Streaming Station Inhailer Radio Celebrates Four Years of Filling the Alternative and Modern Rock Gap in Cincinnati

After beloved Indie Rock station WOXY finally shuttered and WNKU had been sold, there was no radio arena in Greater Cincinnati that showcased independent musicians and local performers...until Inhailer Radio.

click to enlarge Carriers at Inhailer Radio's fourth anniversary party at Fretboard Brewing - Photo: Provided by Coran Stetter
Photo: Provided by Coran Stetter
Carriers at Inhailer Radio's fourth anniversary party at Fretboard Brewing

At a low point in the Cincinnati music scene just a few years ago, there was no radio arena that showcased independent music artists and local performers. Beloved Independent Rock station WOXY-FM had finally shuttered and WNKU-FM had been sold, transitioning from an outlet for Greater Cincinnati musicians to Christian radio.

But then streaming platform Inhailer Radio came along to fill the void, offering its tagline “breath of fresh airwaves,” and underground Alternative Rock had a permanent place in Cincinnati once again.

In June, Inhailer Radio celebrated its fourth anniversary.

“It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in just four years,” Inhailer Radio founder Coran Stetter says. “What started off as a few music lovers trying to do something to keep the Cincinnati music scene connected has turned into a huge community of supporters of independent music.” 

In 1983, WOXY-FM, also called 97X (at 97.7 FM), operated from Butler County and was the first of its kind in Cincinnati. It was an independent radio station that played Modern Rock, embracing tenets of the Glam, Punk, Indie and Alternative genres. 

In 2007, Rolling Stone said 97X had been one of the best stations in the country — that is, until it was sold in January 2004. The new owners ended all of 97X’s terrestrial broadcasting that May and launched one of the country’s first internet-only stations. But that, too, failed, as the web station changed hands several times before shutting down in 2010 (97.7 FM is now called La Mega and broadcasts Spanish-language programming in Cincinnati).

Following the termination of 97X, it was “a very hard time for the Cincinnati music scene” Stetter says. No true Independent Rock station serviced the area until 2015, when WNKU-FM took on a new direction.

Owned by Northern Kentucky University, the modern WNKU (89.7 FM) — which started out in the 1980s as a Bluegrass and Folk outlet — strived to emulate the success of major independent stations around the country by following a format similar to KEXP-FM in Seattle, which included highlighting local music once an hour. WNKU grew a passionate fan base of both listeners and artists before being sold in 2017 due to university budget cuts. The station was taken over by Bible Broadcasting Network and now plays Christian radio.

After the sale of WNKU, Stetter, whose Dream Pop band Multimagic had been featured on the station, came up with the idea of Inhailer Radio to save Independent Rock in Cincinnati. 

click to enlarge Inhailer Radio Music Director Nils Illokken (left) and Inhailer founder Coran Stetter (second from left) - Photo: Provided by Coran Stetter
Photo: Provided by Coran Stetter
Inhailer Radio Music Director Nils Illokken (left) and Inhailer founder Coran Stetter (second from left)

“We didn’t want to have this void that happened between WOXY and WNKU for that 10-year period or so where there really wasn’t a connected scene. The thesis when we started Inhailer Radio was basically, ‘Could you have an app-based radio station that was primarily marketed to a location like terrestrial radio?’’’ says Stetter.

In order to prevent the absence of Alternative radio in Cincinnati yet again, Stetter reached out to others around the WNKU community to gain the momentum and resources necessary to develop a mobile app and website that would carry the same values as the beloved radio station.

Since 2017, Inhailer has streamed music on both its iPhone and Android apps, as well as on its website. The station takes inspiration from the late WNKU by playing music that you would not find on mainstream radio and consistently highlighting local Indie artists. Inhailer Radio began with just two DJs and has since grown to streaming 24/7 with close to 20 voluntary DJs for approximately 50,000 monthly listeners, says Stetter. 

“Where we’ve really taken inspiration from WNKU is that idea of not having a local show at midnight on a Sunday when no one is listening (to play local music),” Stetter says. “We just take the best local music that is presented to us and mix it into our rotation the same way you would hear anyone else.”

DJs include Melvin Dillon of local Soul Step Records, who curates his “Soul Step Radio” show; Claire Muenchen, who hosts “Femme FM;” and Kaitlyn Peace, who focuses on Indie and local music. 

Inhailer uses itself as a platform to show that the Cincinnati music scene rocks just as hard as national artists commonly heard elsewhere on the dial.

In addition to playing local music, Inhailer reports to the North American College & Community Radio Chart, which means that Inhailer receives music directly from promoters. Reporting to the charts has given them the opportunity to play music from many up-and-coming artists before their songs become popular.

“Inhailer Radio gives a much-needed platform to incredibly diverse music from all over the world,” says Inhailer Radio Music Director Nils Illokken. “You really aren’t seeing any other sources locally playing the music we do. These artists are being covered by Pitchfork, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, and playing festivals ranging from Bonnaroo to Coachella and more.”

At the end of 2019, Inhailer signed a partnership with Cincinnati Public Radio, which Stetter says was exciting because it gave them access to the terrestrial dial. Listeners are now able to tune to Inhailer Radio on WGUC’s 90.9 HD3 on radios with HD capabilities.

But he isn’t stopping with radio.

“We would really like to start partnering with local venues and local promoters to bring artists to town that we already curate and have an audience for on air,” he says. 

As more rising Indie artists come to town, Stetter believes that this will positively impact the significance that Inhailer Radio has on the Cincinnati music scene. Long-term, Inhailer’s goals include branching out to other formats and applying its model to other genres such as Hip Hop or Blues. 

“We want to take what we believe is a successful model to bring in even more partners, not even just Indie Alternative, but whatever else Cincinnati is known for” Stetter says.

Illokken agrees. “We’re a big music city with a rich history and we want to expand it even further,” he says.

Listen to Inhailer Radio and get more information at

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