Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Does Reporting to CMJ make you bad?

I've been reading a lot about college radio lately and a number of scholars have raised alarm bells about participation in industry charting signaling college radio's downfall. They argue that by reporting "tops" lists to industry publications, station Music Directors are become more professional (in a bad way) and less experimental. Some stations even decide much of their programming based on college radio charts, which in turn, makes for a more standardized, less eclectic airsound.

I just ran across an article profiling some college stations in South Dakota that references a station's relationship with CMJ (the longstanding college radio publication that many stations report "tops" lists to) and it states that because they report to CMJ they get free music in return (a main reason that many stations send their charts to CMJ). The article mentions "CMJ play time rules" as one of the regulations that station KAUR-FM at Augustana College must fulfill. I'd never known about rules from CMJ, so am intrigued about what that might mean. If you're at a station that reports to CMJ, let me know if there are programming rules that you must follow. Does CMJ send specific items to you that they want you to add or do you just get sent music from bands and labels? If you're a station that doesn't report to CMJ, is there a specific reason for that and are you intentionally making a statement about remaining independent from the music industry and charts?

KAUR does require that their DJs play 50% new releases during their shows, so perhaps the items reported to CMJ are from this category. Incidentally, KAUR looks like a pretty cool station that's devoted to underground, independent music and pushes its DJs to play music that they aren't familiar with. Their DJ manual even states a rule that DJs can't play anything that's been on Top 40 radio in the past 10 years or anything that could be heard on other radio stations in their city in South Dakota. Great policy!


Anonymous said...

CMj has it's own charting standards and you have to send them material in their format breakdown. There is a HUGE amount of pressure on student music directors to chart what the label reps tell them is charting and to 'add' songs during weeks when the reps are 'going for adds'. If there is a more experienced person in the staff at the college station, they can (and should) make a VERY strong case to the student MD that they need to pick their OWN music, tell the reps to bugger off and play what they want to play. Most students are neither secure enough or supported enough to do this and so CMJ charts are very much what the labels dictate.

BTW, CMJ sells the colleges the magazine which they have to chart in in order for many labels to decide that they are 'legitimate' stations. CMJ also sells those same labels the data on the stations. The only winner in this whole fraud is CMJ.

I've been involved with college radio since 1986 myself and have watched CMJ become more and more of a concern. I can relate dozens of stations that send CMJ fake charts to appease the label reps and then play what they want instead. Why? CMJ has made everyone thing its required for a college station to exist.

in snswer to your question, "no" reporting to CMJ doesn't make you bad. Reporting what label reps WANT you to report and not thinking for yourself and programming your station yourself makes you bad. And lazy.

Anonymous said...

I am working at a relatively new college radio station (we're about a year old) and I've been contacting labels about getting on their radio mailing lists. It seems like they all want to know if we accept digital submissions (which we do as we are completely digital) and if we report to CMJ. It seems to me that a lot of labels don't want to ssend their music because we are not reporting to CMJ.

Jeph said...

Indie labels and bands can often only afford to release their album to so many stations. So it make sense for them to want to release to the stations that give them a shot at charting on CMJ. If it costs a couple thousand dollars to mail out and track 300 stations, then you may as well focus on CMJ reporting stations for a chance to hit the charts. It's not like being played on college radio is going to cause people to start buying your album like crazy off iTunes, for most bands the real goal is trying to chart so they can get their name at (hopefully) the top of a list that people pay attention to.

Jose Fritz said...

Many station included in the CMJ charts are not just reporters. They are monitored by Mediaguide. The station's airplay is tracked 24/7/365 and that data used by CMJ, ASCAP and others. The days of completely bogus charts are largely over.