Mechanical Music Radio


By Glenn Thomas (Editor of The AMICA Buletin)

This article was first published in The AMICA Buletin and is reproduced here with the kind permission of AMICA and James Dundon.


Editor’s note:  Subscribers and internet radio enthusiasts know from previous comments in The AMICA Bulletin and elsewhere, that a terrific new internet radio station, Mechanical Music Radio had its recent debut.  Built and operated by radio and mechanical music impresario James Dundon, the station has had a remarkable launch and just keeps improving. 

Following is a recent interview I had with James that describes how it was formed, the technology behind it, and its music.


James Dundon with his Dutch street organ, “Blauwtje” 

What was your background and motivation to do this station?

Radio and Organ music have always been my two loves. From the age of seven, I had a twin cassette deck in my bedroom and I used to play tape recordings of organs, and in between tracks, would speak into a microphone, announcing the music I’d played!

Some years later, after graduating in Broadcasting at University, I secured a full-time job at a local commercial radio station in Cornwall called Pirate FM. I was there for ten years, and on needing a change in 2015, I moved to Heart FM. I love radio because it’s such a personal medium. It’s one to one. We all have a favourite radio station or presenter. Here in the UK over 90% of the population still consume radio daily. The song was wrong, video never killed the radio star! The medium is alive and well, and these days in the internet world, you will have noticed a lot more radio stations playing specialist music, such as country or jazz. Radio has stood the test of time for its convenience. You push a button and get instant music and entertainment


Why did you decide to do a radio station that plays Mechanical Music?

Because we need to make Mechanical Music more accessible. I think for Mechanical Music to survive, we all have a responsibility to ‘do our bit’, whether it be showing off our instruments at public events, supporting and bettering our societies or uploading good quality videos to YouTube and Social Media. All these things can attract a new audience.

These instruments play incredibly beautiful music and there are limited places to hear a good selection. There are surely millions of people out there in the world that have a love for the style of music our instruments play, never mind the millions who would be fascinated by the mechanism of the machines that produce this beautiful sound. Let’s not forget how popular organ records and cassettes were back in the 60’s and 70’s. Major record companies like Decca would invest in recording Mechanical Music as heavily as the bands and singers of the era. We need to start bringing Mechanical Music back into the public domain.

What was your vision with Mechanical Music Radio.

Essentially, I wanted to make it ‘sound like a radio station’! I didn’t just want it to be a music channel or a playlist of music. Explanation is needed for some of the instruments played and I wanted to make it sound as professional as I could. I feel the sound of the station has settled down nicely and as you listen, you hear a good mix of content, features and fun bits.

Before launching it on April 1st, I tried every type of format and sound. Indeed, even after launch, I’ve continued making numerous changes every week, from new jingles to loading new songs and laying out the music and content a little differently. Indeed, it will continue to evolve and hopefully get a little better with each little adjustment I make.

How much time did it take to set it up?

It took 18 months from scratch to get together the technology, load the music, create the content, build the website, organize the publicity etc. Just too many jobs to list. I remember getting half way through the project and wondering if I’d ever finish. In the end, I just set a launch date, which made me work even faster! Presently, I’m spending a minimum of twelve hours a week on Mechanical Music Radio, whether it be adding new music, recording new content, updating the website or replying to emails. This really is a one-man project. Twelve hours a week doesn’t sound a lot, but on top of a full-time job it does make me a busy person. Also, I’ve had one of my busiest years ever with my Dutch Street Organ ‘Blauwtje’, having nearly been out every weekend, April to September.

Tell us about the daunting technological challenge in doing this.

Technology is the reason I can do Mechanical Music Radio. Having said that, Internet radio is no new thing. The last 15 years, amateur enthusiasts have done internet stations. The real difference these days is it’s now easier to listen. With smartphones and tablets, you can listen on the go. Cars have Bluetooth devices, wireless internet and broadband speeds are getting faster and more reliable.

As for how we manage to run 24 hours a day, I use a computer programme popular with radio stations that will automatically schedule 24 hours worth of music, jingles and content. It’s complex to explain, but basically every track of music (over 14,000 on the database) is categorised based on the instrument type. Also, on the style or mood of the music it’s playing. This has taken thousands of hours to set up, but with most of the hard work done, the computer can now intelligently schedule the music ensuring every time you tune in, you will hear a different selection. Added on top of that, you will notice themed jingles introducing certain features or instruments.

Again, this is all in the set up. Once categorised and programmed correctly, the computer will pick a suitable jingle to play into the song. Added on top of that are the announcements by me, which I go through recording and inserting as I double check the music log for each day.


Where do you get your music from?

We have been very generously supported by Graham Spencer at Royalmusic Recording Services in the UK and John Van Kleef of Discus Records in the Netherlands, both of which saw the potential for a radio station that plays Mechanical Music and have donated their complete back catalogues. Many years of work from these two gentlemen are now to be enjoyed on Mechanical Music Radio.

Also, the legendary John Hulse from Causeway Recordings is slowly digitising his archive and sending to us for play-listing. John is so passionate about this station, and I’m so honoured to have him share the recordings which sold thousands of records and cassettes over the last fifty years.

I’ve always been worried people will assume Mechanical Music Radio will damage CD sales. I’ve always said, this radio station will enable you to discover instruments, arrangers and recordings you never knew existed. It’s window shopping. Try before you buy. We are encouraging CD sales from the tracks we play by displaying album titles. If you have a CD for sale, it’s strongly recommended you contact us and get your music play-listed. We will support you and get your release ‘out there’, totally free of charge.

Also, all the music we play is protected. All the songs heard have a jingle at the start and end of the track and a light ‘compression’ is put onto the whole station to balance levels, so no one will be able to copy your music. This is another reason why I never play several tracks from the same instrument back to back. You only ever hear one track per instrument and if you’d like to hear more, I strongly recommend you buy the CD and support the recording artist and the instrument owner.


How much money do you make?

Nothing, no money is made from this project and making money is never the intention. I’m doing this as a new way to promote the world of Mechanical Music and bring enthusiasts worldwide together.

Now, the station is costing £2,000 a year in licences, streaming and web costs. It is totally free. I don’t charge for advertising or for listening. If you enjoy it, please do log onto the site and donate.

I always enjoy reading your emails. You can contact me direct by emailing, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter. Search for Mechanical Music Radio.

You can listen 24 hours a day by clicking


Many people are interested to know how Mechanical Music Radio works. Here is a screenshot from earlier in the week.



You can see a playlist of music (in blue) jingles (in red) presenter links (in purple) and features (in green).

Every hour is totally different in layout and music style. This hour appears to be focusing on Mechanical Organs, in particular the contrasts between old and new, and small and big.

Currently ‘playing now’ in this view is a Jingle to introduce the Vinyl Years feature that we do every hour around twenty give past. As you can see the jingle is about to stop playing and the song ‘Homesick for home’ is about to play on the 95 Key Bursens Organ from the St Albans Organ Museum. After that there is a presenter link I’ve recorded to back announce what you’ve just heard, and then it goes into a promotional trail for Bluetooth devices you can get to hear us on, and a ‘Discover Mechanical Music’ feature.

This computer system means we can offer something totally unique every day.



This article was first published in The AMICA Buletin and is reproduced here with the kind permission of AMICA and James Dundon.