Intriguing sounds were in the air in 1973 when producer Stephen Hill turned his fascination with space-creating music into a weekly late-night program called Music
from the Hearts of Space on KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA.
With original co-producer Anna Turner joining the effort in 1974, what began as a hobby evolved
into a multifaceted broadcasting and music company encompassing radio, records, and now an Internet music service.
In January 1983, after ten years as a local program Hearts of Space began national syndication on the NPR satellite system with 35 stations. Within three years the program signed its 200th station and became the most successful and widely heard program of contemporary spacemusic a tastemaker in the genre. Now in its 25th year of national syndication, a one hour program airs weekly on almost 220 stations, including a majority of the the top 50 U.S. radio markets. The program's longevity comes from a unique concept, consistently high production quality and sensitive, discriminating music programming.
Hearts of Space Records was launched in 1984 following the success of the radio program and an early mail order music business. From the inception of the record company the focus was on building
a quality independent label with a carefully selected roster of artistsa label with long-term viability that succeeded both commercially and artistically.
Early releases on Hearts of Space were critically applauded and sold well in the instrumental music market by then swept into the burgeoning New Age category. Constance Demby's Novus Magnificat (1986) was an early hit, listed on annual Top Albums lists in Pulse! and Jazziz. John Schaeffer, producer and host of WNYC-FM New York's influential New Sounds program said it "sets a standard for the use of electronics by which all future new age albums should be judged."
That would have been good, but with no barrier to entry and a meaninglessly broad scope, the new age genre soon developed a reputation for torpid, mediocre material. Still, there were always gems to be found, and the label and the radio program continued to search for quality.
Hearts of Space titles began appearing on Billboard's Top Adult Alternative Albums Chart in 1990, first in New Age and later on the Adult Alternative and the Top World Music Chart. Between 1994 and 1996 Celtic Twilight, a compilation of electroacoustic Celtic music, charted for 130 weeks, peaking at #2, and ranking as Billboard's #1 Indie New Age Album of 1994-95. It went on to Gold Record sales of over half a million units. Other HOS titles on the Adult Alternative and World Music charts include A Celtic Tale and Celtic Twilight 2, which was Billboard's #2 Indie World Music album of 1995-96.
Musical influences and directions were diverse from the start. The move into Celtic and Ethnic Fusion music followed a history of international signings. Since its earliest years, HOS sought out and presented new talent from around the globe including electro-acoustic artists from Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Switzerland, England, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan.
To organize this variety, what began as a single label grew into a family of five: Electronic Space, Classical and New Age on Hearts of Space, Celtic on Hearts O'Space, Dark Ambient and Archaic Revival on Fathom, Native American, Flamenco, Indonesian, Indian, Ethno-Classical, and Klezmer on World Class, and World/Pop Electronica on RGB.
In 1996 HOS moved from San Francisco just across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. The new facility included two audio studios, one for radio production and one for CD mastering and web audio encoding, plus a graphics studio for in-house design and production of packaging and marketing materials and web graphics. Design and development of HOS.com site was also taken in-house.
During the late 1990's the Internet began to open up new broadcast frontiers through streaming audio. The HOS radio program was carried by Netradio.com from 1996 until it shut down in 2001, as well as on the short-lived but influential broadband MP3 service WiredPlanet.com (later radio.listen.com, which evolved into part of today's Rhapsody music service.)
In 2001 the record label part of the company was sold to Valley Entertainment in New York, who maintain the catalog of almost 150 titles and release selected new recordings. Producer Stephen Hill continues to work on A&R and production of new releases, while maintaining work on the radio program.
Music from space had literally arrived via satellite and in January 2002 HOS began airing twice weekly on the "AudioVisions" channel of XM Satellite Radio. In 2004 the show expanded to seven times a week and is currently heard on the SiriusXM "Spa" Channel 72 at 11pm Eastern on weekdays, 9am Eastern Saturday, and 9pm Eastern on Sunday.
August 15th 2001 marked the launch of a new streaming music service featuring on demand broadband and dialup access to the Hearts of Space Archive of over 850 hours of radio programs.
In 2004, the company moved about 12 miles north of Sausalito to San Rafael. A major expansion of the service was launched March 30th 2005, marked by a change to Windows Media format, a new ALBUMS section for streaming, more interactive features, and a less expensive and more flexible service offering with a state of the art "measured use" plans.
By early 2008, Windows Media was fading in popularity and becoming increasingly difficult to support, so a custom Flash™ player was commissioned for the web service. After almost a year of development and beta-testing, the new player went live on Feb. 11th, 2009. In addition to the previous feature set, it supports unlimited user-created playlists, an expanded "Favorites" feature, rolling identification of currently playing media, richer cross-linking, and the ability to turn off the program voiceovers on demand. Free site-wide 30 second samples were also introduced, as well as additional free content for casual users.