Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The CMJ Music Marathon is coming up in a few weeks (October 20th to 24th in NYC) and in advance of that, CMJ has released the list of nominees for their annual College Radio Awards. Categories cover not only radio stations, but also promo companies, Music Directors, and record labels.
There are lots of familiar names on here, but a few that weren't on my radar. To compare and contrast, you can take a look at last year's nominees and winners. (Check out the CMJ website to see the winners from 2007 and 2006.) Attendees at the CMJ Music Marathon will be able to vote for their favorites at the CMJ booth and during College Day. Winners will be announced during College Day on Thursday, October 22. Here's a selection of some of the radio nominees:
Station Of The Year:
Radio UTD (Richardson)
WSOU (South Orange)
Biggest Community Resource:
KBUT (Crested Butte)
KDHX (St. Louis)
Radio UTD (Richardson)
Best Use Of Limited Resources:
Radio UTD (Richardson)
Best Online-Only Station:
VIC Radio (Ithaca)
BreaThru Radio (New York)
Montco Radio (Blue Bell)
Radio UTD (Richardson)
Radio UTD (Richardson)
Most Doing Something No One Else Is Doing:
Radio UTD (Richardson)
WNYU (New York)
Best Student-Run Station:
Radio UTD (Richardson)
WSOU (South Orange)
Most Supportive Of The Local Scene:
WSOU (South Orange)
Most Doing Something No One Else Is Doing:
Radio UTD (Richardson)
WNYU (New York)
Who are your favorites? Are they on this list?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
mtvU has just released the list of the 25 finalists for the College Radio Woodie Award. As I've discussed in previous posts, this list of "top" college radio stations is based on nominations and online voting that's been taking place over the course of the past month or so on RateMyProfessors.com.
Many of my faves were never nominated, so I will be eternally bitter. I'm also really surprised that none of the amazing San Francisco Bay Area stations made the top 25. I am happy to see that several stations featured on Spinning Indie made the cut, including my most recent "50 State Tour" stop of KBGA and my second station stop on the tour: WSUM.
According to the rules listed on the Woodies website, the next round of voting (which is now open) will serve to select the first "nominee" for the final round. It's unclear what that means exactly. Perhaps the college radio station with the most votes will be a finalist? Or if it's like last year there will be regional winners every week.
It's interesting to note that this list of 25 finalists is quite different from the top 20 stations nominated for a Woodie in 2008. I'm guessing that the procedure for voting must have changed, leading to a new crop of stations taking the lead. If nothing else, that's refreshing to see a variety of stations getting some exposure.
In case you're having trouble reading the list of nominees on the Woodies website (the station names are kind of obscured by a radio tower graphic), here's the complete list:
mtvU College Radio Woodie- 25 Finalists for 2009
West (6 finalists)
Coyote Radio (California State University, San Bernardino, CA)
KBGA (University of Montana, Missoula, MT)
KSCR (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA)
KSSU (Sacramento State University, Sacramento, CA)
KUCI (University of California, Irvine, CA)
KUPS (University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA)
Midwest (9 finalists)
90FM (aka WWSP) (University of Wisconsin-Steven's Point)
KCOU (University of Missouri)
KRUI (University of Iowa)
KUOM (University of Minnesota)
WCRD (Ball State University, Muncie, IN)
WIUX (Indiana University, Bloomington, IN)
WMUR (Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI)
WONB (Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH)
WSUM (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
South (4 finalists)
WASU (Appalachian State University, Boone, NC)
WRGW (George Washington University, Washington, DC)
WRVU (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN)
WVFS (Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL)
Northeast (6 finalists)
WICB (Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY)
WKPS (Penn State, University Park, PA)
WPTS (University of Pittsburgh, PA)
WRHU (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY)
WRSU (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ)
WTBU (Boston University, MA)
No offense to any of the nominated stations, but I have had a number of issues with the whole voting process for this award. See my post on Radio Survivor for a detailed look at why I think this particular contest has been so flawed. And if you really love one of the stations listed, take the time to vote.
This just in: After taking a careful look at the Top 50 nominees, I've found that the Top 25 nominees includes a station, WMUR, that did not appear on either the Top 100 or Top 50 lists.
How is that possible? And I wonder if it's related to the fact that similarly named WNUR popped up on the Top 50 list without being in the Top 100. It's all very questionable since nominations are supposed to be closed at this point.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The Spinning Indie 50 State Tour started a year ago, when I decided that it was time to more formally recognize interesting college radio stations in every corner of the United States. Stations in big cities and on the coasts tend to grab a lot of attention, so I really wanted to help make the point that student radio is thriving in places where some people would never expect it to thrive.
This virtual tour of radio stations has so far included stops in 10 states, including Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, West Virginia, Kentucky and Minnesota.
Although my tour has been hobbling along at a relatively slow pace recently, with the beginning of a new school year I'm feeling re-energized about the project and hope to feature stations on a more regular schedule.
So, with that, we're off to Montana to check out University of Montana station KBGA. Today's actually a big day for KBGA, as they'll be hosting a big concert/fundraising event tonight in Missoula. "KBGA's 13th Annual Birthday Bash" will feature DJs, bands, and a silent auction to benefit the station.
As an article in Monday's Missoulian (take a look to see some video of the station too) points out, the 1000 watt FM station is devoted to indie music sounds:
"...new music - independent, often obscure, largely non-corporate - is at the heart of the station's mission. Punk, hip-hop, metal, jazz, grrl rawk, garage - all of it and then some finds a home on its airwaves."
The same article mentions that although the station is largely funded by student fees ($12 a year per student), the DJs come from both the school and the community.
Thanks so much to KBGA General Manager Ben Weiss for taking the time to answer some questions about college radio and KBGA. In our interview he talks about the history of the 13-year-old station, discusses its role in the local community, and talks about what it's like to be doing college radio in Montana, where they are 200 miles away from other indie music-oriented radio station. In a future post we'll dive into more details about the inner-workings of the station. For now, on to part one of our interview:
Spinning Indie: What motivated you to get involved with college radio?
Ben Weiss: On the first day of my freshman orientation at Grinnell College in Iowa, KDIC had a table at a campus organization fair where the staff was encouraging incoming students to get involved with radio.
Music is in my blood - my father played in bands before I was born, taught a "music as literature" class to high schoolers in the 70s, and now owns and operates Whaling City Sound, a jazz label, in Massachusetts; my late uncle was the chair of the RTV program at San Antonio Community College where he was the faculty advisor to KSYM, the student station there; my aunt ran away from home and went to England to follow the Who before they had even come to America; and my other uncle is a music teacher, folk singer, and busker; my brother is in about three bands, and writes music and lyrics for others - and college radio is the only place that I can listen to and play the type of music that I want to hear.
It is only on college radio, where musical breadth and depth are celebrated and revered, that you can hear the evolution of sounds, songs, and styles. College radio DJs are knowledgeable enough to play the artists that influenced the popular artists, and this is important from both a personal perspective and a musicological perspective.
I had a show all through college. When I moved to Montana to grow dental floss, I took two years off. It was not long before I had become friends with the GM and Program Director at that time, and I undertook the Saturday night/Sunday Morning 2 - 6 AM slot in September of 2004.
Spinning Indie: Is it true that KBGA has only been around since 1996? How did the station get started? Were there radio stations on campus prior to KBGA?
Ben Weiss: KBGA has only been around since 1996. B, G, and A all shared the dream of having a radio station on campus, and they worked tirelessly to gather signatures, lobby the student senate, purchase equipment, attain the frequency, and do all of the other jobs associated with getting a station off the ground.
The first song played on KBGA was "FM" by Steely Dan. As the station was brand new, interest had not been generated enough to have DJs around the clock, and the first couple of years involved prepackaged shows that were loaded onto a player, sort of like 8-tracks from what I can tell. We played a lot of "alternative" at the time which, being the mid 90s, meant loud, almost mainstream music, the precursors to emo and nu-metal, I guess what is called "modern rock" now. As soon as people realized what a resource the station was, more and more music geeks got involved, bringing with them their taste for more diverse, obscure and underground music.
Spinning Indie: Tell me about the station's relationship with the campus and off-campus community in Missoula. In particular, I'd like to know more your community forum show "Footbridge Forum."
Ben Weiss: Aside from KUFM, the NPR-affiliated station also located on the UMT campus, we are the only station in the area that is explicitly local. We have a news department that broadcasts news, weather and sports every weekday at 9 and 5. The news department also produces an hour-long talk show, and an hour-long sports show every week. The emphasis is on local, state, and regional news.
"Footbridge Forum" is a multi-part talk show run by the Journalism school that is named after the pedestrian bridge which links campus to the community to the north and was originally funded by an off campus grant. The program seeks to bring attention to a local issue, present multiple points of view about the issue, bring together experts and laypeople to try to solve the issue, and then present these possible solutions to campus administrators, city council members, and other relevant decision makers in the community.
The show takes place over the course of the fall semester and lasts for 3 to 5 episodes. For example, last fall's "Footbridge Forum" was about homelessness. Missoula has a large homeless population and has a history of being better to the homeless than other communities in Montana. In the first episode, citizen panelists, including students, and business owners discussed the homeless "problem."
In episode 2, these panelists were joined by police officers and a school counselor to further probe the issues associated with homelessness. In episode 3, all of the panelists came up with ideas on ways to better help the homeless while maintaining the safety and security of citizens and businesses. After the show, the producers wrote up a summary of the issues raised and the solutions presented, and then submitted their findings to deans of the university, the governor, our senators and congressman, and all shelter directors in the state.
"Footbridge Forum" is an interesting combination of journalism and activism, but it is not the only show on KBGA geared towards the community.
On Tuesday mornings one of our DJs hosts a show called "Pet Problems" on which he and a local veterinarian discuss pet issues and welcome callers to ask questions. The show has been on for close to 2 years.
One of our newest DJs is starting a Spanish educational segment of his morning show. He has a co-host who is a Spanish teacher and they will conduct conversations relevant to our listening audience and explain why they are saying what they are saying. It has yet to broadcast but will start by the end of this month.
[Since July we've] been broadcasting "Democracy Now" 5 days a week from 11 am to 12 pm.
Our News and Sports team produces two hour-long shows a week - one news and one sports - for which they have won regional and national awards in the past. They also have a news segment at 9 and 5 every weekday that lasts about 10 minutes or so and covers local, national, and international stories.
We are in the process of developing a local politics show that will be co-hosted by our favorite state senator and a rotating cast of his opposition in state and local government. We have had shows in the past dedicated to local politics, community events, and local gossip as well.
Spinning Indie: Similarly, what's your role in the Missoula music community? Do you guys host bands at the station? Co-present shows off-campus?
Ben Weiss: KBGA is the only station for almost 200 miles in any direction that plays "college" music and discusses "college" issues.
It is true that "college" music is not necessarily appreciated by all college students, and that you don't have to be in college to like new and bizarre music, but for the most part, we are it.
We have three major events each year that feature a variety of national touring acts. Our Birthday Bash, held every late September/early October, is our biggest celebration. Last year Monotonix played and nearly got us in trouble with the city. This year Birthday Bash features Talkdemonic and James Pants, plus 4 local bands.
Our annual fundraiser is called Radiothon and at week's end we throw another big concert. In the spring, around the beginning of April, we have a Fool's Night Out party. Some bands that the station has brought to town in the past couple of years include Blitzen Trapper, Vampire Weekend, Ghost, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Monotonix, the Dodos, the Death Set, Ponytail, High Places, Vivian Girls, Titus Andronicus, Starfucker, Japanther, Blank Dogs, and many smaller national and regional bands. We also sponsor shows of tons of local bands and help sponsor Total Fest.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Ben Weiss of KBGA.
College Radio Tidbits: Titan Radio Recuiting DJs, Secret Station in Maryland, and WIUX's Woodie Nomination
Titan Radio at California State University, Fullerton
According to a piece in the Daily Titan, the student-run Internet radio station at Cal State Fullerton, Titan Radio, has been around since 2001:
"The student-run, non-profit operation is a torrent of divergent, alternative programming you won’t find on your FM dial...
'We have a wide selection of stuff but there’s an order to it,' Chadwick Vargas, Titan Radio’s promotions director, said. 'Where else would you find a disco-cooking or exercise show but college radio? We are open to pretty much anything.'
Vargas, who has been with the station since January 2008, has his own show called 'Asian Persuasion.' It highlights Asian and Pacific Islander artists both locally and nationwide."
Campus-Only Online Radio XFSR at Frostburg State
Another article describes the opportunities that students at Frostburg State (Maryland) have to get involved with radio by joining up with campus public radio station WFWM's student broadcasting project XFSR Intranet Radio. I had no idea that there were campus-only Intranet stations. I wonder why they are keeping such a low profile?
WIUX is Psyched about mtvU Woodie Competition
A profile of Indiana University LP-FM radio station WIUX rattles off a list of recent accolades, including a spot in mtvU's top 50 college radio stations listing in the College Radio Woodie Award competition. According to the article:
"The nomination for the mtvU award could open up a lot of doors for the station by gaining the support of people interested in working with the best of the best, [DJ Madeline] Dowling said, as well as catch the attention of employers.
'We have the highest level of interest from students this year,' [General Manager Ryan] Patena said. 'We had over 200 applicants for 120 to 150 time slots. We have a completely full 24-hour-a-day live DJ schedule for the first time in the past few years.'"
Thursday, September 24, 2009
So, WOXY.com is actually a good example of that. Although it used to be an over-the-air FM station in Ohio; it is now a tremendously popular online-only station focused on indie music. Despite the fact that its home base doesn't really seem to matter these days, the station moved to the music mecca of Austin, Texas a few weeks back.
In his article on Austin360.com, Joe Gross chats with WOXY's Music Director Matt Shiv about both the station and Matt's history in radio. I was interested to see that Matt started doing college radio at the Earlham station while he was still in high school. Additionally, we may have crossed paths while we were both doing the radio thing at Bowling Green State University in late 1990s, as he was the MD at WFAL-AM, the sister station to WBGU-FM (where I was a DJ and Assistant MD). Small world.
The other thing that caught my eye was that WOXY is pretty much all digital, playing mostly WAV files that have been crafted from their CD and vinyl collection. According to the article:
"This is old-school, nearly free-form radio. The station, an Ohio modern rock icon that went online-only in 2004, now shares space in a building with ME-TV on South Congress Avenue.
Hanging out, I can't help but be reminded of my alma mater's station, WTJU, community radio for Charlottesville, Va. The vibe is the same, the scads of indie rock are the same.
But the technology sure has changed...
Four professionals are on staff, with a few other DJs pre-recording shows and sending them to the station, as opposed to dozens of volunteers...
Even online, a radio station with an audience this big seems a throwback to an earlier era, to the border stations whose massive signals reached from Monterrey in Mexico to Minnesota. It's college radio where anyone with an Internet connection is on campus."
According to the piece, the station was streamed for a total of nearly half a million hours last month. Pretty hard to fathom...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Ah, yes....the pre-commercial alternative "college radio" moment....
There's been a bit of that 1980s college radio nostalgia happening at my station, KFJC, as DJs from the past have been hitting the airwaves reminiscing about visits from U2, drunken interviews with XTC, bad behavior from the Go-Go's, and visits from the Ramones and Dead Kennedys. Take a look through the KFJC archives to listen to hear music from the past and catch some of these over-the-air memories (especially Clone and Cory on September 9th). Archives are only up for 2 weeks.
In addition to all of the live shows, films, and panels, there will be a few events specific to college radio. There will be a college radio mixer Tuesday night (October 20th) and "College Day" will be held all day on Thursday, October 22nd. A preliminary schedule is up on the CMJ website, however artists haven't been announced yet.
I just found an old journal entry of mine from when I went to the CMJ Music Marathon in 1988! I saw a panel called "Women in Metal: Sexism Not Just in the Lyrics?" (with some disheartening commentary, but I was amused by the band called Leech Patrol that mocked metal), heard a press conference with Siouxsie and the Banshees (they seemed bored), saw Billy Bragg and the Triffids perform, went to a Fishbone show at the Cat Club (the lead singer hurled an audience member out of a chair), and went up to the top of the World Trade Center to take in the view at sunset (the CMJ conference was being held there). It was a fun trip to NYC for me and a real adventure. I went all by myself, taking the train from Philly while my other college radio pals stayed on campus to study. Who knows what will be in store this year...
Friday, September 18, 2009
Last month I took a trip to Ireland and was particularly excited to check out the college radio scene there. It turns out that there are only 3 official, regularly broadcasting student radio stations in the entire country and that student radio is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland. Unfortunately none of those three stations were broadcasting during the last 2 weeks of August; with two on summer break and one (Flirt FM) readying for a move to new digs.
Cheers to Flirt FM for welcoming me to their station, even though they were in the midst of a construction zone and were in a pre-move frenzy.
Located at National University of Ireland in Galway, Flirt FM went on the air in 1995. According to founding station manager Andrew Ó Baoill, the station "started as a student effort," whereas the other college stations in Ireland were initially less student-driven.
Thanks so much to Flirt FM's current station manager Paula Healy and Programme Controller Louise Clarke for touring me around the old station and talking to me about student radio in Ireland.
I stopped by for a visit on Thursday, August 27, 2009. It was summer break (although you wouldn't know it by the torrential rain) and the campus was fairly deserted except for construction crews feverishly working on various projects.
A group of people were hanging out inside the Flirt FM offices rolling up posters in preparation for the beginning of the school year. Paula told me that they work really hard to get the word out about the station and she was particularly pleased that for the past two years they've been able to get posters in the hands of all 1st year students. She told me that it's really important for students to know that Flirt FM exists and that it's a "proper radio station."
With a pretty large broadcast range of about 15 miles in every direction (in an "egg shape"), Flirt FM has listeners from not only the campus, but also from the surrounding community.
Paula's been involved with Flirt FM off and on since 1998. She told me that she joined the campus "Radio Society" and was both shocked and happy to learn that there was a station on campus. She's been the official Station Manager since April 2007 and is driven by her love for both the station and for music.
According to Paula, the station exists not only to provide a service to listeners, but also to provide training for students. Like college stations in the U.S., it's primarily a station of volunteers (as many as 120).
Paula and Louise are the only paid staff members. According to their license, Flirt FM's emphasis is to be an alternative to mainstream radio. About 60% of their programming is music and 40% is talk. Within these categories, 15% of the music is supposed to be of Irish-origin and 20% of the talk should be current affairs programming.
The Irish version of the FCC is called BCI (Broadcasting Commission of Ireland) and this regulatory agency grants licenses to stations and follows up to make sure that stations are living up to the terms of their contracts. Paula mentioned that the station had recently been audited, with the BCI listening to a 12 hour sample out of a week's worth of programming.
In terms of their schedule, Flirt FM broadcasts 20 hours a day on weekdays. Night-time is when their air "specialist music" beginning at 8pm. Paula told me that Monday nights are devoted to punk and metal, Tuesdays feature indie and alternative, Wednesday nights focus on "left field" or noise, Thursdays are dance music, techno, IDM, etc. and Friday nights are for "chill out" sounds like hip hop, soul, ska and reggae. Specialist shows are one hour in length and there are 20 different DJs filling those particular slots. At midnight they close the station and air repeats of shows that normally air from 4pm-8pm. Paula said that they hope to be a 24/7 station soon.
Flirt FM also airs some Irish language programming, including a music show, a magazine show and an Irish news headlines show. Paula mentioned that in the past they've also aired shows in other languages, including French and Polish, depending on the native language of station volunteers.
What struck me as I took a look around was that Flirt FM doesn't have much in the way of a music library. When I asked about this, Paula unlocked the "little if ever" used collection of CDs to show me. They primarily play digital music (and have 60 to 70 gigabytes of ripped material on a computer) at the station and she said they used the "CDs as backup."
They have 2 "rarely used" turntables and no vinyl library. Paula told me that "even the DJs are getting away from" using vinyl. Although the station gets sent some music, they don't get any vinyl. She jokingly showed me the one 7" that they have at the station, telling me that they use it to test out the turntables.
For the most part DJs bring in their own music and it's primarily the news and talk-oriented shows that use the station's digitized music library. Paula told me that DJs aren't expected to play specific pieces of music from the station's library, although she creates a "playlist" every month in order to encourage people to check out new music that fits with the station's overall programming philosophy. According to Paula:
"I do the playlist up every month. DJs aren't expected to play from it like a playlisted radio station, it's there to provide people with backup if their music doesn't work, or of they're too busy doing news headlines to worry about the music choice.
It's also a way to get across to listeners the kind of thing that Flirt FM likes to play and champion. I try to have lots of Irish artists on it each month. Other stations (most of them, to be honest) rely on old classics or very obvious mainstream choices. The playlist is a way of setting out our agenda. And you can stream it too (not this month, unfortunately, as I'm too busy to do a new one)."
Student radio stations in Ireland are part of a larger community radio organization called CRAOL (Community Radio Forum of Ireland), which works to help stations organize and connect with one another. Through this group, Paula has organized a get-together for all the Irish student radio stations. "Craol Campus Connections" will be held at Flirt FM on October 17th and stations from Cork (Cork Campus Radio), Limerick (Wired FM), Belfast (Queens Radio), and Dublin (Belfield FM) are invited to attend.
According to Paula last year's conference (at Wired FM in Limerick) had about 50 attendees and featured sessions on promoting one's show, production, and Adobe audition. She plans to hold similar sessions this year and told me that she's excited to get to host in their new studios. Around 60 people are expected from Wired FM, Cork Campus Radio, Belfield FM, DCU FM, and Trinity FM.
As I mentioned, Flirt FM was off the air when I visited in preparation for their move to shiny new studios. As we walked around the old station, Paula pointed out things like the "potato sack" walls and talked about how she thinks the fancy new studio will give the station more prominence and will even help to boost station morale.
Although they are only moving one building over, the new space will be filled with campus societies (aka student clubs), so they will have more of a community there with other student organizations. Paula joked that her old office is being "replaced by a boiler," as others will be taking over the old station space.
The plan (when I was there) was to move the station in 5 days, so Paula had been busy buying new furniture and making sure that everything was ready to go in order to get back on the air. Generally they are not off the air during the summer (although they do cease broadcasting during Easter and Christmas breaks), so this was kind of a big deal for them.
The new station is 20% bigger than the old, with 2 full-sized studios, a "proper editing suite," a dedicated rack room, and an office for the managers. Paula was excited that they would finally have both air conditioning and their own bathroom.
After my visit I checked in with Paula to see how the move went. She sent along some photos of the glitzy new space and told me that they are back on the air again as of this week.
For now they're only on from 4pm to 4am with "repeats and pre-records," but she added, "we're inching closer to fully operational studios every day." When I asked if she had anything else to add, she said, "Student radio in Ireland has so much potential to be fantastic, and I'm exhausted!"
Thanks again to Paula and Louise for their gracious hospitality during a truly crazy (and exciting) time at Flirt FM. Best of luck to them in their new studios.
Previous Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips:
Field Trip to WECB at Emerson College
College Radio Field Trip 2 - Cal Poly's KCPR
College Radio Field Trip 3 - Notre Dame's WVFI
Radio Station Field Trip 4 - WFMU in Jersey City
Radio Station Field Trip 5 - East Village Radio in NYC
Radio Station Field Trip 6 - WNYU in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 7 - Northwestern's WNUR
Radio Station Field Trip 8 - Stanford's KZSU
Radio Station Field Trip 9 - University of San Francisco's KUSF
Radio Station Field Trip 10 - Santa Clara University Station KSCU
Radio Station Field Trip 11 - UC Berkeley's KALX
Radio Station Field Trip 12 - KSJS at San Jose State University
Radio Station Field Trip 13 - WBAR at Barnard College
Radio Station Field Trip 14 - KFJC at Foothill College
Radio Station Field Trip 15 - UC Santa Cruz Station KZSC
Radio Station Field Trip 16 - Haverford College Station WHRC
Radio Station Field Trip 17 - FCCFree Radio in San Francisco
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I was under the impression that no new stations were being nominated/added to the list; but in this week's top 50 list I see two stations that I didn't notice in the Top 100 list last week. Weird, huh?
Fabulous Northwestern University station WNUR is now amongst the 12 midwest stations in the running. Similarly, WVUA (University of Alabama) made an appearance this week in the list of 11 stations from the south. The northeast still dominates with 16 stations vying for the Woodie, while the west coast has 11.
Stay tuned. I'll be checking my list to see if the top 25 stations seem to be on the up and up. Results of the top 25 should be announced September 29th.
Oh, yeah, go WBGU!
Monday, September 14, 2009
My obsession with radio primarily has to do with my love for music. Music has the ability to transport and inspire and I find that magical. Sometimes it's the poetry of a song that is so compelling. Other times it's the music. Often it's the live performance. But with a few, very talented performers it's a collision of all three: music, poetry and performance.
Jim Carroll was that kind of artist for me. I saw him for the first time when I was in college. None of my friends would go with me. I seem to recall some of them were caught in the inertia of the campus game room at the time, playing foosball. Too bad for them. They missed an amazing performance: one that ended up making me a life-long fan of Jim Carroll.
At the time I think I just knew him for his very popular song "People Who Died." (And, yes, we had that 7" single at my college radio station WHRC. It's long-gone by now, I'm sure...) But his performance was so riveting that I delved further, reading his childhood diaries and poetry. After reading "Basketball Diaries," I was amazed by Jim Carroll's talent as a writer.
Over the years, I saw him many times. Mostly he read from his work, but sometimes he sang. As I recount in one of my own journal entries below, hearing his acoustic version of "People Who Died" was a real highlight. The pain of losing so many friends became clear and suddenly I heard that song in an entirely different way. And, now...it's such a bummer to have to add him to that list of people who've died too soon.
Every time I saw Jim Carroll I felt inspired to write and I think that also attests to his power as an artist. When I look back at my journal entries, some of what I've written is embarrassingly bad. But the point I kept trying to make was that Jim Carroll's words and performances inspired me like no other artist. He managed to take me out of my day-to-day life and worries and helped me to think about why writing is so important to me.
Here are a couple of journal entries that I wrote in 1989 and 1996:
Feb. 25, 1989 Haverford College, PA
"In an hour I'm going up to campus to see Jim Carroll--that morbid poet-author-songwriter who brought us 'The People Who Died.' I'm pretty psyched."
Feb. 20, 1996 Bowling Green State University, OH
"I just exchanged words with Jim Carroll. Wow. I wasn't eloquent or brilliant, but I told him that I thought that he was an amazing storyteller...
As I was watching him read I was just as mesmerized as I always am...
He read stories that I'd heard before ("Day at the Races") and I was taken back in time...back to the first time that I saw him at Haverford (1989!) when no one would go with me...I remember being blown away by him...I remember having him sign my copy of Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries in the basement of the dining center...
But I also remember seeing him in San Francisco--at a bookstore doing a reading after he'd had one too many Margaritas, or numerous times at the Great American Music Hall. I remember 'introducing' him to different friends and my sister. Everyone was moved AND entertained by him, I remember him singing a slow, acoustic heart-wrenching version of 'People Who Died' and suddenly recognizing its poetry and pain when it was divorced from its rock and roll exterior.
Tonight I saw him alone--just like the first time. But it didn't matter. When he speaks I feel a direct connection. I'm transported. I leave the midwest, the stress...behind and remember what really matters: the poetry.
Unfortunately I also remember my own connection to writing and I feel guilty. Why don't I write more?....
My soul thrives when I listen to Jim Carroll...There's no anxiety or posturing or thinking beyond the moment. I'm not thinking about how I'm going to turn the reading into a story to impress my friends. I'm in the moment for its own sake. That's a rarity. Yet I strive for it. Pure enjoyment is so fleeting.
As I looked around the reading I saw eyes wandering, people fidgeting, and glances exchanged. 18-year-olds laughed nervously at references to sex and drag queens--not quite knowing how to digest poetry. I'm sure that I was one of the few people there who had read multiple [Jim Carroll] books and who had been to a reading [of his] before. I wonder how many people left the room feeling the way that I do?"
RIP Jim Carroll. You will be missed by me, as I feel like I've lost a hero.
Friday, September 11, 2009
So far they've got 19 stations from the midwest (yipee WBGU!), 25 from the west, 27 from the south and 29 from the northeast.
Did your favorite station make the cut? Unfortunately some really cool stations were never nominated (or nominated past the deadline) so didn't get the chance... Sorry KSPC and KFJC (to name a few). Kind of a bummer that the nomination period took place at the tail end of summer when many of us were on vacation or summer break.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Today he starts the series by showcasing a sticker from KMNR (University of Missouri-Rolla). Take a peek to see the malt liquor label-inspired sticker.
I met Nick (virtually) when I discovered that he had presented a paper about college radio at the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) conference in 2008 and had him send me a copy of it so that I could write about it for Spinning Indie. We've been in touch ever since, as it's a very small group of us who write about college radio from an academic perspective (or from any perspective, really).
Huge thanks to Nick for his great insights about the July conference. It sounds like lots of good geeky radio scholar fun.
Here's his recap:
The Radio Conference 2009: A Transnational Forum
Conference Report by Nick Rubin
Hey y'all. My name's Nick Rubin and I'm a PhD student at the University of Virginia, working on a dissertation on college radio during the late-seventies/early eighties. I'm also a DJ at UVA's WTJU, and have worked at a few other college/community/public stations through the years.
Thanks to Jennifer for asking me to blog the conference; I've loved reading Spinning Indie, and I'm excited to be a contributor, in whatever minimal capacity. And if anybody reading this would be willing to share experiences/impressions of college radio in the late-seventies/early eighties, please contact me at email@example.com.
The Radio Conference: A Transnational Forum was held July 26-30 at York University, in Toronto. Actually, it was on the extreme northern edge of Toronto, and the heart of the city was visible only as a thin, distant layer of smog. York itself was ringed by parking lots and several square blocks of brand-new, mostly-empty brownstones – the area was, in a word, uninviting.
But the remote locale facilitated a close-knit meeting, with radio scholars representing all continents besides Antarctica. A substantial contingent from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK led a nightly charge to the one nearby sports bar, and Anne McLennan of York's Media and Culture department made sure the panels ran on time. She also hooked us up with lunch and dinner each day. It sort of felt like summer camp.
I attended this biennial conference in Lincoln, UK in 2007, and was struck then by the variety of topics addressed, partly attributable to the global provenance of the inquiries. In the U.S., music, news, and talk programming have long dominated the radioscape, shrinking our expectations along with our experiences - when’s the last time you turned on commercial radio and were genuinely surprised or bewildered by what you heard?
The medium’s possibilities dwarf its present implementation in the U.S., so it was useful to hear of radio as drama, as activism, as instruction, as propaganda. The papers suggested a multitude of directions not just for college radio scholars, but for college radio. How much are college stations testing the limits of terrestrial radio as an artistic medium? I've never done a show that wasn't spinning discs, so I can't claim to be pushing any boundaries – I'm just wondering…
Keynote speaker Michael Keith called for the faculty members present to teach more classes on social impact, laying out a litany of instances when radio made a difference in local politics or served as a voice for underrepresented groups. This made me wonder how much one could claim a social impact through musical programming. One interesting moment came when Keith told the crowd that college students might get interested in radio if we pointed out that these days, "radio" also means internet radio, podcasting, digital radio, etc.
I've gotta say this claim has never sat well with me, because it sounds vaguely misleading and because radio as I understand it (terrestrial radio) stands to lose out if it appears on a platter with all these other media. Andrew Dubber elegantly turned around Keith's assertion, offering "maybe we should say that broadcasting is more than just radio now." Right away, this sounded more intellectually honest while maintaining terrestrial radio as a unique endeavor – particularly valuable, irreplaceable even.
and What it Means to be a Radio Listener
That said, the most interesting papers I saw on the first day weren't about radio in this specific sense. Michael Huntsberger (Linfield College, Oregon) recounted the botching of HD radio in the U.S. context, expanding his purview to consider examples of "value-added" terrestrial radio, such as WFMU's real-time internet chatrooms, where listeners discuss the music on the air or more likely, something totally unrelated. Huntsberger paraphrased WFMU Manager Ken Freedman; the chatrooms are like a party where FMU provides the site and the music, and the guests can talk about whatever they're talking about.
It made me think of the ways that we conceive of our listeners and the way we intend our shows – are they meant as background or as close listening, for solitary listeners or groups? And it made me think of the ways that changing technologies have externally affected our modes of listening to radio; i.e., the existence of music streams on the internet makes us listen differently to a radio station, whether or not the station itself has a stream. Do we subconsciously acknowledge or respond to this as DJs, and how much should we even think about it?
Angela Blake (Ryerson University, Toronto) examined African-American CB radio culture, a welcome reminder that the Citizens' Band comprised (and still comprises) more than just the working-class white truck drivers of seventies' lore. Blake linked African-American CB culture to games like the dozens and to hip hop emceeing, which on one hand seemed to reinscribe borders of black cultural activity, but on the other hand, located it in an unexpected site, causing a reevaluation of CB.
Blake's paper made me think of radio stations at traditionally-black colleges, and the way that these stations are often implicitly erased from "college radio" because of the way that the term is so casually equated with, you know, predominantly white kids spinning tunes by predominantly white musicians for a predominantly white audience. I know that "rock" is a contested field, but would applying "college rock radio" to the scenario just described remind us that it only represents one strain of college radio?
My paper was about the "New British Invasion" in the early eighties mainstream, and college radio's relation to the phenomenon. Briefly, when the synthpop bands started breaking huge here in the States (thanks in large part to MTV), there was a backlash from many angles: synthpop wasn't real rock; it was linked to the twin evils of disco and punk; the dudes wore makeup; etc. College stations had largely supported these bands as imports, but a self-image as gatekeepers to the underground led them to turn more to regional American scenes as the English bands hit the mainstream. There's a lot to tease out, but it sparked some interesting discussion, which was pretty exciting. I'll let y'all know if I publish it some day.
Also on my panel was a paper about the rise and fall of the "Alternative/ Modern Rock" format. The speaker's background included record promotion and commercial radio, as well as record promotion, and he was concerned with reviving the format, rather than analyzing what makes modern rock modern rock, which as a music head, I would have been really interested in. In any case, our papers dovetailed nicely, and (in a reverse echo of what I said at the beginning of this post), some of the folks there said it was nice to hear papers about music formats.
The other papers hinted at the range of possibilities for radio scholarship – one examined the ethical issues of an expedition undertaken in the 1930s to record (and broadcast) aboriginal musical activity, and more importantly, of the efforts to repatriate the recordings with the source communities. Others recounted Radio Hauraki, New Zealand's 1960s pirate radio station; the shifting policies of the Canadian government to shape commercial radio programming from 1975-1990; the narrowcasting developments in the Finnish radioscape during the 1990s; and the neoliberal social sensibilities inculcated by This American Life.
The range of approaches and topics was pretty staggering, and suggested the vast intellectual space out there for radio scholarship. At the same time, I wondered about the audience for such inquiries, as radio's social impact – while remaining considerable – seems to have been far outstripped in the present context by "new social media" outlets. Radio folks are obviously interested in radio; can we convince communications departments and publishers that others are as well? The pessimistic view is that radio – including college radio – is in crisis; it's pretty much history. But isn't the crisis worth examining? What are the social, economic, and legal forces in play? What are the cultural ramifications?
There's plenty to talk (and write) about, as the Radio Conference proved. Thanks to Jennifer for asking me to report back to y'all.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Round one of voting for the best college radio station in mtvU's annual award show the Woodie Awards is drawing to a close on September 8th. For all of us college radio junkies, that means that we have one last chance to make sure our favorite college radio station is 1) in the running and 2) is getting enough votes to make it to round two.
A quick check of the current nominees (apparently over 300 stations) revealed that my current station KFJC was not on the list and that many of the listed stations in California had factual errors (KDVS was described as being at UC Merced rather than UC Davis, University of San Francisco station KUSF was described as being at UC Santa Cruz, KUCR was described at being at UC Santa Barbara, etc. etc.).
This complete lack of fact-checking definitely casts some doubt on the "contest" for me. It seems likely that some voters may just vote for their school (vs. a station name or call letters) and when the school name and station name don't match it muddies the whole voting process.
If your station isn't listed there's still time to use Twitter to nominate it and galvanize staff and listeners to vote. If it is listed, you might want to double check the listing for accuracy.
The first round of voting ends on September 8th and will cull down the list of stations to the top 100. So this will be your only chance to nominate stations that aren't listed.
Between September 8th and 15th voting will take place to narrow the list down to the top 50 college radio stations.
From September 15th to 29th visitors can vote in order to narrow the list down to the top 25 stations.
After these initial rounds of voting (are you still with me), there will be five more rounds. If it's like last year, the first four rounds will focus on voting for regional winners (West, Midwest, Northeast, South). The fifth round will select the overall winner from those 4 regional finalists. That winner will be announced November 18, 2009 at the Woodie Awards. To see the complete list of when voting will happen for each round, check out the rules page.
The college radio portion of the Woodies began last year and the 2008 winner, WICB (Ithaca College, New York), was chosen from a list of 20 finalists.
By the way, the contest page also includes a link to the top 50 stations so far. I'm happy to report that one former station of mine has made this list, WBGU at Bowling Green State University. However, a lot of really awesome stations are NOT on this list.
I am a big fan of mtvU and think that they do a lot of cool things, but this early round of voting (hosted on RateMyProfessors.com) for the Woodies seems to be a real mess. Hopefully things will get cleared up in the rounds to come.
Friday, September 4, 2009
I just got home from a trip to Ireland and enjoyed some radio-related side trips. First on the agenda was a trip to the Radio Museum Experience in Cork. Housed in an old prison, the museum has old artifacts and a re-created studio on display from the early history of Cork radio station 6CK. 6CK began broadcasting in 1927 and was one of the early stations in what would become the national Irish radio network RTE.
To read more about my trip to the museum (and see more creepy pictures of wax figures), see my article on Radio Survivor.
While in Ireland I also got to visit the student radio station at National University of Ireland in Galway, Flirt FM. Next week I'll post a recap of that visit too.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The station where I proudly DJ, KFJC, turns 50 years old on October 20th. It's amazing to me that it's remained a formidable force in college radio for this long, with new experiments year after year.
For the past few weeks DJs from days gone by have been coming back to KFJC to DJ and it's been a real treat hearing voices that haven't been on the air in years and seeing playlists full of artists reflecting prior decades.
In today's Metroactive, columnist and long-time KFJC fan Gary Singh gives an overview of some of the station's history, while hyping its 50th Anniversary Art Show (opening this Friday in San Jose at Kaleid Gallery) in which winners from KFJC's art contest will be on display. He writes:
"I've been a KFJC listener for more than 20 years, because in my opinion the entire purpose of college radio is to play anything the commercial stations wouldn't possibly touch, and in KFJC's case, they've disregarded all standard procedures for decades now. In 1978, four student managers pretty much overthrew the general manager due to his belligerent, unwavering emphasis on mainstream album-rock formatting.
The station then subsequently went on to bring the entire punk/New Wave explosion to the South Bay. Even today, by the grace of God, Satan, Loki, Isis or whoever, you never know what to expect from that station. One day, it'll be Japanese surf music followed by master musicians from Morocco followed by 30 minutes of doom metal. The next day, you'll hear avant-garde jazz, ambient electronica, obscure psychedelic rock and then children's records deliberately played at the wrong speed."
It's all true!
In related KFJC news, there have been several efforts recently to document KFJC's past and present. The station has been collecting vintage materials, photos, T-shirts, and stories from listeners. At the same time, former staff member Eric Predoehl has been meticulously posting old photos from the station (particularly from the era of 1982-1984) and events on his Flickr page.
Additionally, some students at San Francisco State produced an audio documentary about KFJC this year called "The Radio Bug", which also includes some beautiful photographs of the station and DJs. Long-time listener Scott Stuppi also started a project a few months ago to document KFJC events and DJs. On his blog you can catch some of his photos.
I think it's really important to preserve a station's history and a 50th anniversary is as good a reason as any to focus on that effort.