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An Online Radio Station Where Everything Is Eclectic

On a gloomy Tuesday this past March, a cohort of trendy young Britons was waking up to the sounds of underground ’80s R&B. And Swedish space disco. And the folk singer John Martyn.

Flo Dill, host of “The Breakfast Show” on the online radio station NTS, was floating around in a small East London studio, quietly back-announcing those tracks and laughing at messages in the station’s lively online chat room. Like most morning radio hosts, she tries to ease listeners into their day, slowly bringing up the tempo. But unlike most morning radio hosts, Dill plays tracks in a mixture of styles that can run the gamut from obscure ambient music to timeworn dad rock.

The NTS studios in the Dalston neighborhood of London.Credit…Jeremie Souteyrat for The New York Times

“The Breakfast Show” encapsulates the spirit of NTS, an eclectic revamp of traditional radio that draws listeners — and on-air talent — from across the globe. Since it was founded in 2011, NTS has grown into a big fish in underground music’s small pond: You could maybe go for an entire day listening to NTS and not recognize a single artist, and, even in Britain, the average person on the street would never have heard of it.

But the station’s devoted fans are drawn to its shows, most of which are structured like D.J. mixes, with no talking between tracks; others play like Dill’s: modern, casual updates on classic radio formats, with genre-agnostic programming.

Dill said in an interview that NTS works because, unlike traditional radio, which “spoon feeds” its audience, it doesn’t patronize or treat the listener as “a moron.” (NTS’s tagline is “Don’t Assume.”) She started volunteering at NTS in 2016, at a time when there were hardly any full-time staff members. Now, there are around 45 working across the station and its related businesses, which include putting on festivals and events and creating marketing campaigns for brands like Carhartt, Netflix and Sonos.

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