Thursday, October 30, 2008

College Day at CMJ Recap Part 2 - Music Directors' Summit and WBGU Siting

CMJ Music Marathon "Music Directors' Summit"
October 23, 2008

The most eagerly anticipated panel for me at CMJ was the "Music Directors' Summit" during College Day. Moderated by Susie Kuo of Sacramento State station KSSU, it was ostensibly an opportunity to hear a variety of perspectives about the ins and outs of being Music Director at a college radio station. Unfortunately the format of the conversation was not as free-flowing as I would have liked, meaning that not every voice on the panel got as much airtime as they should have. Regardless, it was a fascinating panel, leaving me at times inspired and at other times freaked out, depending on whether or not I agreed with a particular MD's approach.

In addition to Susie, others on the panel included Caitlin Bates from SCAD Radio-Atlanta, Justin Lanoue from Canadian station CFUV (University of Victoria, BC), Keri Fico from WUSB (whose QRD interview was featured on Spinning Indie a few weeks back), and MD Andrew Balcerzak from my former station WBGU (Bowling Green, OH).

How Do MDs Select Music for Airplay?

The session began with a discussion about how various Music Directors choose the music that gets added to their stations. I was really surprised to hear that WUSB's Keri Fico adds everything that gets sent to her. She said, "WUSB …accepts all submissions…if a package comes in…then it goes into studio for 3 months…." After 3 months of rotation, then the release gets filed away in a "back cabinet."

Keri added, "All CDs are selected for airplay…everything has an equal chance for airplay." Keri listens to everything that comes in to the station, but doesn't write music reviews or use review stickers. She said that the reason she does this is because she doesn't want to "bias" the DJs for or against a particular release.

The music selection process at CFUV is very different and more guided. According to Music Director Justin Lanoue, "I don’t throw everything in…I do listen to everything….I have the editorial ability to direct where the station is going….we’re all about exposing new music…if the modern rock station is playing [something]…we don’t need to be playing it…"

Andrew is one of the specialty Music Directors at WBGU and he spoke a bit about how he selects music for his genre area (RPM, electronic, experimental). He said, "We will accept anything and add everything so long as we feel that it is appropriate for the format." The format that he covers is IGE, which according to Andrew, "IGE is short for industrial gothic and experimental …[the term is] something I sort of made up…not a real term….we have no CMJ chart …in our community it's kind of caught on….it’s a total BS’s meant to include other forms of electronic music …maybe marginalized….[like] gothic rock…"

At WBGU, items remain in current rotation and are eligible for charting for 6 months after a release's official street release date. DJs at WBGU are expected to play a certain number of current releases each hour in order to push new (versus established) music.

Music Director's Office at WFMU

Station Rules about New Music Requirements

The next topic of discussion was whether or not the panel members are at stations with rules about playing new material. Keri said that at WUSB DJs can play what they like, but are asked to play 25% "new music," from either the station or the DJ's own collection.

Andrew pointed out that at WBGU "current" requirements vary by department, with each department head (jazz, metal, RPM, etc.) asking DJs to play a specific number of new releases.

Managing a Station with Limited Staff

The conversation then turned to Caitlin's experience at tiny SCAD Radio-Atlanta, a 1-year-old Internet-only station (not to be confused with sister station SCAD-Savannah) with only 9 staff members: a GM, Program Manager, Music Director, 3 official DJs and 3 DJs in training.

Caitlin previews all the music herself and mentioned that she initially tried to play everything that she received, but soon learned that it made for a "weird sound" at the station, so now she picks and chooses and did some "reformatting."

She talked about the difficulty they've had in attracting staff members, which is made more difficult by university rules about who is authorized to enter the station building, since it's located in a private dorm. Caitlin said, "If you do not live in this dorm, you can only come in if you’re on a special list."

Record Label/Promoter Relations

Next, the topic turned to how the MDs on the panel handle relationships with promoters and record labels who are looking for feedback on their music. Justin from CFUV said, "I’ve always just done…the honesty thing… I try to give more than light, medium, heavy…they sort of like having that feedback…I try to make myself as available as possible…most promoters and record labels sort of know…that you’re directing the sound of your station"

Justin pointed out that even though his station is freeform, he won't add everything that gets send to him and isn't afraid to tell a promoter or label if something won't work for their airsound. He said, "Some people will add everything or say something nice about everything…I’ll tell someone if I don’t think the record…[will] fit…" He added, "Don’t neglect the phone when it rings…you should talk to them…[even if] you may not appreciate everything [they send]…don’t alienate your station from their servicing…"

Communicating with Station Staff

The stations on the panel covered a wide range of staff sizes, from 9 to 200, so methods of communication among staff members varied tremendously. Justin said that CFUV's 6 person executive staff has short (20 minutes max) daily meetings and are also in regular email contact so that everyone is well aware of what they are all doing.

Keri said that at WUSB they have 200 staff members and have staff meetings twice a year and everyone is required to attend at least one meeting. They also have an active email discussion list for staff, which she acknowledged was both an "open email forum" and a space for "fights and BS."

Susie said that at KSSU staff meetings are more regular, with general staff meetings every other week and "core staff" (directors) meetings on the alternating weeks.

Susie, Justin, and Caitlin at CMJ "Music Directors' Summit"
October 23, 2008

Perspectives on Digital Releases

There was a brief discussion about digital releases on this panel, although a much more in-depth conversation happened later in the day. Justin said that CFUV plays digital releases and said that "now I almost prefer getting it digitally…." Often he'll get digital service for limited release items, such as limited vinyl. He admitted that some DJs are resistant to playing digital releases and he said that sometimes he'll purposefully not add a CD so that DJs will play the digital version. It was mentioned that a survey related to this topic was on the Medium Rotation message board. Susie from KSSU added that her station has digital files for DJs to play, plus some digital releases burned to CD. At her station they post pictures on the wall of the cover art for digital releases, perhaps to make them seem more tangible.

Q & A

The Q&A portion of the session was full of excellent questions from other college radio DJs and MDs.

Getting DJs to Diversify their Playlists

Q: Max from WUOG (Athens, Georgia) talked about how they add a lot of great music to the station every week, but that often "cool stuff gets ignored." He asked the panel for suggestions on how to get DJs to diversify their playlists.

A: Justin said, "I send out a list of things…I…think were awesome… if it’s something that I think is really cool… I put a gold star on it…”

Record Library at WFMU

Dealing with Limited Space in Music Library....To Purge or Not to Purge?

Q: Tim from KCSC at Chico State asked a question about how to handle the constant influx of new music into a radio station's library "when you’re limited in your physical space?" He also wondered about everyone's perspective about purging music from radio station music libraries.

A: There were a number of suggestions. Keri said that she has cabinets full of old CDs and that they are starting to take CDs out of jewel cases and putting them into plastic slip cases to create more room.

Andrew said, "We have a large library…[but] we got downsized…[in terms of] storage space." And, then, in probably my favorite quote of the day, he said, "In terms of getting rid of old records…we believe was played…it should be held onto as a piece of history… [it's] property of our station...[as a last resort] we could give it to our Music Library…our Pop Culture Library….the problem is…tastes change...what you think is not very good…DJs in the past thought was great and spun it."

But, then Susie made the argument that as MD you should have the ability to purge music if you like. She said, "Maybe it should be your call."

Justin once again was a voice of reason, saying: "We ran out of room in our was a long process…we moved everything into slip cases…As for purging…personally, I’d always err on the side of caution." He then joked, "Avril Lavigne…you can take that out." He gave the specific example of something in their library that recently got new life, saying, "We had a Simply Saucer record that nobody played in 20 years…[and it's] suddenly all the rage again [with DJs]." He said it was pretty cool to find that they had original releases in the library and it was nice to see DJs re-discovering things like that in the library.

Susie also suggested that stations ask their campus if they have extra room anywhere to house old music.

Preventing Music Theft

Q: Ashley, the MD of WMSC (Montclair,NJ) asked, "Our biggest problem [is]…theft….how do you prevent that? How do you make your DJs respect the work you’re doing"

A: Susie said that at KSSU DJs can borrow CDs from the station if they fill out a sheet. When they return the item, staff sign off on it.

Andrew said that at WBGU music can't leave the station, saying, "you’re not allowed to borrow it…everything gets marked with an ID number…" He said that every DJ needs to keep a log of what music is missing at the end of their shift. The station has a manager who tracks the missing items. He also suggested that stations consider security cameras if theft is a big problem.

WBGU DJs and staff at CMJ Music Marathon
October 23, 2008

After the panel I was super excited to meet the crew from WBGU since I was a DJ and Assistant Music Director there in the 1990s. In fact, my last trip to CMJ was with my WBGU station-mates in 1996.

College Day at CMJ Recap Part 1- Miss Li, Juliana Hatfield, and Event Planning Tips

Miss Li performing at CMJ "College Day"
October 23, 2008

The day that I was most looking forward to at last week's CMJ Music Marathon in New York City was "College Day" on Thursday, October 23rd. Unlike sessions the rest of the week, College Day began bright and early at 9am, with breakfast, photo opps with the creepy Chocolate Axe man, and live performances from the soulful Stockholm singer Miss Li and long-time indie darling Juliana Hatfield.

Juliana Hatfield at CMJ Music Marathon
October 23, 2008

I really enjoyed both artists, although was annoyed when people talked through Juliana Hatfield's quiet acoustic performance. She did two songs, then left the stage to get water during her third, never to return. It was kind of sad and uncomfortable. Definitely a bummer for the talented artist who during the height of her fame was on the cover of Sassy magazine and did a guest appearance on "My So-Called Life."

"Radio Hostesses with the Mostesses" Panel at CMJ
October 23, 2008

College Radio & Event Planning

Following the music, the first panel of the day was "Radio Hostesses with the Mostesses," a discussion focused on tips for event-planning. Jennifer Disse from WXJM (James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia) talked about her station's role in organizing the annual 2-day MACRock (Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference) festival. Although the event was initially put on solely by the station, it has now grown and it handled by a separate non-profit organization (with much help from the radio station).

Kelly Reid from WKNC (North Carolina State, Raleigh, North Carolina) gave an overview of the "Local Beer, Local Band" night that her station has been doing for nearly 2 years. She said that the event was slow to build, but that now they make about $250 a week from it.

Dylan DiLella from WNYU (NYU, New York City) said that at his station they co-present a lot of shows, which primarily means that they do publicity and ticket giveaways. It's a low-cost way to get some publicity for your station, while helping to promote bands that your listeners are interested in. WNYU is also working to do a concert on campus, which for their station, is cheaper than doing an outside event. However, other stations have found it easier to keep station events off-campus, since often there is less red tape.

The panelists gave a lot of tips about how to have a well-run event and Kelly reminded everyone, that "throwing an event [is]…an extension of being a DJ…about giving music to your listeners…it’s about the music….don’t ever let that get pushed aside."

The Q&A actually produced some of the more interesting tidbits. A college DJ from a small town asked for advice on how to get bands to play there. The panel suggested that radio stations just reach out and ask artists directly. They also recommended trying to work with local motels and businesses in order to get trade deals for lodging for visiting bands. Someone else asked about finding venues in towns with few live music options. The folks on the panel suggested that stations consider house shows and atypical venues like record stores, firehouses, tattoo parlors, and VFW halls.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Radio Station Field Trip #4 - WFMU in Jersey City

View from WFMU On-Air Studio

A big highlight of the CMJ Music Marathon was that I got the opportunity to visit community (formerly college) radio powerhouse WFMU in Jersey City, New Jersey. Thanks so much to Music Director Brian Turner for taking the time to give me the deluxe tour last week, especially since he was still knee-deep in record sorting for the massive WFMU Record Fair.

WFMU Music Director Brian Turner in his Office

50-year-old station WFMU is unique in that it used to be a college radio station (Upsala College), but after their home college went under they were able to rally their staff and listeners in order to take ownership and morph into a community station. WFMU owns their building in New Jersey and it was incredible for me to see the amount of space that they have for their operations. They are spread out over multiple floors, so they have plenty of room for studios, live performances, offices, an enviable record library, listening stations, an entire room for WFMU merchandise and fundraiser goodies, and back-up storage for rarely played music and donated items for the record fair.

Despite their grand (in scale) digs, WFMU still retains the essential coolness of all underground radio stations. Hilarious kitsch is everywhere, from a spectacular collection of velvet paintings on one hallway, to fabulously painted LP covers on another. Disorder (bins of records, piles of unopened mail) also exists, as it should when faced with the huge volume of material coming to the station on a daily basis.

Velvet Painting at WFMU

They have a large music collection, including tons of vinyl, CDs, mp3s and cassettes. The music library is off-limits to everyone except WFMU staff, which I'm sure is helpful in reducing theft. Perhaps in a nod to the freeform ethos of the station, the record library is not broken down into separate genre sections and is simply organized in A, B, C order (except for collections, which are categorized by genre).

WFMU Volunteer in their Record Library

Music Director Brian Turner told me that they even have cassette tapes in their "new bin." He is the main person reviewing music that gets sent to the station, although he gets some help from other staff members. WFMU is a freeform station, but for charting purposes, DJs are asked to jot their initials on the labels of music in the "new bin" when it gets played. Then, on a weekly basis, these "plays" are tallied in order to come up with the WFMU "tops" list.

Cassettes at WFMU

Brian Turner told me that he's always been a big music fan and collector. When he was a teenager he hung out a lot at a record store and met people who were involved with college radio. That led him to his first radio gig at his college station WRKC at King's College (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania). He eventually held a variety of positions there and continued to DJ after graduation. He's been Music Director at WFMU for more than a decade, and simultaneously did the job of Program Director from 1997 until May 2008.

Listening Station in Record Library

I asked Brian how he managed to juggle the combined Music Director/Program Director role at WFMU for so long. He said, "I went for it really gung-ho." Brian added that one thing that made it easier was the fact that, "...since it's not a college station or a commercial station...[there's] not a huge turnover with staff." At the same time, he said that he challenged himself to "bring in new people" while simultaneously not alienating veteran staff members. One thing that he initiated was a twice yearly schedule change. All DJs have to re-apply for their shifts and nobody is guaranteed a slot on the schedule. He said that now DJs "expect's not a big deal" and that this is a way to "bring in new talent" to the station. Brian tried really hard to broaden the schedule to include categories of programming that the station might be missing and his overall philosophy as Program Director was to "bring stuff into our orbit that maybe we didn't understand."

Main Broadcast Studio

As Music Director, Brian spends a lot of his time searching for new music. He told me that he researches new music by reading magazines, blogs, record store lists, distributor lists, playlists from other radio stations (he mentioned KFJC and KDVS), and by listening to podcasts. In order to acquire some of the hard-to-find music at WFMU, he writes lots of letters and emails and listens to quite a bit of music on MySpace (in particular following links to friends of bands he likes).

On-Air Studio During Ken's all 7-inch Show

Brian said that everything sent to the station gets listened to, but only about 10% gets added to the library. WFMU adds vinyl on a regular basis and Brian said that the amount that they add is "at a high point" with labels like Siltbreeze, Columbus Discount and Norton regularly producing vinyl. He told me that he's heard that vinyl is doing well, with pressing plants apparently backed up due to the demand. He also adds cassettes to the station and mentioned labels like Ecstatic Peace and White Tapes. Typically items are in the "new bin" for 6 weeks and although DJs aren't required to play new releases, Brian said that he still hopes that people do.

When I asked about his feelings about major label releases, Brian told me that it's actually harder for WFMU to get major label stuff sent to them because "they fall through the cracks" since they aren't a college or public radio station. Usually if he wants something off a major label he has to ask for it to be sent. Regardless, Brian said the amount of new music out there is "voluminous" and he added, "I'm really interested in things that no label puts out," such as self-releases.

Live Performance Space

Brian talked a bit about how much great music is being produced and that label status or presumed hipness aren't that important. He told me that the best radio shows are done by "people who aren't afraid to play what's uncool." He said that at WFMU, "we're just going to play whatever we want...we're in our own little bubble sometimes...we're just trying to push the ball out bands...[and are] not really interested in [the] business side of things." In summarizing the WFMU philosophy he said that they are dedicated to freeform, "with a mind guiding it," which sets them apart from the randomness of an iPod playlist.

Thanks again to Brian and everyone else at WFMU for showing me around their fine station!

Stay tuned. During my trip to New York City last week I visited two other radio stations and I'll post summaries from those visits later in the week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tara Jane O'Neil, No Kids and Mirah at CMJ

Mirah at Highline Ballroom, NYC
October 22, 2008

For my second night of shows at CMJ, I decided to check out a few artists who I'm already a fan of, but had never seen live. On the bill at the Highline Ballroom on Tuesday, October 22 were some of my favorites from the Pacific Northwest: Tara Jane O'Neil and Mirah. The standout moment for me was when Mirah performed an absolutely gorgeous version of "Cold Cold Water," with delicate guitar strumming. Seeing that song sung live reminded of why I'm just chilled by its pop perfection every time I hear it.

Tara Jane O'Neil at Highline Ballroom, NYC
October 22, 2008

Mirah collaborated with artists from both bands during her set, giving the audience a sense of the camaraderie felt among the bands on the bill. I wasn't as rivetted by the male-fronted Vancouver band No Kids, but perhaps I was just in the mood to hear from the ladies.

CMJ Music Marathon Day Two Recap - Unformatting Radio Formats

View of New York City from CMJ Music Marathon Exhibitor Hall

OK, so I'm finally somewhat rested after my whirlwind of a trip to New York City for the CMJ Music Marathon last week. This week I'll continue to post summaries of my reactions to the panels and music that I saw, as well as recaps of my three radio station visits. Keep in mind that often there were 5 panels taking place simultaneously (as well as off-site music showcases), so I was only able to catch a small portion of what was happening on any given day. At night there were parties, film festival screenings, and bands playing at as many as 50 different venues. So, my experience at CMJ barely scratched the surface of everything that was going on. I did, however, try my best to see every panel specifically about radio.

Day Two: Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On the second day of CMJ, Wednesday, October 22nd, I skipped the morning panels in order to continue my series of radio station field trips. Trekking over to Jersey City, I had an inspirational morning visiting freeform community radio station WFMU. Stay tuned for a massive post about that visit later.

Front Door to WFMU's Building in New Jersey

While I was over in Jersey City, I missed panels dealing with music licensing, RIAA lawsuits, webcasting, social networking, video game music, indie artist success stories, hi-fidelity, and the intersections between politics, the law and music.

Spring Awakening Panel

I arrived back at NYU in time for a panel discussion featuring the author, producer, and composer of the award-winning Broadway musical “Spring Awakening.” A few cast members were also on hand to perform songs from the “indie-rock musical.” Composer Duncan Sheik (who totally endeared me to him when he revealed that he was heavily influenced by 4AD import records from Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance during his youth) talked about the music and how he approached the process of creating the soundtrack recording, saying that “…the record was made…like…. a rock record” because he wanted to break a bit from the standard “original cast recording” style. Ultimately, he said that the final product was more of a “hybrid of a rock record and a cast album.” He said that the album got radio play, probably even on college radio.

KEXP and Free Yr Radio Table at Exhibitor Hall at CMJ

Unformatting the Radio Formats Panel

The final session of the day for me was “Unformatting the Radio Formats,” which was billed as a discussion of “current trends and formats in commercial and non-comm radio.” The panel had a packed audience, overflowing with mostly college radio DJs, presumably eager for a riveting interrogation of how radio is programmed.

Unfortunately, there was only one radio station representative on the panel—Andrew Corey, the Programming Manager of KEXP. Gregg Steele, the VP of Rock for Sirius Satellite Radio, was supposed to be there, but probably canceled in light of the XM-Sirius merger restructuring (lay offs just happened). It’s too bad, as it would have helped to have had a panel full of radio folks from a variety of stations. Instead, we had one radio guy and 4 promoters/marketers (some of whom had done stints in college radio). Regardless, it became an interesting discussion (and at times an infomercial) about what KEXP is doing since Andrew was the only person from radio on the panel.

"Unformatting the Radio Formats" Panel
October 22, 2008

KEXP is a station in Seattle, Washington that was formerly college station KCMU. In 2001 KCMU became KEXP after forging a partnership with the Experience Music Project and receiving an infusion of funds, a new studio, and a wattage increase. Today, Programing Manager Andrew Corey is the first to admit that they can't really call themselves a college radio station anymore, since they have more resources and are "fully staffed" with nearly 30 people working there full-time. At the same time, KEXP is much like a typical college radio station in its passion for music and its devotion to playing underexposed artists.

Andrew was optimistic about the state of radio today and said that even in light of all the changes in the radio landscape due to increased competition from Internet radio, iPods, and satellite radio, he feels that his station KEXP is still doing well. The station has even more "content" than in the past, using methods such as podcasting. He argued, "I don't feel like we've lost ground" and stated that with changes in technology the station has "more opportunities" and is "helping people discover music."

When asked about satellite radio and whether or not it was competition for terrestrial radio, the panelists made some interesting points about the community aspect of radio. Andrew from KEXP said, "Our model is based on community...Our community is growing and growing." He pointed out that he didn't think that people listening to satellite radio got that same sense of community. Gary Jay of Landshark Promotion Studio added, "Radio stations be more than a box in your car...want to be a lifestyle...Satellite radio is in an interesting spot...non-stop barrage of much as it's's not a lifestyle yet."

This theme kept coming up, over and over, that many great radio stations have a very defined brand or personality to them and that listeners are fans and loyalists because they want to be associated with that station's identity. There was a lot of joking around on the panel about how much they were all touting KEXP (since they were the only station on the panel). Gary even quipped, "We're really kissing KEXP's ass here." Probably because of that, Andrew mentioned a few other stations when talking about the potential of non-commercial radio.

The panelists contrasted the commercial radio model (playing the same songs over and over in order to present familiar music to listeners) with the beauty of college radio. Andrew said, "KCRW, WFMU...when the DJ retains the power to curate the experience...that's their job. Even our Senior Direct of Programming has been around forever...that's not the [commercial] model."

Audience Members Mill about the Panelists

Panelist Steve Kline, of 10th Street Entertainment, reminded the college radio DJs in the room to "Keep your passion. There is an audience out there." Hannah Carlen from Spectre Entertainment, who works primarily with non-commercial radio stations, agreed, saying, "College radio seems to be alive and well." She also made a very interesting point about radio formatting, saying that some stations are "running from it" while others are "running toward it" (for example, college stations that program like an "adult contemporary" station) in order to get support from record labels.

Later in the panel, Andrew Corey talked a bit about how the Music Director of KEXP selects music for the station. He said that they do have a "rotation" system of about 100 records, but that their MD tries to exist apart from the industry. According to Andrew, "Our Music Director...Don Yates...he gets crates and crates of CDs...he's completely insulated from the music world...he puts up this wall and he's locked it down. The door is shut and you don't see that man for hours."

In terms of the future of radio, Gary turned to the audience, saying, "You're the future of radio right here in this room." J.J. Jensen of Foundation Media added, " radio...can re-invent itself...push the online angle." Panelist Hannah Carlen also challenged college radio stations, saying that radio needs " be braver...take more chances" and argued that the most successful stations (like KEXP) are "dissolving formats." She pointed out that dissolving formats and breaking genre lines makes so much sense because the today's iPod listener is accustomed to hearing playlists full of multiple styles of music.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

International Acts at CMJ and Japan Showcase

Australia CD compilations

A big trend this year at the CMJ Music Marathon was the presence (and marketing) of musicians from specific countries. The exhibitor hall had tables with information and music compilations from organizations promoting the music from different regions, including Ireland, Sweden, and Australia.

An ad in the CMJ Festival Guide also touted a list of all the French bands performing. In addition to that, there were a number of regional showcases throughout the festival, featuring bands from all over the world. Tuesday night there were events for bands hailing from New Zealand and Japan and on Wednesday night a number of European-themed showcases took place, including “Sounds of Spain,” “Bring on the Brits,” and “Canadian Blast.” Friday there was a daytime showcase of Australian bands at the club Arlene's Grocery. Additionally, there was a 6-hour "Swedish Music Seminar" on Thursday, October 23rd and a panel called "What's it Like Over There" on Thursday about music scenes in Brazil, Indonesia, Canada and Australia.

Being a fan of music from Japan, I ventured to the basement of the Knitting Factory (“Old Office”) on Tuesday night (Oct. 21) to check out the Japan showcase being sponsored by Hear Japan and Japan-based FabTone Records.

Local Sound Style at Knitting Factory Old Office
October 21, 2008

The line-up of three bands represented a range of musical styles. First up was Local Sound Style, a group of young guys doing Western-inspired pop rock sung in English. Their homage to American rock and roll was so good that you would have sworn that the lead singer was from the U.S. He had the singing accent down pat, which was all the more unsettling when you heard his heavily accented speaking voice. They had a blast on stage and ended their set with some fun (but safe) rock star dramatics that included a somersault and a thrown microphone stand.

Ovum at Knitting Factory Old Office
October 21, 2008

The second act, Ovum was my favorite. They played gorgeous instrumental music that was squarely in the Japanese instrumental psych category that I love. The music was both delicate and noisy, with nods to mesmerizers like My Bloody Valentine and Godspeed You Black Emperor. I even caught a hint of a metal guitar riff, but things never got super heavy.

Holidays of Seventeen at Knitting Factory Old Office
October 21, 2008

The final band was Holidays of Seventeen, who were the most theatrical group of the bunch. They played glam-rock inspired tunes with English lyrics. The David Bowie influence was super prominent on “Hey Scissorman." The lead singer was happy and enthusiastic and was obviously thrilled to be playing the U.S. for the first time. He smiled as he said to the crowd, “This is the most exciting moment,” before announcing, “We are doing a pop song now” and launching into a ballad.

CMJ Music Marathon Day One Recap - Is Radio Still Relevant?

I just got home from a whirlwind week at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. With all the panels, shows, parties, and radio station visits I barely had time to eat or sleep, let alone distill all the information that was coming at me. So, in the coming days, I'll slowly make my way through the week, talking about radio-related panels, shows that I caught, and trends in music that kept coming up during the week. My radio field trip series continued in full-force in New York and I'll be recapping my visits to 3 different radio stations.

Day One: Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I always think about CMJ as primarily a conference for college radio DJs. However, things seem to have changed a bit in the years since my last trip to CMJ in the 1990s. The first day of the conference had many sessions about the music biz, from the perspective of labels and artists (vs. radio programmers). There was much talk of Web 2.0, music subscription services, promotion and marketing, and the state of the music industry and genres within it (jazz and hip hop).

Where's Radio?

During the very first session that I attended on Tuesday, October 21st (“It’s Broken, Fix It”) at NYU, I kept waiting to hear radio mentioned. And, finally, during the Q&A a college radio Music Director pointed out that none of the panelists had said a thing about radio. He asked, “Do you listen to radio?”

Famed artist and producer Dallas Austin said no, he didn’t listen to radio because there isn't anything new on radio. Wow, did he really say that at a conference full of college radio DJs who make a point of playing new, undiscovered music? He continued, admitting that he used to listen to college radio to learn about new artists before “alternative” hit.

So, what happened? Why did he abandon college radio. Has college radio lost its edge and is it failing to provide new sounds? Have people just forgotten about its existence? A little of both? It's not uncommon to hear these broad condemnations of radio, it's just a little surprising to hear it come up at an indie-oriented college radio conference. But, then again, I heard similar condemnations of the broad category of radio by some of the participants in the Noise Pop and EMP panels this year, perhaps because the dire state of commercial radio often makes music fanatics forget about the energy and passion to the left of the dial.

Despite the relative absence of radio and some of these dismissive comments about the medium during the first day of CMJ, there were also some welcome voices discussing how radio can still deliver something different and special when pitted against its competitors like iPods. During the panel "The Ad-Based and Subscription-Based Models Dissected," Matthew Adell from Napster talked about how music that contextualizes is more powerful than a random selection of songs heard on one’s iPod, saying, “What makes people love a radio station …is.. programming… programming wins …context…is what people are willing to pay for.” The CEO of Lime Wire George Searle added that another benefit of radio stations is that they are “brands” that people still “affiliate with.”

College Radio Mixer at Delancey - Oct. 21, 2008

Following the Tuesday sessions, there was an official “College Radio Mixer” in the rooftop bar at the Delancey Lounge on the Lower East Side. Folks from college radio stations from the U.S. and Canada bonded while drinking vodka cocktails (it’s all about the free booze at CMJ) and snacking on savory meat and veggie pies. It was also a chance for potential voters to meet some of the nominees for the “College Radio Awards.” People who were up for awards (and who made it to both CMJ and the Mixer) sat at tables throughout the bar while others “speed-dated” through the room in an attempt to meet as many other DJs and radio staff as possible.

College Radio Mixer

It was exciting for me to be in a room full of other college radio DJs. Although I was kind of daunted by the task of trying to meet as many people as possible, the payoff was that I finally started having some great conversations about radio at the conference. The folks who I met hailed from stations from all over the country and Canada, including New Jersey station WRLC-The Core, University of Maine freeform station WMEB-FM, USC's Internet-only station KSCR, Valparaiso University's WVUR-FM (Indiana), Florida station WPRK-FM, and Montreal’s CJLO-AM.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CMJ New Music Marathon Then and Now

It's the end of Day Two of the CMJ New Music Marathon (it feels like more!) and all of a sudden tons of memories are coming back from my three other trips to CMJ...way back in the early days of college radio. Here's a little comparison of then and now, based on my sketchy memories of past events.

Guitar in Lobby - 2008

CMJ in the 1980s:

In 1987 I was one of the Music Directors of WHRC (AM carrier current radio station at Haverford College in Pennsylvania) and I was SO excited to be taking a trip to New York City for CMJ. It was my very first trip to New York and a number of us traveled together and shared a tiny hotel room at the Roosevelt Hotel where the conference was being held. Back then, CMJ was held even closer to Halloween and I remember seeing costumed revelers in the Village.

In 1988 I trekked to NYC all by myself, as nobody else at the station wanted to go. Crazy, huh? Being an impoverished college student, I finagled lodging by staying with a high school friend's sister in SOHO. She was just out of college, working her first job as an investment banker. She wore fancy suits and it all seemed so high powered and exciting. I remember that she was kind of shocked that I was brave enough to go to shows by myself.

During those CMJ conferences in the 1980s, I remember the exhibit hall being packed with record label reps, sitting behind tables laden down with piles of vinyl, cassette tapes (anyone else remember Jim Clevo's compilations of Cleveland bands?), and occasionally CDs. After each conference, I came home with plastic bags full of heavy 12" vinyl LPs and cassettes. I also picked up some of my very first CDs at CMJ, including a tiny Kid Creole and the Coconuts CD.

I went to see Fishbone at the Cat Club one year, saw rap pioneer Schoolly D, and also saw bands at CBGBs and The Bitter End. Our CMJ badges also allowed free admission to dance clubs. I remember vividly going to the Palladium in 1987 and we all got in with our fake IDs crafted from our official radio station staff cards. The place was packed with older sleazy guys hitting on underage girls, so it probably wasn't the best choice.

I don't remember too much about the panels, other than than a great panel about the role of women (and sexism) in heavy metal music. I also have flashes of labels like SST and Homestead being panel members...but I could be wrong.

CMJ in the 1990s:

In 1996 I was Assistant Music Director at WBGU (Bowling Green State University, Ohio). Four of us flew to New York from Toledo to go to the conference. Again, since we were all very poor, we all crashed in one hotel room together. I remember it being kind of creepy to share a room with 3 guys in their 20s who were sort of like co-workers. In 1996, CMJ was held in early September and at the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. They had some pretty major keynote presentations (Patti Smith?) that year in a large auditorium. I also saw the amazing film "Hype" (about the frenzy surrounding Seattle after "grunge" became a commodity) as part of the festival.

In terms of the shows in 1996, I hit several label showcases around town featuring artists on Matador (including Cat Power) and Lookout! Records (probably bands like The Smugglers, Hi-5s, and the Donnas at the club Coney Island High). One of my favorite shows was Cold Cold Hearts at The Cooler in the Meat Packing District. Despite the name of the club, it had to have been the most swelteringly hot show that I've ever been too. Regardless, they were awesome, and, I think some of their parents were even in the audience.

CMJ in 2008:

So, what's different today? This year CMJ is at NYU in Greenwich Village and takes place from Tuesday through Saturday, making for a very full week of music and events. As in the past, there are still panels (although keynotes seem to have gone by the wayside), tons of shows (at more than 40 locations today), and lots of schmoozing. As in the olden days, there are still musicians without badges hovering near the entrance to the conference, hoping to hand off their music to an influential label exec or radio programmer (and now you can add blogger to that mix).

In 2008, CMJ has definitely grown in scale. It's longer, larger, and has expanded to include a film festival in addition to the music fest. And, most notably, sponsors have hit CMJ in full force. The exhibitor room this year had booths featuring various products, including energy drinks, tools for musicians, music organizations, and a few regional organizations working to promote music from different countries (Ireland on one table, Western Australia on another). I wonder why the record labels don't exhibit anymore?

In the next few days I'll do posts specifically focused on some of the panels at CMJ, including tomorrow's "College Radio Day." I'll also give highlights of the shows that I attended and will do separate posts on my New York radio station field trips.

At CMJ and Too Crazed to Write

I'm at CMJ right now and I'm definitely experiencing sensory overload. So many panels, bands, films, college radio folks, and on and on. I hope to distill some of what I've been seeing and hearing in the next few days. I'm particularly excited about tomorrow's "College Radio Day" and hope to meet people from many more stations. I've already run into old pals from Emerson College station WECB (my first station field trip!), and new folks from Florida, Maine, Indiana, Canada, and California.

So, in the meantime, my regular features (QRD series and "50 State Tour") are on hold for a week while I process all of the fun stuff happening here in NYC.

More later...I'm off to a show!

Monday, October 20, 2008

College Radio Tidbits - Flyer Radio Saga, Indie Dreams in Vermont, SoCal Station Curates Night of Arts Fest

Discussion Continues about "Flyer Radio's" Tightened Playlist

Another article discusses the recent programming changes at University of Dayton station "Flyer Radio" and brings up the fact that only student DJs are subject to the new rules (faculty and staff are exempt). Additionally, the piece reiterates the point that the changes came about after student DJs broke FCC rules, eliciting complaints from the community. According to the article:

"The policy changes include the rules that DJs can only choose from Flyer Radio's pre-approved and prescreened iTunes library of about 1,700 songs. 'We decided as a staff before the beginning of the year that the best way to do this was to stop allowing the DJs to bring in their own personal music via laptops, iPods or CDs,' [President of Flyer Media Laura] Steffey said.

Now, DJs can only play music that consists of classic rock, pop, hip-hop and R&B;, in hopes to appeal to the target audience of the UD community, Steffey said."

Indie Dreams of College Radio Station at Lyndon State College, Vermont

A recent article discussed the indie-oriented college radio station WWLR-FM at Lyndon State College in Vermont. In the piece the station's "Indy Music Director" and Music Director talk about the challenges in getting student DJs to play unfamiliar, indie music:

The article quotes Paul Searls, the station's "Indy" Music Director:

"'I got here 4 years ago and it boggled my mind, the musical cowardice that was going on at the station,” said Searls. 'People were playing the same things that they heard on all the other stations in the area.'

When Searls came to LSC and WWLR he began looking to create a more diversified music format. 'It’s been a slow long haul to really make the station do what college radio’s mission is supposed to be, which is to play the 99.9 percent of music you don’t hear on the commercial stations.'"

KUCR Curates Night at Local Arts Fest

University of California, Riverside station KUCR published an interview about their participation in a local indie/DIY arts festival taking place October 14-19th called Saturation 2008. At the event, they curated a club night that included bands and sets by KUCR DJs.

KWVA (University of Oregon) Music Director Interview on CMJ Blog

CMJ's Staff Blog just posted another college radio station profile, this time they conducted an interview with the Music Director of University of Oregon (Eugene) station KWVA-FM.

In the interview Lyzi Diamond discusses her station's volunteer requirements (every DJ has to review one CD a week), their project to digitize the station library, and the plans for their big move out of their current digs that were carved out of old restrooms and janitorial storage.

KWVA has been around since 1993 and DJs at the station include both students and members of the community.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Staff Cuts at XMU

It was only a matter of time, I suppose...but the fallout from the merger between satellite radio networks XM and Sirius is just starting to become clear in various news reports this week, including an article in The Washington Business Journal. The article states that layoffs have occured and that among those affected are two staff members from college radio-friendly station XMU.

A message on the XMUnation website indicates that the top folks at XMU (Program Director Billy Zero and Dean of Music Tobi) are moving on to other endeavors. The post states: "billy zero and tobi have enjoyed the years of love, music, fun and passion we have exchanged with our friends in music. It's been more than a pleasure" and goes on to provide their respective personal URLs.

I'm sad to hear about this and wonder what will happen to XMU and all of its shows. Close to my heart, of course, is its innovative "Student Exchange Program." Keep your fingers crossed for them.

Spinning Indie 50 State Tour: Stop 3- Kansas Station KJHK

It's time for the third installment of The Spinning Indie 50 State Tour, my new feature in which I highlight college radio stations from all over the U.S. in order to draw more attention to the amazing work taking place at non-commercial student radio stations.

The plan is to feature an interview with a different station every week from each of the 50 states. So far my virtual tour has hit stations in Arkansas and Wisconsin and this week I turn my attention to Lawrence, Kansas, the home of University of Kansas station KJHK-FM.

Campus radio began at University of Kansas in the 1950s with various iterations of carrier current station KUOK. On October 15, 1975 KJHK had their first FM broadcast (happy 33rd anniversary!). Nearly 20 years later, in December 1994, they were a pioneer in online streaming, claiming to be the first continuous live radio station on the Internet (another station was on first, but had signal troubles). To learn more about the extensive history of KJHK, be sure to read the comprehensive piece published on

Today, KJHK's schedule includes "format" and "specialty" shows, including a Japanese music show ("Dodododo"), a talk show about sexuality ("Kansas in Heat"), a metal show ("Malicious Intent"), jazz programs, hip hop, sports, etc.

One of their latest projects is RIYL, their brand new, really well-written 'zine full of clever comics, music reviews, and essays by DJs at the station. My favorite piece was a play-by-play of one DJ's 14-hour show. She kept extending her time on the air throughout the night and it's funny and inspiring to see how she filled that much airtime while maintaining her sanity.

Thanks so much to Danielle King (PR Director), Tom Johnson (General Manager), and Ian Hrabe (Music Director) for taking the time to chat with me via email about their experiences at KJHK. In the interviews they talk about some amazing station lore (a severed foot's appearance on the metal show!), clue me in to the Wilt Chamberlain connection, discuss their favorite vinyl from the archives and the challenges they face in being able to play it, and talk about how they decide what music to add to the station.

Spinning Indie: Your station has been around for 30 years. What are your favorite tidbits from your station's past?

Tom Johnson, General Manager: Most of my favorites are before I got to KJHK. There was an instance once on our Sunday night heavy metal show 'Malicious Intent', where a dedicated (some might say 'hardcore') fan happened to have his foot severed from his leg somehow, but he kept it preserved in a bucket of formaldehyde. One night there was an unsanctioned party up at the Shack, and the police were called. When they got there, they broke up a beer-laden heavy metal party at the station, and upon arriving discovered that this guy had brought his severed foot up to the station as a conversation piece at the Malicious Intent party...

Spinning Indie: What's the longest running show/DJ at the station?

Tom Johnson, GM: As with most college stations, KJHK has had a bevy of shows that go back a ways in history, with name change and format shifts along the way...I'd have to say that, appropriately, 'Plow the Fields', our local music show, has been around the longest in terms of name and type of program. I don't know who began the show (it dates back to the early 1980's)...

Our current longest-serving DJ is Gavin Bruce, who hosts a Jazz in the Morning show...He's been on KJHK on and off for the past eight years (don't worry, he's got some degrees along the way).

Spinning Indie: Do you have music in your library dating back to the early days of the station?

Ian Hrabe, Music Director: We have a rather extensive selection of vinyl from KJHK's heyday in the 80s. That's where most of our 80s punk rock is. The jackets are all torn up, but my favorites are Black Flag's "My War" (mostly because it has one of my favorite album covers ever) and the Buzzcocks "Singles Going Steady" is one I used to play all the time when I did rotation shows. We also have the first few Beat Happening records, but I can't find them anymore! That makes me quite sad. Oh, and I'm pretty sure we still have "Let it Be" by the Replacements.

I've really been trying to incorporate the review-style from those records into my own. I feel like the vinyl reviews are the best ones we have at the station. We've recently started a thing called KJHK Essentials, which takes classic college radio albums that have been stolen or lost or broken and replaces them and puts them in a place where DJs can find them. It's a way to bring back the classics. I'd prefer having the KJHK essentials be vinyl only, but given that our turntables are constantly breaking down I don't think it would work as well.

Danielle King, PR Director: My favorite vinyl records are by Jonathan Richman. We have maybe 5 and I adore them. I play one probably every other week. I don’t know if anyone else does. Many DJs are intimidated by the stacks because it takes a lot of time to find things you’re look for and some DJs just don’t feel comfortable playing vinyl...but there are also plenty who do.

Spinning Indie: Do you have any specific programs/specialty shows that are unique to KJHK or stand out as being different from anything else on radio?

Danielle King, PR Director: All of our special programs really stand-out if you put them next to shows on commercial radio. We have shows dedicated to: pop, ska, classic college radio, rockabilly, music from Japan, music from Great Britain, music from Brazil, metal, folk, soul & funk, noise, hip-hop, Broadway and more. I think the most unique shows to KJHK are Plow the Fields (local and regional music) and Little Red Radio. Little Red Radio is a show intended for kids of all ages and features stories and music for children. Sometimes children even come on the show to assist the host. It’s adorable and makes people smile.

Spinning Indie: Is there certain music that DJs are required to play? Is there anything that DJs aren't allowed to play?

Danielle King, PR Director: All rotation DJs are required to play 6 songs from the current rotation. One of these songs should come out of the essentials section. Our rotation is generally pretty large, so DJs can generally find things they would like to play from various genres. It’s a way to assure that we are constantly providing our publics with new music.

DJs are not allowed to play anything that goes against FCC regulations or against KJHK policy... Also, as a general rule of thumb, we really encourage DJs not to play things that they would hear on commercial radio on a regular basis.

Spinning Indie: How does your MD decide what music to add? What's your philosophy about indie vs. major label? Do you add material by major labels? If yes, why? If no, why?

Ian Hrabe, Music Director: I decide what music to add based on my opinions and the opinions of my staff. Every Sunday, about twelve of us get together and go through all of the new submissions from labels, promo companies and bands and we present the stuff we took from the week before. The records being presented go through a thumbs up/thumbs down vote and if they get a majority they go into rotation.

As a little aside, I often choose which records to listen to based on cover art. That is, there are a lot of bands I know or have heard of that I'll listen to, or if it's on a label I like I'll check it out, but there are so many CDs that come in it's really hard to get to listen to everything. So if it has a really cool, well-designed cover, or if the band has a cool name (recent example: Dream Bitches, who put out one of my favorite records of the summer that I probably wouldn't have heard had I not randomly put it on) they have a better chance of their stuff getting heard. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but there are so many CDs that we get with really awful covers with terrible fonts and layouts that I think, "If you're not going to put time into the first thing that people see when they see your record, what makes me think you put the effort into your music?"

Ideally, we don't add major label stuff. We feel that if these bands are on a major label, they'll have their shot on mainstream radio, which is what we kind of use as our antithesis. Really, it doesn't matter too much. If a record is good, and we feel that it will fit in with KJHK's mission to be the Sound Alternative (in the sense of an alternative to all of the major Clear Channel radio stations in Kansas City and the surrounding area). Usually, though, we try to push music that people won't hear on any other radio stations, so most of the stuff in our rotation tends to come out on indie labels. It's our job to get this music to the people.

Spinning Indie: Do you add and play a lot of vinyl?

Ian Hrabe, Music Director: I think a lot of DJs might be a little timid about playing vinyl, and it's become easier not to since everything is available on CD and a lot of DJs just play stuff off of their computers and iPods (which is problematic). That and as I mentioned earlier, the turntables break all the time by either being manhandled or just being really crappy, which is a total pain in the ass. Just the other day I was commiserating with a couple fellow DJs about how the DJs who want to play vinyl (including the three of us) can't a lot of the time. I wish we could play more vinyl, it's fun, and I generally think vinyl sounds better. Ok, maybe not our old records that are scratched up and dusty, but there's something romantic about the little pops and clicks, something that makes listening to a record tangible opposed to the cleanness that you get most of the time. I'm not saying that CDs are bad or anything like that, it's what we need to rely on most of the time, but every once in a while hearing someone playing vinyl is really satisfying.

Some labels still send us 7-inch records, and I usually add them but no one ever plays them. Which is sad, because we get some really awesome sevens sometimes. The Coathangers "Shake Shake" seven was one that I was hoping people would play and they didn't. Maybe we need to require DJs to play vinyl, I don't know.

Spinning Indie: Do most students at University of Kansas know about the station? Do a lot of students listen to the station? Is the staff/DJs mostly students?

Danielle King, PR Director: In our last listenership survey we received these results: Out of 690 undergrads surveyed, 44 responded that they listen daily, 78 listen weekly, 89 listen monthly, 343 do not listen, 134 did not know about the station and 2 did not respond. The survey was also given to grad students, faculty and staff with similar results.

So most students know about the station, but don’t listen. This can be attributed, obviously, to the fact that most students have more commercial taste in music and that is not what we’re about. It’d be nice to have more listeners and obviously that is something we are always striving for, but a loyal listenership is better for us than changing our programming to suit the tastes of the masses.

The station is entirely student-run and operated 24/7 and we have a general manager, Tom Johnson [the only non-student].

1st issue of RIYL

Spinning Indie: Tell me about the new zine RIYL that you guys just launched.

Danielle King, PR Director: RIYL is intended to show our listenership that we’re more than voices they hear on the radio. Prior to joining music staff, I never really thought about how much time people spend reviewing the material that is added to our rotation and stacks. RIYL is our new publication to let people read our album reviews, music articles and find out what the station is up to these days. It’s really a labor of love because the people who contribute to it are music nerds and adore the station. I’m really pleased with how the first volume turned out and the second volume will be out by mid-month.

Spinning Indie: What's the status of your station move?

Tom Johnson, General Manager: We're getting final drawings and designs finished up, and hope to start building in February 2009 for a summer 2009 opening. It's going to incorporate the best pieces of KJHK's history (from the books and the Shack itself) combined with some of the best facilities an indie college radio station has ever seen. Can't wait.

Spinning Indie: Can you tell me about the Wilt Chamberlain connection?

Danielle King, PR Director:

Spinning Indie: Do you listen to other college radio stations? Who do you admire?

Danielle King, PR Director: I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t regularly listen to any other station besides KJHK. I have listened to: KEXP (Washington), WRSU (Rutgers) and WSBF (Clemson) because of friends and with KEXP, it was curiosity.

I think KJHK is really focused on doing what we want to do irrespective to other stations. I think we’re incredibly lucky at KJHK to have so much on-air freedom and influence regarding events and projects. Many stations are required to play very specific things or have governing boards that control everything. Here students are in charge of almost everything and I think that is fantastic.

Next week, the Spinning Indie 50 State Tour continues with a virtual trip to Louisiana.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

CMJ Schedule Posted and Last Chance to Register

I'm greatly looking forward to the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City next week (October 21-25th). If you're still on the fence about going, there are just a few more days left to register and if you need added incentive, CMJ just posted the full schedule of events, music, panels and films.

If any Spinning Indie readers are planning to attend CMJ, let me know as it would be great to meet. I'll be attending the entire "College Day" on Thursday, October 23rd, so perhaps I'll see some of you then.

College Radio Tidbits - Station Controversies and Call for Radio Station Revival at Assumption College

There were a few scandalous occurrences related to student radio stations this week, plus there was an article calling for radio revival at a school in Massachusetts:

Station Manager Fired in Mississippi
First of all, the Station Manager at University of Mississippi radio station WUMS "Rebel Radio" was ousted after it was learned that he was no longer a student. This came to light after he was arrested for failure to appear in court on credit card fraud charges.

High School Station off the Air due to Contraband on Computers
Meanwhile, Streetsboro High School radio station WSTB-FM in Ohio was just shut down after "inappropriate photos" were found on a station computer. According to the article, 21 computers from the station were removed for inspection after the incident. I think the most shocking thing about this story to me is that the station has that many computers!

Call for College Radio Revival at Assumption College
Additionally, a few pieces this week call for more attention to college radio. On his blog, Waiting for Speedway Fowler, Jim calls for the revival of Assumption College's radio station, which went off the air in 1980 when the transmitter died. Jim writes a bit about the competition in the vicinity of the Massachusetts school:

"WCHC is a decent, occasionally innovative station. WCUW, though it long ago grew beyond its Clark roots, is sort of legendary. WERS at Emerson and WHUS in Storrs are two of the best stations in New England. And Worcester State also has an active radio station."

He argues that Assumption College should have a station too, saying:

"It would be nice if the administrators over on Salisbury street would use a couple bucks to pick up a second-hand transmitter somewhere and re-establish the radio station..."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UK Student Radio Awards Nominees

The UK Student Radio Awards nominees have been announced. This awards ceremony, held annually since 1996, is put on by the Student Radio Association and takes place this year on November 6, 2008.

The nominees for best UK student radio station are:

CUR 1350 (Cambridge University)
Fly FM (Nottingham Trent)
Smoke Radio (University of Westminster)
1449AM URB (University of Bath)
URN (University of Nottingham)

An article in AllMediaScotland discusses two Scottish student radio stations which were nominated for various categories: Fresh Air (Edinburgh) and Subcity (Glasgow).

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 5 - Stony Brook University's WUSB

Welcome to part five of my series of college radio music director interview excerpts from the QRD "Radio Special" issue.

Much thanks to QRD founder (and Silber Records chief) Brian John Mitchell for giving me permission to share bits of his fine interviews. For more on the background of this project, see my interview with Brian, which goes into detail about his process for selecting stations and about his connection with college radio.

This week, I'm covering highlights from Brian's interview with Keri Fico, Music Director of Stony Brook University (New York) station WUSB-FM. Around since 1977, WUSB is a freeform station broadcasting over FM, campus television, and the Internet. Their volunteer staff of DJs is made up of students, faculty, university staff, alumni, and community residents. In addition to locally-produced programming, they also air nationally syndicated shows like "Democracy Now."

In her interview with Brian John Mitchell, Music Director Keri Fico talks about what it takes to be a good MD, how much she enjoys interacting with labels and promoters, her thoughts about digital releases, and her feeling that the "younger generation" of DJs is actually underestimated. She mentions that DJs at WUSB have complete control to play what they want, including vinyl, CDs and MP3s. The station doesn't have a rotation system for new releases and most shows are "specialty" shows.

Keri also talks about the Music Director fantasy that she had before taking the position (getting mail with her name on it!) and how the job still fulfilled her expectations:

QRD – Why did you want the position of music director & why do you think got it over other applicants?

Keri – I wanted the position of music director because I wanted mail to come in with my name on it… honestly. I thought that would be really cool & it was. I wanted to talk to record labels & be the first to hear all the new music. I think I got the job because I was overly excited about it. My enthusiasm seriously proved how much I wanted the position.

QRD – What are the best & worst parts of your job?

Keri – The best part of being music director is feeling cool. It’s really awesome to say I talk to labels. It’s awesome to get CDs. It’s awesome to be a part of CMJ. It’s awesome to go to shows for free. I get to be the first to hear the newest music. The worst part of the job is that it is life consuming. All my free time is spent doing radio work.

She goes on to discuss the role that both vinyl and MP3s play at the station and her thoughts about digitizing the station library:

QRD – I imagine a lot of the younger generation of DJs pretty much exclusively use MP3s over CDs (much less vinyl). How do you feel about the situation?

Keri – I think the younger generation is underestimated. Vinyl is still highly used & valued at WUSB. A lot of people have an intense CD collection as well. MP3s are definitely taking over & I think that’s fine. DJs can hook up their Ipod or MP3 player & play their tunes from there.

QRD – Do you try to get your entire catalog digitally encoded on a hard drive for radio play?

Keri – No way. There’s been discussion about digitally cataloging our music library, but those are plans for the future. There is some music available on the hard drive, but everything can be found in the new music rack or the CD cabinets.

Coming up next week will be excerpts from Brian John Mitchell's interview with the Music Director from University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) campus and community radio station CFUV-FM.

Previous QRD MD Interviews:

Interview with Brian of Silber Records about QRD Radio Music Director Issue

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 1 - Wesleyan's WESU

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 2 - McGill's CKUT

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 3 - UMass Dartmouth's WUMD

QRD Music Director Interviews Part 4 - University of Georgia's WUOG