CMJ 2009 College Day Part One- College Radio and Competition
Panelists on the "Growing Pains" Panel during CMJ's College Day
For me the most anticipated day of the entire CMJ Music Marathon is "College Day." And this year's College Day definitely delivered, with excellent panelists, an entertaining College Radio Awards ceremony, free food, and a chance to bond with other college radio folks.
The full-day event took place in its own dedicated auditorium in the Kimmel Center at NYU on Thursday, October 22, 2009 and began with a free continental breakfast (yes!) at 9:30am. Here's a summary of the first panel of the day, "Growing Pains," which was all about who college radio stations feel like they are competing with and how that varies by physical location (Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, etc.), location on the dial (FM, AM, Internet-only), and how crowded a radio market they are in.
The college radio stations represented included KUOM (University of Minnesota), KXLU (Loyola-Marymount), and Bearcast Radio (University of Cincinnati).
The moderator, Shil Patel of Team Clermont, talked about his experience at the Internet-only University of Texas-Dallas station Radio UTD, relaying their struggles to gain local listeners when they did not have a terrestrial signal.
Ryann Walton from Bearcast Radio said that her station is also Internet-only, so they face similar challenges in attracting local listeners.
KXLU Breaking through the Noise in NYC
Molly Shelton of KXLU brought up the point that since they are in Los Angeles, they have different challenges, being in a huge radio market. She said that one big issue right now is that another station is trying to take over their spot on the dial.
KUOM's Jake Knight talked about his station's ongoing challenges with their signal. For a long time they have been broadcasting during the day on AM, but recently added an FM signal. He said that it's been "complicated" just letting people know "how to listen to the station." They also face huge competition from a newer well-funded public radio station in their market that came onto the scene after KUOM (aka Radio K) was already established.
He mentioned that the public radio station has a "similar format," but is a "more watered down version" of Radio K. He said that there is a sense of competition between the stations for both listeners and opportunities to do co-presents at local venues. He acknowledged that "it's easier to listen to [the other station] KCMP...based on the artists that they play" and said that overall "college radio's harder to listen to [with its] interesting, eclectic artists."
Similarly, KXLU faces competition from a public radio station in Los Angeles: KCRW. Molly said that KXLU's focus is more on "independent artists," but that they do have a lot of listeners who also tune in to KCRW. She also added that they have to compete with other stations for co-presents in the L.A. area too.
In terms of the challenges of being an Internet-only station, Ryann from Bearcast Radio said that they try to do a lot of locally-focused programming to gain local listeners. One talk show, "Explore Cincinnati" has been extremely popular. She also mentioned that the popular Internet-only station WOXY recently moved out of Cincinnati to Austin, Texas and pointed out that that move hasn't necessarily helped Bearcast. She said, "When WOXY moved, you'd think that would be good for us...." but said that artists now often skip visiting Cincinnati since WOXY is no longer there. However, a high school station that broadcasts over FM did find its audience grow when WOXY left the FM dial.
Example of a Co-Presents in NYC for WNYU
On the flipside of all the discussion about competition, Ryann said that she would rather be friends with other stations than compete with them. She's visited other stations in Ohio and even spent the night at the college station in Oxford, Ohio. She said that she's found it helpful to "learn and grow from them."
Panelists also talked about different ways to publicize one's station, including co-presenting shows, publishing playlists in the campus newspaper, and presenting shows on-campus.
During the Q&A some really interesting questions came up. Here are a couple:
Q: How do you differentiate your station music-wise?
Molly from KXLU recommended seeking out music from bands, etc. and said to not just rely on music sent from promotions companies.
Q: Colin from WMSR said "our biggest competition is ourselves" and talked about how music and sports compete for airtime at his station which is at a school nicknamed "J Crew U."
Ryann from Bearcast said, "Ignore those people" and made a pitch for why championing independent music is so important.