e-magazine called M.E.X magazine and they also do M-Brio music. They are the leading Christian music website in the UK. Last year alone their site had 9 million hits from 40 countries and I’m like are y’all kidding… and they came to us and were like we want to do something with you guys, we love what you are doing. So the result of that partnership is now I’m doing some things for their magazine, providing the top 10 from Bonnerfide Radio for their magazine, which is getting incredible numbers and on the flipside they produce this hourly UK show called “UK FIYAH” which is the newest and the best of the hottest music coming out of the UK.
Root: That’s amazing! Now, its fall and January will be here before you know it so will you be having the 3rd Annual Bonnerfide Anniversary party? If so, do you have in your mind who is slated to perform?
Bonnerfide: We are actually working on that as we speak so by the time this comes out we will have come close to announcing it. I can tell you this, we are planning for what I believe will be the biggest party we ever had. We had a huge year so we have a lot to celebrate! so we’ve got some ideas and it’s one thing that we are planning and I’m not allowed to let the cat out of the bag just yet. But I will say that I don’t know if any of the other parties have dared to do this yet but we are going to do it. Some of the people kind of lost it last year so I don’t know what they are going to think about this.
Root: Oh, another risqué move?
Bonnerfide: Yeah, we are going to push the envelope with this move. And here is the reason why. There is a level of freedom that I believe we should have in the kingdom of God and I think we should be free to operate in that freedom. So, you know it’s going to be something. I’m really excited about it. It’s daring but I feel like it’s something we can do and I think it will be the true epitome of the party. So y’all look out for it. It’s going to be crazy!
Root: So many good things have happened over the last year, what’s next for you? Are you expanding? Are there other things outside of radio that you would like to pursue?
Bonnerfide: There’s definitely some expansion that’s happening. There are some things I am waiting for the ink to dry on that I think will be huge once people hear about it. I know we are looking at some other really neat things. I know people are asking, “Are you ever going to write a book?” That is actually something that we are in talks about doing. I think a lot of people are interested in the story and they are interested in kind how this brand came to be. For me, I have a heart for really helping people and I think that’s what this whole experience for me is about. It’s about pushing people to live out their dreams and to accomplish what is in their heart no matter how crazy it seems. I want to be able to but something in people’s hands that says: “Here’s how you do it”. So I am working on that. I don’t know where I am going to get the time to do it but that’s in the works. More expansion as well, it’s going to be great, you guys just make sure you are watching out because some big things are coming!