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Tom Davis is no stranger to good music.
The previous owner of two radio stations in Massachusetts, Davis was shopping for another station in 2005 and settled on Williamsburg and 92.3FM The Tide in the hopes of bringing meaningful, quality music to the community.
On Thursday, Davis and his team are celebrating the community that embraced the advent of a hyperlocal radio station — and eventually, news — by throwing a 10th anniversary birthday party starring Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers at Lake Matoaka Amphitheater.
Back in 2005, Davis sought to offer Williamsburg-area citizens something other than top hits, the same 300 songs other radio stations that reached the area tended to play. The Tide became a Triple A, or Adult Album Alternative station, playing a wide variety of music genres that are not necessarily mainstream and that appeal to both men and women between the ages 25 and 54.
Davis also purchased 107.9 Bach FM, a classical music station in Williamsburg.
With Tide Radio, Davis looked to bring Williamsburg business owners the local, effective advertising they were not offered when they worked with Richmond- and Norfolk-based stations.
“It was a great place to bring local radio back with a really local audience who wanted it,” Davis said of Williamsburg.
He invited Williamsburg-native Hornsby to sign on as a Local Voice investor, and the singer played an inaugural concert in Williamsburg in 2005.
Davis also quickly recruited a team that included Derek Mason and Tommy Mahnken to manage sales and production, respectively, who are still with the company 10 years later.
The two were tasked with convincing business owners that radio advertising with The Tide could actually be beneficial; that Tide listeners would be interested in learning the stories of their neighbors, their fellow community members, and would therefore be more inclined to shop locally. Once the businesses were on board, it was a matter of finding and telling the local businesses’ creative stories without overpromising.
In the process of building relationships with local business owners and listeners of The Tide, Davis realized Williamsburg lacked a community hub, a center where hyperlocal news and information could be shared quickly and effectively.
“It was very clear that this area needed a daily, dedicated newspaper that was going to provide purely local news and, frankly, without an editorial slant,” Davis said.
Three years into establishing The Tide, Davis launched Williamsburg Yorktown Daily with the idea of having a free, online newspaper powered by radio.
Davis said the company faced its share of naysayers who opposed the idea and waited for his idea to fail.
“Williamsburg has always been a place that, to some degree, there’s a vocal resistance to change, but underneath that, there’s actually a big wave of people really enjoying the fact that this town is transforming,” Davis said.
WYDaily was born in 2008, and Local Voice has since procured radio stations in three other locations — Wilmington N.C, Columbia S.C. and Virginia Beach, launching online newspapers in Wilmington and Columbia with a newspaper on the horizon for Virginia Beach.
Davis launched the other radio station-newspaper collaborations with the same mindset he brought to Williamsburg 10 years ago: to give people good, quality music and local news they could trust.
“This is really more about celebrating how incredibly generous the community has been,” Davis said on celebrating 10 years as a company. “It really is about this huge group of people who define where we live, who have loved The Tide and Bach and WYDaily and loved Bruce [Hornsby] and they embrace the hometown-ness of it all.”
Reflecting on his 10 years with The Tide, Davis said he was most proud of building a team that shares a common goal.
“To us, it’s like we finally brought something back that could create a center of communication and community that they could trust,” he said. “Everybody wants that. No matter how tight the global community gets, we still boil right down to wanting to feel like we are part of a smaller community.”