Thursday, May 29, 2008
"...many artists are turning to user-generated content and social networking sites like YouTube and MySpace to find their fans and post their music or videos, while listeners starved for content and substance can log on to Breakdown FM or stream Hard Knock Radio online. Another buzzworthy outlet is Current TV, which is making an increased commitment to covering urban music and trends in their mini-documentary 'pods.'
Still another option is low-power FM radio, which doesn’t offer the cachet (or advertising dollars) of commercial radio, but is affordable, accessible, and locally available. Recently, there have been encouraging signs that the FCC and Congress will remove caps preventing LPFM stations in urban markets, a condition originally imposed by powerful commercial broadcasters."
He also implores radio listeners to voice their opinions and concerns to commercial stations and the FCC in order to encourage radio to cover local events and play more local music and community affairs programming. Likewise, college and community radio stations can be encouraged to do their part in representing the local scene.
You can read my other posts about this FMC series here and here.
"In the dimly lit basement of radio station KRCC, DJs Alex Horner and Scott Ventrudo are playing Mongolian hip-hop on Colorado College's new student radio station, SOCC.
A sign on the wall warns students 'Think before you speak!' and another advises 'If you wouldn't say it in front of your friend's grandmother, then don't say it.'
That's college radio for you. College stations can be a training ground for the DJs of tomorrow or just a way for music lovers to share their favorite tunes. They can be the voice of the campus or reach out to the entire community. Some have thousands of listeners, some just a few dozen.
Colorado Springs is home to four college stations - at Colorado College, the Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak Community College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs."
The stations outlined in the article include:
SOCC (Colorado College)
The newest station, SOCC at Colorado College, is truly a student-run station and has only been around since March 2008. It can only be heard on KRCC's HD subchannel or online.
KRCC-FM (Colorado College)
According to their website, KRCC had its origins in the 1940s over the campus public address system and first went on the air in 1951 "as the first non-commercial educational FM radio station in the state of Colorado." It's now a professionally run NPR-affiliate at Colorado College which hosts SOCC's Internet-feed and HD signal.
KAFA 97.7 FM (Air Force Academy)
The cadet-run radio station of the Air Force Academy has a mostly alternative rock format. The station's been around since 1964, but has moved frequencies several times. It's only been since early this month that they've been broadcasting on the Internet for a wider audience.
KEPC 89.7 FM (Pikes Peak Community College)
Non-commercial student radio station (on FM and online) that serves as a training ground for future radio professionals. A few times a day they air informational shows like "Microbe World." According to the Gazette piece: "At many colleges, students come to school and might discover radio. At KEPC, radio is school. Only nine students are accepted into the radio internship each semester and nearly all of them expect to soon be working in radio professionally soon."
iSAMI (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs)
Internet-only student radio station that began in 2003 as a computer science project. As a nod to their origins, the station name iSAMI stands for "Internet Streaming Audio Media Infrastructure." Some of their shows include "Cops and Coffee" where campus safety issues are discussed, "All that Fiddle" (poetry discussions), and "Your Computer Future" (chats with Engineering faculty). They also air music shows. According to their website: "The UCCS Internet Radio Station is on 24/7. We play all sorts of artists, old and new, from all genres. We also have talk shows, interviews, documentaries, and news shows. We can accommodate anyone who wants to do a show of any conceivable kind. We are not beholden to any specific programming format."
"A few weeks ago, the most astonishing thing happened to me. I received an email from someone who used to listen to my radio show when I was in college. We never met, but he used to call in to my show from time to time. Last week, he looked me up online and emailed to find out if I had a list of songs I used to play on the air.
I should note that my last day of hosting that show was 14 years ago. I graduated from Edinboro University Of Pennsylvania in 1994.
...wow! Has it really been that long?
College was an amazing time for me. I never went through a rebellious phase. Never did the binge drinking thing. I wasn't a partier, wasn't into the frat scene or college sports. For me, college life was about four things:
Classes, hanging out with my roommate, spending time with my girlfriend, and college radio...
My college had an FM station and I got involved at the beginning of my freshman year. By the time I graduated, I'd served as a music director, news director and twice as general manager.
Each Sunday night from 8 to 11pm, I hosted a show called Radio Free Edinboro, which sounded a little something like this...
- Never Told You | Power Of Dreams
- Railwayed | Kitchens Of Distinction
- Submarine Song | The Candy Skins
- A Good Idea | Sugar
- Capital Letters | Ned's Atomic Dustbin
- Sleep Alone | The Wonder Stuff
- Radio Days | World Party
- Golden Egg | Eat
- Mirror Song | Live
- I Wanted Too Much | a House
- The Taming of Carolyn | Lowest Of The Low
- Courage (For Hugh Maclennan) | The Tragically Hip
- I Take You To Sleep | New Fast Automatic Daffodils
- The Only One I Know | The Charlatans UK
- Come Play With Me | The Wedding Present
- Rudderless | The Lemonheads
- Not Too Soon | Throwing Muses
- The Dead Part Of You | American Music Club
- Sodium Light Baby | The The
- Unreal World | Godfathers"
(My College) Radio Days
Indeed. That does look like 1994. I was just reading today that Swervedriver was back...they'd fit on this list nicely. By the way, you can listen to his playlist (I'm assuming this was an actual radio show playlist from back in the day...but it could also just be some of his faves) from the blog post. Also, Rob's got another blog just focused on radio called This is the Box.
If you're a former college radio DJ have you ever been contacted by former listeners years later? One of the sweetest calls that I ever got as a DJ (in 1997 or so) was when a high school student called to tell me that she was a fan and was going to miss my show when she went away to college. Her plan was to have a friend tape the show for her so that she could continue to listen.
"Like a slew of others, I had a stint working college radio. One thing that was a little different about my tenure, though, is that it happened during high school.
The small town I grew up in had a community college, which offered broadcasting classes. the classes must've been poorly attended in 1985-1988, because it seems that the only people working the station was me and a bunch of high-school friends. It was great fun, although it was a top 40 geared station. We had playlists and so were expected to rotate in the popular hits of the day. Not really what one thinks of as college radio, huh? What the hell did I know, though. I was 16. I was in a nowhere-ville town with a population of 8,000. Whatever.
I between the Toto, Madonna, whatever else was on the charts at the time, I'd throw on the singles that nobody else seemed to pick up, as well as bringing in my own lps. I have a small sense of pride knowing that the airwaves of Northern Minnesota were getting 'polluted' with X, The Replacements, and other such stuff...
Post-scripting: I just noticed that my old radio station is now streaming online, and has bumped up the power to 24 kilowatts!!! And, another sense of pride in that they are still using the call letters I helped to choose!"
Like Matt's glee in realizing his old station still has the same call letters that he helped choose, I guess we all hope to have some sort of lasting influence on our college radio stations. I remember going back to my undergraduate station WHRC and searching to find some of the albums that I added back in the day (pretty much the same time period written about above) when I was Music Director. I literally was looking to find my "mark" by analyzing the handwriting in the fading Sharpie-etched "WHRCs" and music reviews scrawled on old albums.
Which of your contributions to college radio do you hope will be remembered decades from now?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
"...when hip-hop became a national phenomenon in the 1980s, it was still largely considered 'underground,' despite its obvious relevance and appeal to young people in urban communities. Early supporters of hip-hop radio tended to be devoted fans at college and community stations, who played records that commercial radio often wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot dookie stick. Though small in wattage, these stations' dedicated hip-hop specialty shows developed loyal followings who would tune in to hear 'their' music."
As part of this history, he discusses college radio DJ Bobbito Garcia's influential show "The Stretch Armstrong Show" on Columbia University's college radio station WKCR. He writes:
"Long before NYC’s Hot 97 adopted the phrase 'Where Hip-Hop Lives,' the genre thrived on college radio, which had few restrictions on the type of music that could be played.
In New York, college mixshows became important outlets for unsigned artists hoping to land a record deal. [Noted DJ] Bobbito Garcia proudly notes that 'The Stretch Armstrong Show' was the first to play artists like Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, and the Wu-Tang Clan before they had record deals. Eventually, all of them became platinum-selling, major-label acts...."
Eric Arnold also credits San Francisco Bay Area college (KALX and KZSU) and community radio (KPOO) stations for their role in breaking hip hop artists, saying:
"...in the Bay Area, stations like KPOO, KALX, and KZSU were instrumental in breaking local artists like Too $hort, Timex Social Club, Hammer, Digital Underground and Paris, all of whom went on to national prominence and commercial success."
Continue reading Eric's piece (and stay tuned for part 3) to hear about the unfortunate turn of events after hip hop radio became commercialized.
And, I'd love to hear your thoughts on if college radio is still an oasis for underground hip hop and local artists.
I'm pretty excited to see that they played one of my all-time favorite bands Beat Happening! Not only that, the track they chose, "Red Head Walking," has been my 2-year-old daughter's theme song ever since she was born, because it's such a great song about bad ass redhead girls. I took my daughter to see an all-ages Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, K Records, and so many other projects) show in San Francisco last summer and I told Calvin about "Red Head Walking" being her theme song and he seemed pleased. He was super sweet to her and signed her CD. All in all, a fantastic first concert for the little lady. Lucky girl, she saw a music show at a much younger age than I ever did. And it was Calvin Johnson!! So, right on Radio UTD for featuring one of my music heroes.
Next week XMU will feature KCSC from Chico State. And, if you want to try to get your station on XMU in the fall, email firstname.lastname@example.org . On to the playlist:
Radio UTD on XMU Student Exchange
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Of Montreal - Don't Ask Me To Explain - Cherry Peel
The Dodos - Fools - Visiter
Parts & Labor - The Gold We're Digging - Mapmaker
Pattern is Movement - Bird - All Together
Dosh - Wolves - Wolves and Wishes
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Alisa - Haunted Graffiti
John Maus - Just Wait 'Til Next Year - Songs
El Perro Del Mar - God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get) - El Perro Del Mar
Lykke Li - Little Bit - Little Bit EP
BLOW - The Big U - Paper Television
The Radio Dept. - Pulling Our Weight - Marie Antoinette
Portishead - The Rip - Third
The Olivia Tremor Control - Jumping Fences - Dusk at Cubist Castle
The Strange Boys - Drugs Iggy Drugs - The State's Newest Noise Makers
Beirut - Elephant Gun - Elephant Gun
The Magnetic Fields - Swinging London - Holiday
M83 - Kim & Jessie - Saturdays = Youth
Crystal Castles - Vanished - Crystal Castles LP
Modest Mouse - Custom Concern - This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About
The Flaming Lips - This Here Giraffe - Clouds Taste Metallic
Beat Happening - Red Head Walking - Dreamy
Cass McCombs - What Isn't Nature - A
Taken By Trees - Sweet Child O' Mine - Sweet Child O' Mine
Boris - Flower Sun Rain - Smile
Mall - Acrid - Emergency at the Every Day
Songs: Ohia - Farewell Transmission - The Magnolia Electric Co.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
"I worked in college radio. Yup. WUOG, 90.5fm. Athens, Georgia's college radio in the late '80s (REM, Pylon, Love Tractor, B-52s) and then again in the mid-90s. I started out as a jock (working the midnight to 3am shift on Monday mornings), eventually scored a 'lunchbox' shift, then became the host of 'Blank Generation' on Friday nights. As an undergrad, I became the station's Promotions Director, and when I came back to UGA for grad school, I was named the Graduate Advisor to the station. That was awesome. Getting paid to do something I would do for free? Badass."
In talking about her childhood beginnings she writes:
"I would 'play DJ' when I was a toddler, then I would create mix tapes for friends in high school that would become 'requested' by other friends and friends of friends until I had a little side gig of creating mixes for dozens at a time."
It's funny, because it's only as an adult looking back that I realize the significance of a few things from my childhood in terms of my music trajectory. When I was 5 years old I got a tape recorder for Christmas and used it for many radio-related experiments. My sister and I would record mock radio shows on the bright red cassette recorder, imitating things we'd heard on Dr. Demento. And then, in 6th grade, my dad and I made a Jukebox costume for me to wear on Halloween (I got the idea from Dynamite magazine). I crafted my own mix tape of 1950s rock and roll that I taped off my mom's old records, which I later played when people deposited candy into the jukebox. Should it have been a big surprise that I'd go into college radio (where we kind of hope we're not just thought of as human jukeboxes) and never leave?
Did you play DJ when you were a little kid? What are your favorite childhood music memories?
Saturday, May 24, 2008
According to the article:
"The Quarry playlist, geared toward the 18-to-24 age demographic, will be updated on a weekly basis. Songs or artists that get tepid listener and DJ response will make way for what clicks with listeners...The station is affiliated with the College Music Journal (CMJ) and pays attention to the independent radio bible’s charts. That doesn’t mean students behind the microphone don’t have a say in the sounds...
CMJ charts serve as a baseline from which Quarry students can expand. Working with broadcast professors...[program director and faculty advisor] Kiggins aims to balance a sense of freedom and adventure with solid principles of business and promotion.
'We’re teaching students how to deal with music promotion – how to get the best response,' Kiggins said, noting the promotional value of direct pipeline to a college student body. 'It’s kind of a balancing act. We want to play what we want, but there’s a certain game to play. We are reporting (playlists) to a journal.'"
It's interesting to me that the station admits that reporting playlists to CMJ is part of an overall "game" in the music biz. The article continues:
"Al Sigala, Mt. Hood spokesman, says The Quarry provides a more realistic educational experience for media students, while providing a relevant campus cultural outlet. The station is broadcast through speakers at campus hot spots.
'One of the things we wanted to accomplish is to provide students with a real radio experience,' he said. 'It’s operated like a commercial station. It translates really well' to the commercial world."
So, although the station mission is similar to many college radio stations, in that it hopes to play underexposed artists, local bands, and musicians on the cusp of commercial success; it is also similar to pre-professional stations in its programming and promotional approach.
I think it's interesting to look at stations like "The Quarry" that have actively worked to re-brand themselves using slogans, etc. When I first started at Bowling Green State's radio station WBGU in 1995, staff had decided to change the station mascot from "The Shark" to "The Mole." Some of the station logos pronounced "the shark is dead" and referred to "the mole" as "your cancerous growth on the FM dial." There also was a lot of talk about how "The Mole" was a more relevant station name since moles live underground and the station played underground music. I wonder if they still call themselves the Mole? (P.S. I just realized that WBGU just celebrated its 60th! anniversary. You can read about their history on their Wikipedia page.)
Does your station have a specific name or slogan in addition to your call letters? Has your station ever changed its name or identity? How did listeners and staff respond to the change?
Friday, May 23, 2008
Other stations who've been profiled recently include:
WPSC-FM (William Paterson University, NJ): interview about new slogan "Brave New Radio"
WUSB-FM (Stonybrook University, NY): interview with MD from "Radio Free Long Island"
WVUA-FM (University of Alabama): profile of their MD talks about tips for interviewing bands
KSLU (St. Louis University): interview with MD about their stint on satellite radio station XMU's "Student Exchange" show
WVUR-FM (Valparaiso University, Indiana) : interview with MD about promoting station and podcasting
WICB-FM (Ithaca College, NY): interview with MD about relationship to college & community
You can find more college radio station profiles, as well as interviews with label reps, CMJ personnel and other music industry folks in the Industry Profiles section of the blog.
"I think that in the independent music industry women are on the same level as men. There's none of the sexism/objectification that seems to occur in the mainstream music industry. When I dealt with the business side of the music industry as the promo assistant, there were just as many females as males that I worked with and they were equally empowered. I guess when I used to think of the classic image of a music snob it was usually a guy with lots of records, and when I first came to the station, the staff really was dominated by males. Now there are lots of female managers around and my image of someone who's really into music doesn't depend on their gender."
"I think women in the music industry are great. I was inspired to learn bass after watching Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth totally rock out. I also wanted to start a band when I saw Sleater-Kinney. Although I didn't stick with the bass, and I'm therefore very far from starting a band, I think powerful women musicians are essential in music."
Do you agree that the "indie" scene is more respectful of women and more egalitarian than "corporate" music and radio? Are there many women at your college radio station? Are you a woman involved with college radio? If so, have you ever encountered sexist attitudes towards women at your station?
By the way, Radio 1190 is doing an all-vinyl weekend THIS weekend. According to their website:
"Radio 1190 will be spinning all Memorial Day weekend with three consecutive Vinyl Days. If you've never heard one, that's when we play all our music off records and on turntables. Purists say you can hear the difference between vinyl and digital, we just know it sounds great. The glory of vinyl music, new and old, complete with skips and pops! Starting Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. with Chunk of Funk and continuing through Sunday and Monday, Memorial Day, it's a Vinyl Memorial Day Weekend!"
Wow. Any station that plays LOTS of vinyl is a hero in my book. They also have a renowned underground hip hop show called Basementalism.
So, it is with interest that I read a post on the Audiversity blog about Chicago station WLUW 88.7 FM changing from a listener-supported community station to a student-run college station on July 1st. Loyola University is taking back control of a station that they severed financial ties with in 2002 (and simultaneously turned over control to public radio station WBEZ). You can read more about the details in this piece in Chicagoist from last summer when the initial news of the format change became public. An alternate perspective (from a former volunteer) on the situation at WLUW is chronicled on the WLUW Watch and Fear Channel blogs.
Michael Ardaiolo is a community-member DJ/Music Director at the station and will soon lose his show. He writes on Audiversity:
"On July 1st, WLUW will no longer be listener-supported community radio; instead it is reverting back to Loyola's student-run station, and most likely with it, all of the downfalls and short-sightedness of college radio. As solely a community member, I will no longer be welcome to contribute. There is no animosity, it's just the reality of the situation, and I am ready to move on to bigger and better things. What exactly is this bigger and better thing? It is the Chicago Independent Radio Project!"
It's unfortunate that WLUW will no longer include community member DJs on its staff. I wonder why they made this decision? According to the Loyola website, "The University realizes that WLUW is an under-utilized asset, and one that Loyola is looking to leverage for educational purposes." It's too bad, as the current community-oriented station sounds pretty cool. According to the current WLUW website:
"WLUW is a progressive, community-oriented radio station, committed to social justice and independent thought and expression, and to giving a voice to those who too often go unheard. The station is dedicated to offering a broad array of music, news, and issue- and arts-oriented programming that cannot be found elsewhere on the radio."
I'm also am curious what the specific "downfalls and short-sightedness of college radio" are in this particular instance. I can guess that community members fear that college student-run stations don't have the same continuity, consistency, and institutional history that community stations may have. And, I certainly agree with that point (remember....my college station's record library was sold off by a staff that didn't care about the history of the place).
As this post also points out, when stations aren't fulfilling the goals of their staff or listeners, industrious folks can move to the web or apply for a new FCC license. For this reason, The Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) will be interesting to watch.
What role do community members play at your station? Are they banned outright as it seems they will be at WLUW or are they allowed to participate equally with students? If you're a "community" member of a college station, what's that experience been like for you?
University of Washington-owned public radio affiliate radio station KUOW-FM (profiled this week in the University of Washington Daily) airs "The Swing Years," which has been on the air since the 1960s. Additionally, KPLU-FM (Pacific Lutheran University public radio affiliate) has been airing "The Art of Jazz" for 26 years.
Bill Virgin writes:
"So what is it that allows a host, or a show, to stick around so long? 'When it comes to (radio) personalities, the first word is being genuine,' says Tom Evans Krause, head of the broadcast department at Green River Community College. 'They're real people, someone you'd like to meet and hang out with.'
KIRO-AM's Dave Ross is a prime example, he says, of someone who shows a bit of himself on the air so that 'you feel as a listener like you get to know these people.' At the same time, 'They're always talking about things people care about.'
Enthusiasm for radio also counts for a lot, Krause says. 'You can tell when people are phoning it in,' he says. 'A lot of people in the business are thrilled to be paid to be on the radio. Most of them would have paid to be on the radio. That kind of attitude really comes across the airwaves.'"
The point about having passion for radio and that many DJs would pay to be on the air is quite telling, especially since most college radio staff members are NOT paid. So, long-time DJs in college radio often show an incredible commitment and enthusiasm since it is something they are volunteering to do.
How long do most people keep their shows at your station? Do you have college radio DJs who've been on the air for decades? What's the longest running show you have? Are these long-running shows favorites of station staff and listeners?
Thursday, May 22, 2008
"Urban Radio is a multibillion-dollar industry controlled by a handful of large media conglomerates which program the majority of the genre’s stations across the country. To a large extent, the industry’s current state is the result of media consolidation. Over the last twelve years, independently-owned commercial stations have become a rarity, while corporate radio has become the norm.
Where once innovative program directors broke new music by emerging artists and DJs sought out hot local talent, today’s urban radio has become standardized and formulaic. National playlists and a reliance on market research have made DJs little more than button-pushers with limited say in what records get aired. Pressure to attract and maintain the widest possible market share has resulted in Music and Program Directors choosing commercially-established, major label artists over idiosyncratic or developing acts. In this ratings-driven climate, radio that actively meets the needs of the community — whether it be public-affairs shows or programming featuring local artists — has fallen by the wayside. The net result is that the average listener has fewer choices, especially when it comes to hearing local music."
To read more on this topic, see Eric K. Arnold's extensive SF Weekly piece about The Demise of Hyphy, which explores the practices of San Francisco Bay area radio stations related to hip hop-oriented music.
Since corporate, commercial radio is playing less and less hip hop, indie urban artists, and local artists, I wonder if college radio is helping to fill the void on the dial. What do you think? Is your station playing enough urban, hip hop, and local music? Are there stations that do this exceptionally well?
"The next radio station to sign on in Norman, Oklahoma, might be operated by a religious group, much like the majority of the stations already serving the market. But this one would sound like few other religious stations. In fact, it would be devotedly secular—which is exactly the point.
'We’re getting pretty darn tired of listening to all the religious programming here in Oklahoma,' says Mary Francis, a retired teacher of reading and former public radio commentator. Seeking to counter central Oklahoma’s conservative culture and right-wing Christian broadcasters, the passionate activist recently took up a new cause. She’s now leading the charge to start a progressive FM radio station under the auspices of the Norman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (NUUF).
Unitarians call their faith a religion, but their congregations often welcome atheists, agnostics and pagans as readily as Christians and Jews. Likewise, the NUUF’s radio station would set up a big tent, airing diverse musical genres, connecting Norman’s social service organizations, and covering local issues that would otherwise get little coverage."
Intriguing....You can see more FMC station profiles on their website.
Monday, May 19, 2008
"Hey there! Im in Chapel Hill. As of this moment, I have visited 4 college radio stations: Florida State's in Tallahassee, SCAD (Savannah School of Art and Design)'s in Georgia, North Carolina State's, and North Carolina's. Tomorrow I am going to try and make it to Duke's in Durham, although a physical address is not on their website (grr...). So yeah. Its been really interesting seeing the different stations, and how they work and what is different about each one. It would really be helpful for each station to know better how their station is run vs. how other stations are run, and it would be really helpful for small touring acts to understand how the different stations are run, and how to get their music played on the radio.
I'm going to compile something about each of the stations I visit when this whole tour is over...more later. Also, I think whenever Austin bands go on tour, they should get 10 of each of their friend's bands CDs to give out to college radio stations in person...but more on this idea later, too."
I'm looking forward to reading about all of these station visits!
5/25/08 Radio UTD University of Texas, Dallas
6/1/08 KCSC Chico State
6/8/08 KSLU Saint Louis University
6/15/08 RadioUTD University of Texas at Dallas
6/22/08 WVAU American University
6/29/08 WERS Emerson College
7/6/08 WXCU Capital University
7/13/08 KCSC Chico State
7/20/08 RadioUTD University of Texas at Dallas
7/27/08 KSLU Saint Louis University
8/3/08 WVAU American University
8/10/08 WERS Emerson College
8/17/08 KCSC Chico State
8/24/08 KSLU Saint Louis University
8/31/08 WXCU Capital University
9/7/08 WERS Emerson College
Yesterday, American University's (Washington, D.C.) on-campus and Internet radio station WVAU was featured on "Student Exchange Show." Kudos to them for playing a track from Neutral Milk Hotel! Here's their playlist:
WVAU-THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY – AIR DATE: 05/18/2008
Born Ruffians – Hummingbird – Red, Yellow, Blue
Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945 – Holland, 1945
Radiohead – 15 Step – In Rainbows
Digitalism – The Pulse – Idealism
M83 - Kim & Jessie – Saturdays = Youth
Charades - On Thursday the 12th – The Lydia Albright EP
No Second Troy - One in Ten – Narcotic
Matt Pond PA – People Have A Way – People Have A Way
BC Camplight – Blood & Peanut Butter - Blood & Peanut Butter
Flight of the Conchords - Leggy Blonde – Flight Of The Conchords (Original Staging)
Modest Mouse – I Came As A Rat – The Moon and Antarctica
Throw Me The Statue – Lolita – Moonbeams
Of Montreal – Jennifer Louise – Aldhils Arboretum
Civil Twilight – Run Dry – Human
The Kazoo Funk Orchestra – Baby You’ve No Eyes – Midnight Finger Painter
Junior Senior – Dynamite – D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop The Beat
Yelle – Ce Jeu (Slaughtered by The VIDEOBAND) – myspace.com/thevideoband
Justice – Phantom - †
We Are Wolves - Teenage, Bats & Anthropology – Total Magique
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s - Barfight Revolution, Power Violence – The Dust of Retreat
VHS or Beta – Take It or Leave It – Bring the Comets
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Nick is a graduate student at University of Virginia, working on his dissertation about college radio (Alright!), teaching classes on the history of rock and roll, and DJing at their college station WTJU.
His paper talks about the tension between the assumption that college radio is alternative and radical when in fact stations often act in more mainstream ways, reflecting practices of commercial stations (like adding music that record labels are hyping, making decisions based on charts, and requiring DJs to play a certain percentage of new adds). He writes:
"...college radio Music Directors often restrict their DJs through overt or subtle means. Playlist requirements require DJs to play a set number of songs per hour taken from a preselected group of new 'rotation' CDs; the administrator's goal is both to enhance a station's first-on-the-scene image, and to provide more reliable programming for listeners..."
Nick describes the practices above as similar to commercial radio, which to a certain extent I agree with (especially if the requirements are very restrictive), but to a large degree I see a big difference between the two. I work at a station with playlist requirements (you must play about 1/3 new adds), but I never feel controlled or restricted by them. My station adds over 40 items a week and the new bin is up for 8 weeks, so there's a ton of material to choose from and I can always find music that fits with the aesthetics of my show. I agree that some DJs do feel restricted by these types of rules, but I think it's OK for a station to have a point of view about the type of "sound" it's going for and that, to me, is the goal of having a large, curated bin of new (to the station) Music Director-approved selections.
What fascinated me the most about Nick's paper was his discussion about the role that promoters play in college radio. Some music directors rely heavily on the advice of promoters and won't even add bands to a station's library if they don't have the backing of a promoter. He writes:
"Bands who don't hire a promoter are at a disadvantage, as one Music Director suggests: 'We get between a hundred to two hundred CDs a week...But normally you can tell bad stuff; it doesn't have a major promoter behind it, or, if the band's promoting itself, you know, it's not too good...'"
Wow! I can't imagine that every station feels this way. I know that my station doesn't discriminate against promoter-less bands and having a promoter is certainly not a sign that the music will fit with your station's air sound. But, one of Nick's interesting points in this paper is that many station music directors don't rely solely on their own judgment, but seem to rely on external sources like promoters and CMJ charts in order to make programming decisions. Thankfully he heard about some exceptions to this:
"...certain stations largely opt out of the game with promoters. Liz Schroeder, formerly of AAM Promotions, reports that 'the bigger more influential stations are more likely to be dismissive.' Laura Jellum of Spectre corroborates, ' 'XYC and 'NVR and 'FMU - They do what they want and barely talk to promoters, but we service them anyway.'"
As I've discussed before, college radio stations are a diverse group of organizations, including commercial stations, public radio affiliates, non-commercial, 100% students, blends of community and student DJs, indie-oriented, mainstream, very controlled, freeform and everything in-between.
Like Nick, though, my preference is for stations that have their own point of view, are more focused on indie & undiscovered music, and don't rely on playlists and promoters to guide programming decisions. I'm not a fan of 100% freeform programming, because I am a fan of really great Music Directors as station curators. Amazing Music Directors can be really good at finding and sharing interesting music with their stations and listeners and provide the glue that holds a station together so that it doesn't just sound like a random collection of DJs with no connection to one another or a broader station goal.
"...given college radio's reputation and self-image as 'alternative' and 'indie' - as oppositional to commercial radio - we should critique the practices that impinge on the self-expression of its DJs, and that shortchange the artists working outside of capitalized and professional distribution channels."
What do you think about some of these issues raised by Nick's paper? Do you work at stations with programming rules? Do you add music from bands with no promotional backing? Is it important for college stations to try to rebel against (or at least think about) corporate control?
"...the band's record sales have precipitously declined over the last decade and a half. 1991's 'Out of Time' sold 4.5 million copies in the U.S. The band's 2004 release, 'Around the Sun,' has sold only 234,000 to date...
...to hear Stipe's voice on KALX was to hear a life-cycle metaphor. The band is back where it started -- no longer a staple of hit radio, no longer in high rotation on MTV, no longer selling out stadiums. Nope, back to blessed obscurity, back to college radio, back to singing unintelligibly about... Houston?"
Is R.E.M. really back where they started? Once someone gets a major label deal are they considered mainstream forever? Does your college station play R.E.M. today? Does it have a policy to stop playing bands that are commercially successful? I've mostly worked at stations that shy away from major label releases and commercial artists, so I can't say that I've played R.E.M. on the air since maybe the 1980s (and I still love their early stuff and have the same nostalgia that the Salon author writes about). I still doubt we're adding their latest and I think that it is hard for most of us to re-imagine a band as indie once they've gone big. What do you think?
P.S. I've heard plenty of major label stuff on KALX, so the fact that they are playing R.E.M. is not a huge surprise. And, it's not just KALX. College radio is very diverse and I get the impression that many stations aren't focused only on indie artists.
Monday, May 12, 2008
"Nobody at Chaffey College considers the school's tiny, unmarked radio studio a music museum, but maybe they should.
Inside a room the size of a spacious walk-in closet, a recently acquired radio system - equipped with iPod docks and a 30-watt transmitter - dominates. Nearby are more old-school equipment - multiple turntables, a box of eight-tracks and a clunky reel-to-reel player.
It's hard to believe that the community college, which journeyed from the reel-to-reel format to digital files, has never had a radio station until now. In the past, students who learned radio broadcasting had only an audience composed of their teachers and classmates.
This year, under the tutelage of broadcasting professor Daniel Jacobo, students have been showing off their skills on-air on 1010 AM and online at www.chaffey.edu/broadcast."
Apparently you can only hear the station over the AM airwaves if you are within a few miles of campus, but it's certainly a start. The article profiles a number of the station DJs, including Ted Nares who does an underground music show:
"Ted Nares' collection of 5,000 CDs makes it easy for him to host 'The Lodge,' an underground-music show. 'It's an ode to the obscure,' he said. Nares, 28, started developing his music library at age 16, when he started working at a convenience store. 'My whole paycheck went to music,' he said...Nares said his goal is to introduce people to new music. There's just a lot out there that I'm not hearing,' he said."
Who can forget all the radio drama experienced by David Silver and Donna Martin during their stint on CU's radio station on Beverly Hills, 90210? The initial story lines revolved around their witty (?!) on-air banter when they did a team show. Then, when David went solo, the plot centered around his off-air drug abuse, spawned by the station manager offering him speed to help him stay awake after graveyard shifts.
Imagine my surprise when today I ran across the blog of a writer (and former college radio staff member) who is working on a script for a television pilot about college radio. Here's her initial idea:
"So, I'm writing an original pilot now, a half-hour dramedy about my experience working for a college radio station. Originally I wanted it to be a mockumentary a la The Office, but I think it would be kind of a pain to write it that way..." (July 2007 post)
And here she is a bit further along in the process:
"Before I left Ithaca, I started working on a pilot about my experience with college radio. The problem: I couldn't think of any good plots...lots of fun characters using cool radio jargon with not much else happening..." (August 2007 post)
And, her post from yesterday:
"So for my next pilot I said screw research, I'm going to write something I know completely: college radio. And though I'm still struggling with rewriting, it's kind of nice to write something I feel that I'm an expert about. In a way my challenge is that I have so many ideas, so many directions to go in, so many real-life experiences that I can pull from." (May 2008 post)
So, aren't you dying to hear more about this script? What kinds of tales from your own college radio experiences would make for good television?
Can you think of any other college radio stories that have been on television before? And were they realistic? Personally, every time I saw 90210's take on radio (whether high school or college) I was always yelling at the screen, taking issue with the most minor details (HE ISN'T EVEN TALKING INTO THE MIC!) and inane (and unrealistic) mic breaks.
"Student radio at Union dated from 1910...That was the year two students began to set up a wireless telegraph station as part of their senior thesis work in electrical engineering. A radio club held its first meeting Oct. 29, 1915..."
According to the WRUC website:
"WRUC was first known as 2ADD and signed on at 8pm, October 1, 1920. Two young men hooked together five U tubes and attempted to broadcast 27 minutes of music. The show lasted from 8pm to 8:30pm with a 3 minute interuption [sic] at 8:15. William G. Craig, a 1923 graduate, was the station's first announcer, and Glen C. Mercer, a 1916 graduate, built the first station. The first song to be played at the station was, 'Tell Me Little Gypsy' by John Steel..."
The history section of the WRUC website includes links to old program guides (as far back as 1976), articles about the station, and other historical artifacts. According to the current program guide, WRUC broadcasts from 1pm-1am every day.
The article relays the author's fears that Oregon's only hip hop station Jammin' 95.5 may be going off the air (as it turns out the format will move to another station):
"...After months of fluctuating ratings, Jammin' was flipping to an all-talk sports station on Monday, and the news that hip-hop was bouncing up the dial to 107.5 hasn't broken yet...
It's not that Jammin' was that bomb. Anyone who's heard hip-hop radio on the East Coast, in L.A. or in the Dirty South knows that Jammin' played hip-hop music but wasn't really a hip-hop station...
Still, it's a blow. While other young people listen to a variety of music -- from pop to punk to rock to country to hip-hop -- for most young black folks, hip-hop is it. The recent Black Youth Project survey found that nearly 60 percent of black youth listen to hip-hop daily compared with 23 percent of white youth. For Portland's tiny black community, Jammin' on the airwaves was like spraying what is perhaps the whitest major city in America with a graffiti tag saying 'we were here.'"
In many places (like Portland) hip hop is a rarity on commercial radio. Is this true at college radio stations too? Is hip-hop well-represented or not?
Are there other genres that you don't think are featured as much as they should be? Metal? Electronic music? International? Noise? Jazz? Experimental? What kind of genre balance should a college radio station have and who should decide?
Friday, May 9, 2008
"Throughout its 28-year history, KRCL (90.9 FM) has served up its weekday programming in diverse musical segments. Depending on the day and the hour, listeners have heard distinct programs of '70s funk, Delta blues, coffeehouse folk, indie rock or music by women. All that changed at 6 a.m. today, when the Salt Lake City community-radio station launched a revised format. Instead of separate shows for different musical genres, listeners from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. will hear one consistent stream of eclectic music - from rock, soul and blues to country, hip-hop and beyond. 'This programming is really about the idea of moving beyond genres,' says KRCL program director Ryan Tronier. 'The iPod has busted those walls down.'"
The article continues:
"KRCL management decided to revamp its weekday on-air lineup after the Corporation for Public Broadcasting threatened to withhold funding if the nonprofit station didn't improve its modest listenership, which has sagged in recent years. The change has been controversial. When KRCL announced in January that it would replace 18 volunteer on-air hosts with three paid disc jockeys, angry listeners vowed to stop giving money and Internet postings railed against KRCL's perceived 'corporate makeover.' That furor has since died down. And those paid deejays...start their new shifts this week. The three, hired from a pool of 39 applicants, all are former KRCL volunteers."
The piece goes on to profile the 3 paid DJs (and includes their desert island discs). DJs from the pre-format change station can be heard starting May 12th when new station UtahFM.org goes live (as profiled in my post a few weeks ago).
Have any of you listened to the new KRCL? What do you think?
Thursday, May 8, 2008
"Launched at the Coachella Valley Music Festival, eRockster is a national station -- built mostly around Indie Rock -- that will stream, but also be heard on Clear Channel HD-2 multicast stations in a number of markets...Like some of its Clear Channel Adult Modern cousins, eRockster has an older skewing, more library-driven feel. But it is built around a significant body of music that only leaks through to other formats in smaller doses -- a Snow Patrol here, a Silversun Pickups there. It's positioned as a national music community--competing in that regard with CBS' Last FM...The concept of a national youth-oriented, new music channel is a key here: It would allow records that wouldn't otherwise be on the radio achieve critical mass..."
Sean Ross also posted a playlist from eRockster, which includes old college radio faves The Breeders, The Pixies, and Portishead along with newer acts like Bright Eyes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Killers. One of the comments on Ross's post points out the similar role of influential college stations with large audiences like KEXP (Seattle station that is now broadcasting a bit in NY) and KCRW. Indeed, national indie radio efforts like this owe a big debt to college radio in all its forms.
eRockster is sort of a confusing entity. They premiered at Coachella with a pirate-radio-ish stunt/simulcast on Palm Springs' terrestial Jack FM station described in an article in the New York Post. According to eRockster's website mission statement:
"...we created erockster, a new online music portal and social networking site for people who truly love music. on erockster, you can listen to our broadcast 24/7 or choose from hundreds of songs and videos on demand. you can also upload your band's music, rate and comment on content, and share it with your friends. our ever-evolving 5000+ song library includes everything from classic rock to indie rock, soul to brit pop, and dance to hip hop. we also feature live concerts, interviews and other artist exclusives..."
Interesting side note from the NY Post article: "Eric Szmanda, best known as a star on the CBS television hit 'CSI,' will curate the music on eRockster and serve as its on-air personality." Hmmm. I always suspected that Szmanda (aka Greg Sanders) was an indie rock type on the show. But, more importantly from a gossip standpoint, I wonder if busted CSI star Gary Dourdan was at Coachella in part because of this eRockster stuff?
"KCR is a volunteer-run student radio station located on San Diego State University grounds. We have been operating primarily on cable radio systems since our beginning in 1969. This had been our only option due to the FM and AM bands being divided between the United States and Mexico, thus leaving no space for local non-commercial stations in San Diego. Along the way, we've also added an AM transmission and internet streaming allowing our programs to be heard throughout the world."
Now, about the smell of the station...The author of the GoCollege.com piece writes:
"The layout of our freeform college radio station is such that we’re stuck broadcasting out of the basement of a dorm. Essentially, our station was recently relocated after the school decided to construct a new student center... Anyway, it’s obvious that the studio was once storage space or, at the very least, a custodial washroom. There’s a vent above our soundboard and every now and then, especially late nights and on weekends, station... disc jockeys can get a mild contact high from the marijuana that seeps into the small sound booth."
And I thought it was annoying to smell the stink of dirty dishes and industrial dishwashers outside my college station doors when we were located under the cafeteria at Haverford College.
What does YOUR college station smell like?
"When Paul Friedlander took a poll of his Music Industry class, two out of thirty students said they listen to the FM radio stations in Chico. A quick press of the seek button through Chico's radio stations makes it pretty clear why Chico is ranked as the 198th radio market in the nation. 'The music selection on FM radio is narrow,' Friedlander said. 'It is not representative of the college and community culture.'"
I love that college radio is the hero in this article, which states:
"The presence of the university should be where music diversity is fostered and shared for the sake of diversity- not profit, said Jayme Goldstein, assistant promotions director for KCSC, Chico State's Internet radio station. 'Commercial radio makes no effort to find out what the people want to listen to, they do what they are told by the record labels,' Goldstein said in an e-mail. 'It's a business, and all they care about is profit.'
KCSC is in the process of getting its FM license so that more diversity can be brought to Chico's airwaves. One of the station's missions is to not play mainstream music. 'We think mainstream music is getting enough publicity,' said Bob Reynolds, music director at KCSC. 'We want to help the underdogs out that are not always heard.'...'I would love to see KCSC get their FM license,' Friedlander said. 'They are serving much more of the culture here than commercial radio.'"
Since you're reading this, you probably listen to college radio. How about your friends and others in your local community? Are they seeking out the diverse programming that can be found on the left of the dial?
"National Public Radio has two programs — Next Generation Radio (NextGen) and Intern Edition — aimed at training young folks to do quality radio reporting the NPR way. Not surprisingly, those twentysomethings have also pushed NPR further into the digital realm, creating an eye-catching blog and using Public Radio Exchange (PRX), an online marketplace for radio reports, to get wider distribution for their work."
I was interested in hearing about some of the edgier things they are covering. According to Glaser's article:
"Both training projects are run by NPR’s Doug Mitchell, a veteran at the public broadcaster of 21 years. With NextGen, Mitchell travels around the country, training college students to do radio reporting with intensive one-week courses...
For Intern Edition, Mitchell gives NPR interns a 10-week training course, in which they produce a half-hour show and various audio pieces — along with a project blog. That means that the interns do more than just report stories. They’re also shooting photos for the blog and uploading audio there...Not only does the site have a web comics feel to it, but there’s also a two-part story about Katsucon, a Japanese pop culture convention, and a story told through a comic strip. This is not your typical NPR blog."
You can listen to some of the NextGen pieces (including reports on SXSW, how people come up with band names, Muslim speed dating, and elderly gamblers) on the PRX website.
Monday, May 5, 2008
For a bit of nostalgia, here's a great post about the Sub Pop Singles Club, along with links to hear a lot of the music. Of course, it's not the same if you're listening on your computer instead of your record player and the virtual version misses the point of collecting all the cool vinyl. Were any of you members of the club back in the day? I wasn't, but I did get a few hand-me-down 7"s from the series from a good friend. How many of you will sign up this time around? I'm tempted.
KCSU on XMU
May 4, 2008
1. The Black Keys – Attack and Release- Strange Times
2. Slim Cessna Auto Club-Cipher- This Land is Our Land Redux
3. Born Ruffians- Red Yellow and Blue- Barnacle Goose
4. Plants and Animals- Park Avenue- Bye Bye Bye
5. The Kooks- Konk- Stormy Weather
6. Clinic- Do It!- The Witch (Made to Measure)
7. The Black Hollies- Casting Shadows – Hamilton Park Ballerina
8. Retribution Gospel Choir- Retribution Gospel Choir- For Her Blood
9. The Piggies-Overrated- Pretty Blue
10. Destroyer-Trouble In Dreams- Dark Leaves From a Thread
11. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago- Skinny Love
12. South-You Are Here- Better Things
13. Beach House- Devotion- Gila
14. Crystal Castles- Crystal Castles- Alice Practice
15. Del the Funky Homosapien- Eleventh Hour – Workin’ It
16. Burial-Untrue- Archangel
17. The Mae Shi- HLLLYH- PWND
18. Imaginary Johnny - Only in Chimney’s- It’ll Burn
19. El Perro Del Mar– The Valley of the Stars – Glory to the World
20. She and Him- Volume One- I Was Made for You
21. M83-Saturdays = Youth – Graveyard Girl
22. REM– Accelerate – Living Well is the Best Revenge
23. The Epilogues – The Epilogues- Hurting You
24. Lyrics Born – Everywhere Once- The World is Calling
25. Jamie Lidell- JIM- Another Day
26. Mostly Bears – The Ed Mitchell Clinic – The Digital Divide
27. Aloft in the Sundry – Modestine – Tell Me How to Answer
28. The Apples in Stereo – Electronic Projects For Musicians- Shine (In Your Mind)
29. Billy Bragg- Mr. Love Justice- I Almost Killed you
30. Be Your Own Pet – Get Awkward- The Kelly Affair
* All bands in BOLD are local
Coming up this Sunday May 11th (Mother's Day from 1-3pm Pacific time) on the "Student Exchange" on XMU will be Muhlenburg College station WMUH 91.7 FM for second time.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
NOFX is still independent after 25 years and from what we see on TV it appears that their manager was the primary liaison with bookers and promoters, making for a tour that they were all very personally invested in. It's a great glimpse into punk rock, DIY and how American bands are greeted in far-away places.
Here's Fuse's blurb about NOFX:
"A staple on the Warped Tour, they somehow straddle the mainstream and the underground more successfully than almost any other band by releasing records on their own label and by snubbing mainstream radio and MTV. They manage to keep their fan base at a comfortable size, pay the rent, and still retain a serious amount of punk credibility."
If you've seen the show, what do you think? Are there other great indie-music themed TV shows worth tuning in for?
Since I'm not seeing shows that often, I was struck a bit by the number of people documenting the event using their cell phones, iPhones, video cameras, and digital cameras. Back in the day you had to get permission to even audio tape concerts, but these days I doubt that anyone makes any attempt to regulate since everyone has recording devices on their phones. I kept thinking that people were taking pictures on their cell phones so that they could blog about the show later and wondered to myself, does everything really need to be blogged? One guy even answered his cell phone during the show (why?)-- is that necessary, either?
Admittedly I was thinking, oh, damn, I should have updated my Facebook "status update" to mention that I was off to see the Breeders (probably because I thought it would look cool).
So, it's kind of random that today I saw this posting on PSFK (via YPulse) talking about the craziness of the documentation at Coachella (you've got to follow the link to see the accompanying photo), which, by the way, The Breeders performed at as well. Piers Fawkes writes:
"...these folks are taking photos of moments in order to share those moments with others in order to gain status for having experienced a moment they never really had."
Do you take pictures at every concert you attend? Why or why not? And does this lessen your enjoyment of the show? If you don't take pictures, does it bother you that so many people do?
According to an article yesterday in the Times Argus:
"WGDR has undergone a metamorphosis since the days when students 'would bring a milk crate of vinyl' to play, [Station General Manager Greg] Hooker said. 'It's not longer just a college radio station.'
The station's transformation came about in 2002 when Goddard College replaced its undergraduate residency program with the low-residency model it had pioneered decades earlier. That meant the station could no longer rely on students for its programming. Increasingly, it turned to members of the community. While the college still holds the station's license, more than 60 community volunteers contribute music and public affairs programming to each week's broadcast."
What do you think, does the presence of community members on a station staff make it not "just a college radio station?" What does that mean? Is it a bad thing to be "just a college station?" Certainly having community members on staff leads to consistency and often stellar long-time programming at stations, often just what stations need in order to stay afloat into the future. Yet I also think that stations with very few college student staff are missing something as well.