Monday, March 31, 2008

College Radio in Boston

Well, I hit the road this week and feasted my ears on a number of Boston-area college radio stations and even had a visit with the one station that I couldn't hear on my radio (WECB at Emerson College--stay tuned for a full report later). I have to say, the left end of the dial is packed with choices, so you Bostonians are pretty lucky. In my opinion, the best station that I landed on was WZBC 90.3 FM (Boston College), where I heard one of the most amazing sets of electronic/ambient/experimental music on Friday night around 9:30 pm. Wow, I just checked and here's the playlist from that show, complete with date stamps of when each particular track aired. I'm impressed that now the question: "what was that song you played at 9:30pm?" can be answered with technology! On WZBC I was also intrigued by some spacy stuff that I heard on Saturday morning, including a lengthy astrology report.

Other stations that I tuned in to in Boston included WERS 88.9 FM (Emerson College's popular station, which was doing "Local Music Week" with lots of in-studio guests), WMBR 88.1FM (MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts), and WUMB 91.9 FM (University of Massachusetts, Boston's folk-oriented public radio affiliate). On the downside, fundraiser season was in full swing and it was quite painful listening to some of the pitches on WERS, WUMB and WGBH (public radio). I often wonder why so many stations choose to fundraise at the exact same can't be easy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Maximum RocknRoll Punk Show

The latest Dinosaurs and Robots mix tape is a Maximum RocknRoll radio show from 1984 featuring some punk rock gems.

Visit Dinosaurs and Robots for the complete playlist, which includes the Adolescents, Domino Theory, Lemon Kittens, GBH, Frat Girls, Josie Cotton, and so much more!

Maximum RocknRoll Radio (affiliated with the long-time punk 'zine) is still doing weekly shows and is syndicated at a number of college, community, pirate, Internet and indie-minded radio stations, including KZUM 89.3 FM (Lincoln, Nebraska community radio), WHRW 90.5 FM (Binghamton University, New York), Munt FM (Wellington, New Zealand), KSCL 91.3 FM (Centenary College, Shreveport, Louisiana) and WBGU 88.1 FM (Bowling Green State University, Ohio). You can syndicate the shows for free (you just have to ask) and can also download mp3s.

Additionally, the Maximum RocknRoll radio website is a goldmine of punk information and specials that are available for download, including specials on 80s punk, British punk, Latino punk, and a playlist covering the history of lady punk. Couldn't you just spend weeks roaming through their archives?

CMJ College Radio Contest for Bonnaroo Passes

Here's a cool opportunity for a lucky CMJ-reporting college radio station. CMJ has a contest running to give away passes to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee June 12-15th for the winning DJ who submits a sample "preview show" promoting the festival.

It's a huge festival featuring Cat Power, !!!, Two Gallants, Gogol Bordello, Metallica, Vampire Weekend, Sigur Ros, Pearl Jam, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, B.B. King, Ladytron, Chromeo, Mgmt, The Fiery Furnaces, Kanye West, Chris Rock, and many others.

For the CMJ contest there are some promotional requirements, most notably, if you win, your station is required to air your winning hour-long preview show (it will also air online on the Bonnaroo website). Here's the deal according to CMJ's website:

"CMJ is giving DJs a chance to become the official college radio representatives of Bonnaroo in CMJ's Road To Bonnaroo contest. One grand prize-winning college radio show will receive two tickets, exclusive access and travel to Manchester, Tennessee for the Bonnaroo Music And Arts Festival. Also included are media passes for on-site coverage, guest camping, plus the ability to broadcast an hour-long shift live on Bonnaroo's official FM station, which will be heard throughout the festival grounds. Winners will also have the opportunity to conduct band interviews backstage.

To enter, DJs should submit a 15-to-30-minute sample of an hour-long, custom-made Bonnaroo preview show, along with a written show outline, by May 5. The winning entry will also be streamed live on The contest is open to any DJ from a CMJ reporting radio station with a weekly show on that station. See all contest rules and submit your best work at here."

Are any of you thinking of entering the contest? Is this something that fits with the programming/format of your station?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Does Just Being on Campus Make you Hip to New Music?

I started working in college radio because I wanted to be surrounded by music and then once I got involved with radio I was hooked. After graduation I took a break from djing and mostly learned about new music through friends, local press, and by frequently going out to see shows in San Francisco.

I decided to get back involved with college radio when I moved from California to a small town in Ohio and was afraid that I would completely lose touch with the music scene. I figured I wouldn't be seeing that many shows and knew I'd be away from my urban music fan pals.

Surprisingly, in Ohio I became much more involved with music, attended shows all the time, and ended up being as in tune with new music as my friends back in San Francisco. The main reason for that was that I joined the college radio station (WBGU-FM), had a radio show, and met lots of musicians and music fans. It became clear to me that even small town colleges are filled with students who are clued in to new music. In fact, along the way I learned about the benefits of small town life--where music fans are excited to see bands coming through town and often more enthusiastic audiences than in major cities where musical offerings are more plentiful, leading to more jaded audiences.

An article in the Morning Call today talks about college being a magical time for music discovery. Aaron Sagers writes:

"When I was going to school, I was immersed in music. Surrounded by a diverse, eager-to-learn cross-section of the population, music from artists that were new to me was always winding up in my hands...

Once I made my way into the music library of a college radio station, my appetite for instruction increased. Not only did I have access to thick binders of unfamiliar, catalogued albums I'd never heard of, but every week it seemed hundreds of promising new albums were dropped off at the station. They were my shrink-wrapped invitations to break out of the 'I only like rock and hate country/rap' mentality developed in high school.

I collected and listened and discussed and lived and breathed new music. I knew who to know before the mainstream media did. By the time tastemakers like Rolling Stone magazine listed a band, they had already received heavy rotation on my stereo. It seemed everything me and my fellow audiophiles loved, we loved 'before it was cool.'

...My memories of mass musical consumption are shared in some variation by every college student. It remains an environment of discovery and enrichment, right?

Outside college, however, I've been reduced to lists. I tear them out and try to follow up, and I'm pretty good at staying ahead of the curve. But I'm more than a little envious of students who absorb the new and cool of pop culture simply by being on campus."

For me, music discovery has been easiest when I'm attending shows or participating in college radio. The whole college experience was great for learning about new music, but just being at a college radio station (even after I've graduated) is enough to keep me in touch with new and interesting sounds. How about you? Is college or college radio your path to discovery?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Louisiana College Radio Roadtrip

One of the reasons that I started this blog is so that I could learn more about other college radio stations, since I'd rarely had the opportunity to hear about the history, programming, or internal dramas from stations other than my own. But now I'm learning bits and pieces on a daily basis about college radio from all over the world and hopefully in the weeks to come I'll drop by some stations as well.

Considering that, it was fun to see this post yesterday from a college radio staff member who went on a road trip to visit another college radio station. A member of Shreveport, Louisiana college station KSCL 91.3 FM (Centenary College), trekked to Ruston, Louisiana to visit KLPI (Louisiana Tech University) and told the tale. He writes:

"In this business students really only have time to see their station, rarely anyone else's. I found many similarities with Centenary's campus. As radio stations, we both have a lot of the same problems and achievements. KLPI is looking into internet streaming, as are we. They're struggling with finances, like us. And our staff numbers are about the same.

When I was the Music Director and talked to promoters, I heard one quote that's still with me today. 'College Radio is the bastard child of the college.' Ha! I don't know whether that makes me proud or peeved. I must say, however, that college radio struggles with the same issues, but mainly being understood by the 'adults' in the administration. KSCL is extremely fortunate to have people like Michael Laffey, Kathy Fell, and Jerry France. I hope others are as fortunate."

He makes an interesting point about college stations being overlooked and misunderstood by those in authority on college campuses. Is this something that most stations experience?

This post is great inspiration for all of us to take a road trip to visit another station to gain a greater perspective about the breadth of college radio.

Friday, March 21, 2008

College Radio on iTunes

A few reviewers this week wrote praising the revised college radio section in iTunes and waxing nostalgic about their own college radio days. The offerings here are quite slim when you consider the huge number of college radio stations online, but it's a start.

Here are the 10 stations chosen by iTunes (generally indie-oriented, but not all of which are even college radio stations, by the way!):

All Independent Radio (New England Institute of Art, Brookline, Massachusetts)
Flat Foot Records (Valencia Community College Music Technology Program, Orlando, Florida)
Fresh Air-The Alternative (University of Edinburgh, Scotland student-run alternative radio)
Goucher Student Radio (Goucher College, Towson, Maryland)
Indie Pop Rocks! (SomaFM--indie music, but not a college station)
WIBS (Intercollegiate Broadcasting System radio network)
WLIU-BK (Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY)
WLMU (Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York)
WMHB (Colby College, Waterville, Maine)
XTSR (Towson University, Maryland)

I wonder how and if they will expand this list? Of course, you can still listen to loads of other college stations on iTunes, even if they aren't listed here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SaveWCAL's Ongoing Protest of Sale of Minnesota College Station

I wrote previously about Minnesota Public Radio's foray into indie music with their station The Current, which was formerly a college station at St. Olaf College. Well, it turns out that ever since the sale of the station the group SaveWCAL has been working to oppose the sale.

On Brian Voerding writes about the group SaveWCAL and their ongoing efforts on behalf of the former station. He also includes some history of the station sale:

"In August 2004, St. Olaf agreed to sell WCAL, along with KMSE, the sister station it owned in Rochester, to Minnesota Public Radio for $10.5 million. At the time, the college said the sale came because the 82-year-old station was no longer central to the college's mission of educating undergraduates, which any assets from a sale would go toward."

He describes the latest news on the controversy surrounding the sale, saying:

"A new report gives more weight than ever to the claims of SaveWCAL, the organization that continues to oppose the 2004 sale of the St. Olaf College classical music station to Minnesota Public Radio. But even the biggest finding — that the college should reserve some $5 million in assets and past listener donations for the station (which no longer exists) instead of using it for other things — may not resurrect the station, now known as 89.3 The Current."

He also mentions some serious radio nostalgia from supporters who heard the station from the womb!

"Members of the group have strong ties to the station. Sylte, for example, as a St. Olaf grad and longtime WCAL supporter, recounted her first experience with the station. 'One of the bittersweet things is that my mother told me that WCAL is one of the first stations I heard as a human being, because my parents listened to the station when i was an infant,' she said."

No More Brown Padded Envelopes (to Commercial Station MDs)?

So, as I learned from this post on the Future of Music Coalition blog, another hurdle that indie musicians face is that even their method of submitting music to commercial radio stations (CD in a padded envelope) can put them at a disadvantage. The posting discusses a recent piece in Wired about Yangaroo's digital media distribution technology, which is designed to help indie artists who are submitting music to automation-oriented commercial stations.

According to the piece in Wired:

"At this point, most people probably know that many radio stations are programmed by centralized computers rather than DJs cuing up each track from vinyl or CD. Indie musicians have been at a disadvantage when it comes to delivering music to larger stations that operate like this, because the major labels use something called Digital Media Distribution System (DMDS) to send new tracks to stations digitally and securely (to minimize leaks). If you work at a radio station with this system in place, you're less likely to open brown padded envelops from indie bands and integrate them into your playlists."

The folks at FMC argue that in addition to the method of distribution, payola is also another factor hurting indie artists who are seeking commercial airplay. In discussing the article FMC writes:

"That's not the only reason indie musicians have had difficulty getting on the corporate airwaves. Payola, both institutional and in-your-face, has made it near-impossible for anyone but the best financed (and ethically compromised) musicians and labels to breach the commercial radio wall. Even when compelled by the FCC to air independent acts, massive radio conglomerates have tried to require artists to sign away their rights to digital royalties in exchange for airplay consideration. FMC exposed such behavior by Clear Channel in a series of blog posts last year.

According to Wired, a company called Yangaroo (which also services major labels) is now offering an indie-centric version of its DMDS technology. The general understanding is that most folks at commercial radio are loathe to open padded brown envelopes, so digital delivery could result in more spins for the indies."

When I was a Noise Pop recently a college radio music director mentioned that he still preferred getting music in the mail (vs. digitally), so the padded envelope is certainly not dead yet in some quarters.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Most Popular College Stations? (According to Princeton Review)

Among the many ratings on Princeton Review is a list of 2008's most popular college radio stations based on student surveys at 366 colleges (from The Best 366 Colleges publication). A number of institutions have taken issue with Princeton Review surveys for their questionable methodology and the college radio ranking is definitely problematic. Don't get me wrong, there are awesome stations on the list, but there's no way that this survey could really tell you which stations are most popular.

For one thing, quite often amazing college radio stations are unknown to students on campus, so it's hard to know how to interpret these ratings. Also, extremely popular stations may not even have a high percentage of student listeners, so the ratings don't capture the most popular stations in the country. There are also questions about the credibility of the survey, as an article in The Bona Venture points out:

"Last year's survey ranked St. Bonaventure's radio station, WSBU-FM 88.3 The Buzz, the No. 1 Best College Radio Station. [Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication] Wilkins said he wondered how many people from other campuses have even listened to The Buzz. The question on the survey that determines the No. 1 Best College Radio Station is 'How popular is the college radio station?' according to the press release. Wilkins said the survey does not ask if you have heard a better one from another campus. The system of measurement is how many 'very popular' responses they get. The more people who volunteer to do the survey, the higher on the list it will appear. He said it is not based on actual talent, just participation."

Another article discusses inconsistencies in how students are recruited to take the survey and states that survey takers can even be somewhat pre-selected by schools. It also mentions that the average number of survey takers per school is only about 300. By the way, any student can take the survey online as long as one has a valid school-issued email address.

With those caveats in mind, according to Princeton Review, the most popular college radio stations are at the following colleges (the ratings don't specify a specific station when multiple stations exist on a campus):

1. St. Bonaventure University (WSBU-88.3 FM, St. Bonaventure, New York)
2. Emerson College (WERS 88.9FM and WECB, Boston, Massachusetts)
3. DePauw University (WGRE 91.5 FM, Greencastle, Indiana)
4. Ithaca College (WICB 91.7 FM and VIC Radio, Ithaca, New York)
5. Brown University (BSR 88.1 FM and WBRU 95.5 FM, Providence, RI)
6. Guilford College (WQFS 90.9 FM, Greensboro, North Carolina)
7. Seton Hall University (WSOU 89.5 FM, South Orange, New Jersey)
8. Knox College (WVKC 90.7 FM, Galesburg, Illinois)
9. University of Puget Sound (KUPS 90.1 FM Tacoma, Washington)
10. Howard University (WHUR 96.3 FM & WHBC 830 AM, Washington D.C.)
11. Carleton College (KRLX 88.1 FM, Northfield, Minnesota)
12. Whitman College (KWCW 90.5 FM, Walla Walla, Washington)
13. Evergreen State College (KAOS 89.3 FM, Olympia, Washington)
14. Reed College (KRRC 97.9 FM, Portland, Oregon)
15. Alfred University (WALF 89.7 FM, Alfred, New York)
16. Skidmore College (WSPN 91.1 FM, Saratoga Springs, New York)
17. Swarthmore College (WSRN 91.5 FM, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania)
18. Manhattanville College (WMVL 88.1 FM, Purchase, New York)
19. Bates College (WRBC 91.5 FM, Lewiston, Maine)
20. Denison University (WDUB 91.1 FM, Granville, Ohio)

Related to this list, New Music Nation writes a column called College Radio Buzz where they compile playlists from the websites of various college radio stations. A post this week highlights playlists and features from stations from the Princeton Review list of top stations.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

From Gaspipes to Websites: College Radio History Project at Brown

I'm enjoying reading about the history of college radio on various campuses and was impressed by the audio documentary project From Gaspipes to Websites, produced by students at Brown University in 2007 about the history of college radio there. The 60-minute documentary covers the years 1936 through 2006 and is broken down into shorter sections that can be downloaded for free.

On the website you can also view some amazing vintage college radio photos and there's an opportunity for alumni to share stories from stations WBRU and BSR.

BSR is in an interesting situation today as they only broadcast from 7pm-5am on WELH 88.1FM, whose airwaves they share with 3 other organizations. They're currently working on getting their own all-day license. According to BSR's website:

"BSR currently broadcasts on 88.1FM, WELH in Providence, RI. The signal is 150 watts at 100 ft AAT, and is owned by the Wheeler School in Providence. The tower itself lives in Seekonk, MA. BSR is on the air from 7PM-5AM, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We share the WELH airwaves with Spanish-language programming in the mornings (Exitos 88.1), the Wheeler School's jazz and soul music programming in the afternoons, and New England Tech's broadcasting school's programming on Sunday mornings. This all makes for a very different listening experience depending on when you turn your radio on.

BSR has been looking for a new home on the radio dial almost since it began broadcasting. We applied for a Low-Power FM (LPFM) license on 96.5FM in Providence in 2000 along with many other applicants. We are still working through that process. To read more about LPFM and why it's important for radio, check out the Prometheus Radio Project. We are also always exploring other possibilities for having our own 24-hour a day license."

Wow...that's a really complex broadcasting arrangement. I wish them luck getting their own license!

College DJ Loses Show Over Raunchy Antics

College radio station WMSC 90.3 FM at Montclair State University in New Jersey faces possible FCC fines after alleged illicit activity from the station made its way online. According to the AP story on

"[Randy] Rogers and a fellow DJ, who calls himself Jay Jay Smooth, are under investigation by the university for a show on WMSC-FM that may have included naked women, lap dancing and other sex acts. The show was pulled from the air this week when videos, apparently from a February event called the Kinky Olympics, surfaced online showing raunchy activities that may have occurred inside the college-owned studio...Minne Ho, a university spokeswoman, said the students may face expulsion from the school and the station could face fines from the Federal Communications Commission."

The DJ involved plans to continue a tamer version of his show online. It always strikes me as annoying and selfish when DJs put their stations at risk for FCC fines, since expensive fines can cripple low-budget college radio and jeopardize a station's future. I'm sympathetic to things that are FCC gray areas (and there are many, including playing specific song lyrics and dirty words), but if these allegations are true, this DJ was doing things that clearly fit into the banned indecency/obscenity categories. From the station's online schedule it looks like the show aired from 7-10pm, typically not considered "safe harbor" for more salacious material.

The article also mentions that:

"The school also is considering plans to remove control of the radio station from the student government and place it under the control of an independent board...Earlier this year, university administrators moved to separate the school's student newspaper from its student government after the Student Government Association cut off funding for the paper after a dispute over articles critical of closed meetings."

I can't believe this stuff about the Student Government's interference in campus media. I wonder what their involvement with the radio station has been?

You can read about the history of freeform station WMSC (originally WVMS) on Wikipedia, including the story of a 27-hour broadcast they did on WFMU in 1967 in order to gain more exposure for the station.

College-Run Record Labels as New College Radio? (for Music Industry Hopefuls)

Over on Joe Taylor reflects about college radio (and gives another shout-out to the beloved graveyard shift) and how its role as a starting point for future music biz professionals is changing. He writes:

"When I was in school — and I did have to walk uphill in the snow to get to class, so get off my lawn — the campus radio station was where you had to be if you wanted a career in the music business...These days, with online broadcasting, blogs, and podcasts, it seems like college radio is a ghost town at most schools. As an advisor to students at the University of Pennsylvania for a number of years, I watched it get harder and harder to attract talented students to volunteer radio gigs. After all, who wants to slog through a 3a-7a overnight shift — the radio industry’s unique form of hazing — when you can just whip an hour-long podcast together in about ten minutes using GarageBand?"

Certainly this is another challenge that college radio faces. He goes on to discuss the success of college-run record label Mad Dragon Records at Drexel University, as a point of contrast to college radio in terms of prepping students for careers in music:

"If you’re an enterprising university official, and you want to create a greenhouse for future music business professionals, applying the campus media model to a working record label is a daring and effective move. It’s what Drexel University did in 2003, as a logical progression to an informal growth of music business activity on that campus."

Definitely a cool project!

WXCU on XMU's Student Exchange Today

Another Internet-only college radio station was featured on the satellite radio program XMU "Student Exchange" today ("putting the you in XMU..."). Today's 2-hour show was curated by WXCU from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, which has the distinction of being named "Best Student-Run Internet Only Station" by CMJ last fall.

I caught the first half hour of the show (my favorite track was the Black Lips song) and here's the playlist:

Sea Wolf - "Black Dirt"
The Raveonettes - "With My Eyes Closed"
Jason Collett - "Out of Time"
The Kills - "U.R.A. Fever"
Black Lips - "Bad Kids"
Imani Coppola - "Raindrops from the Sun"
Silversun Pickup - "Rusted Wheel"
The Gutter Twins - "Bete Noire"

Does anyone know who's up next week on the show?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

University of Tennessee and Michigan State Snag Regional College Radio Awards

There are lots of opportunities to be named college radio station of the year by critics, journalism associations, music-related organizations, publications, and fans. Here are a few recent regional awards:

WUTM-FM (University of Tennessee at Martin)
University of Tennessee at Martin's WUTM named "Best College Radio Station" at the Southeastern Journalism Conference. According to the article in The Pacer:

"UTM is now home to the Best College Radio Station. WUTM 90.3 took first place in the competition of the same name in the Best of the South competition at this year's Southeastern Journalism Conference."

WDBM-FM (Michigan State University)

Another college station of the year is Michigan State's WDBM-FM. Michigan Association of Broadcasters and Broadcast Music Incorporated named the University’s WDBM-FM college radio station of the year.

"More commonly known as 'Impact 89,' you can find WDBM-FM at 88.9 on the FM dial or streaming live on the Web here. About 120 students work at the station, which features daily newscasts, talk shows and music shows like Global Sounds, as well as podcasts like MSU Today and Spartan Sports Wrap. WDBM also produces Governor Granholm’s weekly radio address and podcast, which is distributed to stations across Michigan through a partnership with the Michigan Association of Broadcasters." And...."It was also the first college station in the nation to broadcast in HD — a milestone it tackled back in October 2004."

And I was just wondering about college radio and HD... Additionally, WDBM's staff blog is kind of fun and has reports from their trip to Austin for SXSW this week.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Update on Canadian Station CKMS's Budget Woes

A few weeks ago I wrote about Canadian college radio station CKMS (University of Waterloo), which is losing 90% of its funding after students voted to end a $5.50 per term fee. The station recently held a meeting with students about the future of the station and sadly more station members than students showed up! Imprint Online provides a recap of that session. According to the article:

"The student body voted 2280 – 1081 to remove the $5.50 per term fee which provided 90 per cent of CKMS’s funding. The vote could reflect students’ potential issues with the radio station, such as the relatively low broadcast signal strength or the distance to the CKMS office from the main campus. To combat these issues, [CKMS General Manager] Majury has a number of ideas in place to improve the visibility and accesibility of the station for students, including the repositioning of the antenna to higher ground in an attempt to improve signal quality and reception in the tougher to reach spots on campus, and to avoid problems of losing the station’s signal behind large buildings.

The internet is an option for the underfunded broadcaster. The station already operates an online streaming feed through its website, but Majury hopes to encourage its volunteers to start releasing podcasts, a wise move for a campus blanketed with iPods and MP3 players instead of old-fashioned radios."

Ah, the old-fashioned radio as relic on college campuses...or is it?

On their website, CKMS clears up some misconceptions about the fee referendum and is also seeking letters of support from listeners. They point out:

"The actual vulnerability of campus radio is exemplified by the actions of this particular student government but even this can become a positive evolution in the protection of valuable local media resources."

San Antonio College Station Converting to HD

San Antonio College radio station KSYM-90.1 FM is working on a switch to high-definition programming. According to a piece in The Ranger:

"After 42 years of an analog FM signal, KSYM is upgrading to a new high-definition sound...Converting to an HD signal allows AM frequencies to sound more like FM frequencies, and KSYM's FM signal is expected to sound as good as a CD. HD gets rid of the static and popping that interferes with the listening experience."

The article continues:

"...[station manager] Onderdonk said that KSYM will buy the license from iBiquity before the June 30 deadline to avoid an extra $10,000 fee. However, he is not sure when KSYM will actually convert to high definition because the change requires purchasing equipment and software that could cost upwards of $100,000.

According to, some colleges in Texas that have switched are Texas A&M University in Commerce and Bryan-College Station, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, University of Houston and University of Texas at Austin and El Paso."

I'm kind of amazed that there are college stations upgrading to HD considering the tremendous costs associated with it. I gather it must be a multi-step process with incremental costs along the way. If you're at a station considering the conversion to HD, I'd love to hear about the process, advantages, disadvantages, etc. By the way, you can find a list of radio stations broadcasting in HD here.

Clemson Radio Station Turns 50 and Shares Its History

It's great to keep reading stories about college stations that are still thriving, including 50-year-old WSBF-88.1FM (Clemson University, South Carolina), which is profiled in an article in the Anderson-Independent Mail today. According to the piece:

"WSBF started in 1958 with music peppered with sports and news coverage specific to Clemson. Over the years, that focus went to music-only and playlists ranged from country and show tunes to hard rock and, eventually, Top 40 fare.

Music aside, it’s the technology that has shifted most, even in just eight years.

'To give you an idea, when I arrived in fall of 2000, we were still paper-logging the songs we played,' said David Larson, former WSBF general manager and current professor of engineering at Clemson. 'Now, we offer the entire station on the Web, we put together podcasts, we have a fully functioning recording studio on site and everything is electronic. Much of that has happened in the last five years, even.'"

I had a feeling that paper playlists were still in use until very recently! The piece goes on to describe the station's programming as emphasizing independent music:

"Whatever the students think, is best is the format taken...that meant alternative and punk music in the mid-‘80s, rap in the ‘90s and, as the new millennium arrived, a shift to an independent music scene...Weekly shows delve into progressive rock of the '60s and '70s, '90s-era punk, heavy metal, upcoming artists with funked-out beats and even a little sports and news."

More college stations are reaching out to alumni and one of the coolest things I've seen thus far is the history section on WSBF's website that includes stories from the station's past submitted by alums and a page full of alumni bios. This is a great way to capture tales from former DJs and I'd love to see that kind of feature on more radio station websites.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Student Radio Stations in UK Collaborate for Charities

It's great to read about student radio stations banding together for a good cause...and that's exactly what's happening this week in the UK. A piece in the Norwich Evening News 24 describes the event, in which 14 participating college radio stations are fundraising for The Mental Health Foundation, Shortwave Radio Africa, and Media For Development.

According to the Hearing Aid website:

"In March 2008 the Student Radio Association presents Hearing Aid - the biggest united effort in the history of UK student radio. From Edinburgh to Exeter, stations up and down the country will join together to raise a huge amount of money for projects in the UK and Africa that use media to change people's lives."

By the way, the Student Radio Association is a great resource for learning more about college radio in the UK. Their website has a directory of member stations, information on music and labels, and details about their upcoming conference and other events. They also compile a weekly Student Radio chart (and do a related "chart" show syndicated to college stations), probably similar to a CMJ chart consolidating "tops" lists from member stations.

In describing the new Student Radio Chart show, the website states:

"The student demographic is an incredibly important, influential and trend-setting market, and the Student Radio Chart Show will bring a new, fresh and alternative line-up of established and brand-new musical talents to the attention of UK music-lovers.

A spokesperson for the Student Radio Association stated: 'This is an incredibly exciting time for the student radio community in the United Kingdom. Despite the huge number of student radio alumni working in influential positions within the UK's media industry, and over 70 student radio stations in the UK, public appreciation for the importance of student radio is incomparable to that of America or Europe, for example. The Student Radio Chart Show will not only improve this situation, but more importantly provide an outlet for music selected by the student population that does not always find a place on existing UK chart shows'."

This is an interesting perspective that college radio is not as well-known or regarded in the UK as it is in America. Even though college radio may be held in higher regard in the U.S., it certainly has its share of challenges, particularly concerning funding, student participation, and attracting student listeners.

Spinitron's Online Playlist Service for Non-Commercial Radio

I'm starting to find a few sources for college radio playlists (beyond looking at individual station websites). One resource is an online playlist service for non-commercial radio stations called Spinitron. On Spinitron's website, you can view public playlists for a variety of the stations using the service (17 are listed today, with a good percentage in the Massachusetts/New England area).

I spent years and years in college radio writing paper playlists, so it was truly revolutionary for me when I joined a station in the late 1990s with a computerized playlist system for tracking what one has played. It's a huge time saver and makes calculating "tops" lists (and reporting to trade pubs) so much easier. Back in the 80s and mid-1990s I was responsible for tallying paper playlists at the college stations where I worked and it was a laborious chore, but was the only way to come up with our "tops" lists for CMJ and record labels. To think that MDs rarely have to tally paper playlists anymore. Ah, technology!

I wonder, do most college stations have their record libraries cataloged on computer systems now? If not, do any of you still keep track of music played on paper playlists?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Canadian "Indies" Awarded

Canadian Music Week wrapped up over the weekend, concluding with their 8th Annual Independent Music Awards ("The Indies"). Winners included Feist, 3 Inches of Blood, The New Pornographers and Radiohead.

Here are a few reviews:

Canadian Music Week 2008 Blog (CBC)
"The awards themselves...kind of defied logic. I’m not entirely sure who votes on the Indies, but while there were a few obvious winners (Feist! Feist! Feist!), I’m baffled by how blonde-and-toothy Suzie McNeil beat out worthy contenders (eclectic indie rockers Miracle Fortress and Young Galaxy, as well as hugely popular emo heartthrobs Faber Drive) for Favourite Pop Artist. And what stars aligned in the Generic Rock Universe to result in alt-rock band State of Shock walking away with Favourite Single honours over Arcade Fire, David Usher, Feist and Major Maker?..."

CWM 08: the Indies @ the Royal York Hotel (Blog TO)
"...awards were handed out in every category from Favourite Metal Artist (3 Inches of Blood) to Favourite Children's Artist (The Smudge Fundaes)..."

CMW Club Crawl: Saturday (Eye Weekly)
"...does it not seem a bit counter-intuitive to hold the Independent Music Awards (aka the Indies) in a place where beers are $7.50? Still, as wedding reception-esque and tragically well-lit as it may have seemed, the Royal York’s Canadian Room felt like an honest-to-goodness award show on Saturday night. The backstage was like a copy of Exclaim! come to life, albeit with an abundance of offensively Hendrix-ian energy drinks and one ever-smiling Miss Canada."

Public Radio Drama after Failed KAZU, KUSP Merger

There's been a lot of chatter lately about public radio affiliates KAZU-FM and KUSP-FM in the Santa Cruz/Monterey area in light of their proposed merger that subsequently fell through and what that will mean since they will be competing public radio stations. Today there's a guest commentary in The Monterey Herald from Jack Jewett (an official at CSU-Monterey Bay). He writes:

"Thanks to a widening audience of listeners and growing financial support, KAZU-FM radio has momentum and a very promising future.

A decision last month to maintain the public radio station's independent status was accompanied by a plan to move it from its current home in Pacific Grove onto the CSU-Monterey Bay campus, where it can become an even greater community and educational asset.

In light of recent discussion about KAZU and its fellow public radio station, KUSP in Santa Cruz, our university seeks to underscore both its strong belief in KAZU's prospects for even greater success and a core commitment to serve the Monterey Bay region through broadcast news, information and entertainment."

He goes on to say:

"Some advocates of the proposed KAZU-KUSP alliance have sought to portray our foundation's position as part of a competitive struggle. This is not how the foundation board sees it. KAZU and KUSP can co-exist with distinct programming and different approaches to serving diverse audiences."

More on this story:

KAZU...and KUSP...Plan to Merge... (Monterey County Weekly, 9/6/07)
Urge to Merge (Monterey County Weekly, 2/21/08)
Public Radio Merger...Falls Through (, 2/28/08)
CSU Monterey Bay Rejects Proposal to Merge Public Radio Stations (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2/29/08)

Beauty and the Beatbox - College Radio Show Celebrates Women in Hip Hop

Females on the FM is a piece published on Diamondback Online today about college radio station WMUC-88.1FM (University of Maryland) and its female-oriented hip hop show. According to the article:

"From 12 to 2 a.m. Sundays, junior early education major Danielle Armstrong and junior African American studies major Cybille St. Aude host the 'Beauty & the Beatbox' radio show, the first all-female, all-hip-hop radio show on the campus. For the two friends, the show has one clear goal: getting women excited about hip-hop by playing music that they can listen to without being offended."

The show features female hip hop artists, along with music from a variety of genres. According to the article:

"The show appeals to its listeners by playing songs from lesser-known female artists; underground and independent male artists; oldies tracks; and old-school hip-hop, most of whose messages focus on the lyrical and narrative aspects of rapping as opposed to the bling-out and pimped-out messages often splashed across mainstream radio and MTV. On the duo's playlist now? Jean Grae, a South African-born artist who is 'just all about the music,' according to St. Aude; Run DMC, who Armstrong describes as an example of 'definitely the foundation of what we're trying to bring back;' and other varied artists such as Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest, Nina Simone and Earth Wind & Fire."

Sounds like a great concept!

KAMP's Funding up for Student Vote at University of Arizona

A student election at University of Arizona this week will have a big impact on college radio station KAMP. On the ballot is a "...$1 fee referendum that could determine the fate of KAMP Student Radio. The fee is used to support the general upkeep of KAMP, from paying for use of the studio in the Park Student Union to improving equipment and broadcast technology."

University of Arizona had no radio station until 1988 when KAMP was founded. According to KAMP's website:

"...KAMP is home to over 150 student volunteers and all genres of music. KAMP is broadcasting streaming live audio via internet through our website as well as on AM 1570. On-campus students can also access KAMP through closed-circuit television on Channel 20 and UATV (in between movies). KAMP is also broadcast live to the Park Student Union."

Let's hope the referendum is approved. I few weeks ago I wrote about a similar referendum in Canada that lost, leaving a station's fate uncertain.

Day in the Life of Maine's WMPG-FM

Here's a little "day in the life" piece from The Free Press about Maine college/community radio station WMPG-FM from the University of Southern Maine in Portland. From the article it's clear that the station has some long-time DJs, including one who's been at the station for 19 years. Another has a show that began as a talk-show for stay-at-home dads. It's a diverse schedule including '80s music, talk shows, indie, Vietnamese music, Latin music, gospel, and more. According to the article:

"WMGP is not exactly a college radio station. It sits on one edge of campus - the first of the white houses as you drive past the garage - but bumper stickers, t-shirts, banners and DJs all proudly proclaim it as southern Maine's community radio."

The author walks through part of the day profiling several DJs:

"John Dennison wanders in with a pile of records under his arm. He is happy to get behind the microphone for Soundscapes, his 'all-too-short' weekly music block. He's been kicking Soundscapes around, through various incarnations across different regions, since about 1979... Dennison has been working with radio since his teenage years, or 'the high of punk rock.' He has no qualms about using digital files, CDs, or cassettes, but records remain his favorite. 'I love being able to see the music laid out on the vinyl,' he says. He watches as Miles Davis' 'My Man's Gone Now' quiets down, and readies the Supertramp song 'Fool's Overture.' When finishes the changeover and pulls his hands off the board triumphantly. 'I had that segue in my head for a couple of days. It was just a matter of making sure it's not too abrupt.' Less than a minute later, the phone rings: an old friend listening online from Rochester, NY appreciated the transition."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dinosaurs and Robots Mixed Tape Radio

Here's a fun radio show concept---playing random mix tapes discovered at thrift stores and the like. Last Friday was the first show of Mixed Tape Radio and the set list certainly takes me back. The tracks were in ABC order just like a mystery mix tape that I have in my collection from the 1980s...hmmm...I didn't even know that was a trend. I'm a bit unclear as to whether or not this is just an online show or if it also aired on a college station, as they referenced Trenton College.

Dinosaurs and Robots Mixed Tape Radio explains the concept:

"Every Friday night, Dinosaurs and Robots will upload a dusty cassette mixed tape! Found at garage sales and junkyard glove boxes, mixed tapes provide all the voyeuristic thrills of reading somebody’s diary without the related ethical quandaries.

Tune in each week for a new exploration into heavy metal thunder road trips, teenage bedroom melancholy meltdowns, college radio clunkers, headbanger barf bag parties, glam rock glitter fests, industrial punch-your-lights-out rockers and the ill-advised tapes created by lovers soon to be spurned. Before collaborative filtering, music was hand selected for us by those who know us best."

Friday, March 7, 2008

South by Southwest Invasion includes Rachael Ray and College Radio Stations

Austin, Texas is jam-packed this week with musicians, marketers, label executives, music fans, tech geeks, film lovers, bloggers, and mainstream food queen Rachael Ray (see below!) in town for the huge South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, focusing on indie media. Radio stations also have a huge presence, with many out-of-town college and indie-oriented stations sponsoring parties and doing remote broadcasts (so those of us who can't make it to Austin will still be able to catch some of the action).

Some of the radio activity this week includes:

KVRX 91.7FM (college radio from University of Texas, Austin): Presenting several shows at SXSW

WFMU 91.1 FM (community radio from Jersey City, NJ): Hosting a WFMU anniversary party (and live broadcast) March 14th featuring an amazing lineup of bands including Half Japanese, Evangelista, Harvey Milk and more.

The Current 89.3 FM (Minnesota Public Radio): Live broadcasts from Free Yr Radio events scheduled for March 13th, 14th and 15th

NPR to webcast shows from SXSW: March 12th, 13th, and 14th including R.E.M., Yo La Tengo and Vampire Weekend

And, some NPR affiliates (including college stations) may broadcast the above concerts live or at a later date.

There will be a ton of press about SXSW from a variety of perspectives, so I'm including a few articles thus far:

Marketing POV (MediaPost's Marketing Daily)
Pissed-Off Texan POV:
"South by Southwest is little more than a corporate-sponsored circle-jerk for the well-off, their friends and their sycophants." (Daily Texan)
Hip Tech POV (Wired's Underwire)
Indie Cred Watch POV covering Rachael Ray's SXSW party controversy (

Pitchfork Launches Online Music Video Channel April 7th

Indie's all over the news today with SXSW, the Plug Awards and this posting about Pitchfork's expansion into video. Media Mapper discusses Pitchfork's plans for an online music video channel starting April 7th. Mikela writes:

"Pitchfork, the immensely popular music blog, is launching an online music channel to 'document independent music as it happens'. According to the site, the channel is in response to the decline of music-centric programming on music networks. While television attention is given to rock giants (Bono, anyone?), independent music often fails to receive similar creative attention. The rise of the Independent film channel, and general success of Independent films over the past years has proven that the American public is open to deviating from the mainstream, and, thanks to Pitchfork, indie music gets its own venue."

It makes a lot of sense to provide an indie-oriented video channel like this and I look forward to checking it out.

Plug Indie Music Winners Announced

The reviews are in...including this scathing account from Rolling Stone about last night's Plug Independent Music Awards. Kevin O'Donnell writes: "...industry insiders and indie-rock fans engaged in a night of back-slapping at the fourth annual ceremony, which recognized the best of independent music as chosen by an insular board of a few hundred tastemakers, industry folk, music fans and more."

Joe Pompeo from The New York Observer was more kind and made me feel jealous that he got to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (who now include Dirty Three's Warren!) and I didn't.

There's definitely an indie flavor to the awards, nominees and winners; although not everything fits my personal definition of independent. I was glad to see specific bands, record labels and radio stations nominated because I believe they are working hard with minimal resources. When it comes to radio, in January I wrote about the Plug Awards' college radio category and how all stations in it certainly aren't created equal in terms of indieness as the budgets and sources of funding for the nominated stations vary tremendously. With are the radio-related winners for 2008:

Online Radio Station of the Year: KCRW

College/Non-Commercial Radio Station of the Year: KEXP (they've won every year since 2005...and there should be no end in sight to this run since on March 24th they will expand their reach into NYC when they begin airing some programming in on public radio station Radio New York 91.5FM.)

Specialty Show of the Year-Commercial Radio: Sirius-Left of Center-Blog Radio (By the way, Live 105's "Radio Soundcheck," which I wrote about last week, was also up for this.)

The complete winners' list provides some interesting examples of indie-minded artists, record labels, record stores, publications, websites, and programming on commercial radio worth further investigation.

NME Moves into the U.S. as Its Indie Cred is Questioned

Stephen Dalton outlines the storied history of 56-year-old UK music publication NME in a piece from The Times today. Although the weekly NME magazine is seeing decreasing circulation numbers, the NME empire is planning to expand into the U.S. with a club tour in April and May, an awards show in L.A. April 23rd, and a radio channel coming this summer. The article also discusses critiques claiming the magazine has become too mainstream and corporate, criticism that no doubt every music publication has had to contend with. According to Dalton:

"With the demise of any real rock 'underground', plus fierce competition from online rivals and the FaceTubeMyBook boom, the magazine must adapt or die.

To many of its former readers - and writers - NME has sold out its 'soul' and 'edge' to corporate partners, such as the beer and hair-grooming companies that now sponsor its tours and awards ceremonies...

But commercial success does not equal cultural relevance, argues [former NME staff writer] Steven Wells. For him, NME's fatal error was sacrificing the 'rebellious, politicised, energised, anything-is-possiblism' of the post-punk era to become 'the house organ for indie, defined as unchallenging guitar music made by white suburban males'. The result, Wells claims, was 'cultural incest. A zoo animal eating its own dung is amusing for a while, but it gets tedious.'

Barney Hoskyns is another 1980s NME veteran, who now runs the online music journalism library, Rock's Back Pages. He is less critical of the magazine's current direction, claiming it had little choice but to become just another 'consumer lifestyle' publication.

'Rock is no longer counter-cultural, it's in the bloodstream of the new status quo,' Hoskyns argues. 'Coverage of rock is ubiquitous, therefore it no longer requires its own media ghettos. Rock writers have dumbed down, or at least played down, their own quirks and idiosyncrasies to accommodate the above'..."

It's certainly true that rock in general used to be the voice of the counterculture and that it's now very much the music of the establishment. Yet rock and all of its subgenres (indie included) are still often held to high standards by fans who are attracted to artists who seem real, authentic, and who don't appear to have "sold out." In light of that, you've also gotta love the quote from Steven Wells that adds yet another definition of indie to the ever-expanding list: "unchallenging guitar music made by white suburban males." Kind of harsh, but his argument reminds us that in 2008 the terms indie, alternative, and punk are often used to describe an aesthetic rather than a political or economic stance.

NY Student Encourages Gen Y to Explore College Radio

I just ran across this piece from the Fordham Observer about college radio, in which the author implores college student to check out student radio stations. Right on!

In "Lock Down your Aerial and Tune in to College Radio: Historically a Thriving Outlet for Independent Artists, Student-Run Stations Aren't Dead Yet," Jennifer Pelly writes:

"Does anyone remember the radio? At FCLC, a college without any sort of student-run station of its own (Rose Hill's WFUV is not student-run either), this is a legitimate question to ask. If we're leaving the airwaves in the dust, students at other colleges around the globe are remembering them for us-endless amounts of awesome student-run radio stations and shows are available to be streamed online, and they are a great way to discover new tunes, get a quick culture fix or a dose of music news and hear what other members of our generation within the college realm have to say.

There's no questioning that our generation's beloved blogosphere is growing exponentially at this very second. It is, however, worth questioning whether this fact is more positive than negative-even the unqualified and uninformed can blog about mindless topics. Student radio shows are similar to blogs on many levels but are often more refined and better developed; whereas anyone can start a blog, students have to prove themselves before they're given a show and can manipulate the airwaves.

Every once in a while, it pays to stop clicking around unedited rants on your web browser and start plugging in your headphones; try calling in and creating real dialogues rather than commenting anonymously. Listening to the radio may not be the most popular pastime of Gen Y culture, but checking out new shows and stations is definitely a better way to procrastinate than perusing Facebook. But not all radio shows or stations were created equal, so read on for a comprehensive list of sweet stations, and check out their individual Web sites for show schedules."

She gives brief synopses various college stations in New York, Boston, and the UK.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Good News on College Radio with Anniversaries and Station Upgrades

Some good news on the college radio front as several stations celebrate significant anniversaries and another has big plans for upgrades and expansion...

WSOU (Seton Hall, New Jersey) turns 60, plus more on WFMU
An article about radio from the NY Post,covers WFMU's anniversary and fundraiser and also includes details on the celebrations for the 60th birthday of Seton Hall's non-commercial radio station WSOU 89.5 FM.

WVUM (University of Miami) celebrates 40 years on air
Here's a profile of station WVUM 90.5 FM at University of Miami as it approaches its 40th anniversary. The station has music shows focused on hip hop, metal, jazz, prog rock, dark wave and classical. It also broadcasts many sporting events, sports talk shows and political talk shows.

WLNX (Lincoln College, Illinois) gets new digs
A piece about a media renaissance at Illinois' Lincoln College, with a new campus newspaper and a new home for campus radio station. According to the article, "The rebirth of the campus newspaper comes at a time of resurgence for student media at Lincoln College. Recently, the college’s radio station, WLNX, began broadcasting from a new location..."

WLNX plays alternative rock music and according to its website, operates like a commercial radio station, so it sounds like a training ground for future commercial DJs. There's an extensive history of this station on Wikipedia including details about their plans for upgrading.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Graveyard Shift as College Radio Rite of Passage

When I read Jon Fine's piece this week in BusinessWeek, "Requiem for Old-Time Radio," I was struck that it was the second reference that I'd seen this week to the lonely college radio graveyard shift. He writes:

"I remember what we now call 'terrestrial radio' with ridiculous fondness. I recall huddling with it long past bedtime, the volume set low, hoping to hear something I loved. Thus the truism of how radio is the most intimate medium: You're in bed with the lights out, the music and the DJ's voice going straight into your brain, the images created are yours alone. I remember, with terrible pangs of longing, my first days as a college radio DJ. Doing a 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. slot in a small town in Ohio, even if, during those still and wintry nights, I could have been the last living person on earth for all the people who were actually listening."

Did most of you college DJs out there begin DJing in the wee hours of the night? The graveyard shift seems to have become an iconic rite of passage in college radio. Unfortunately (?) I kind of missed out on it because when I was an undergraduate we had such a hard time finding people to participate in the station that we weren't able to broadcast 24 hours a day. first shifts were during daylight hours. Like the middle-of-the-night first-timers, I still wondered if anyone was listening and often they weren't.

Feel free to share you graveyard shift tales in the comments.

IASPM Conference in April Features Two College Radio Papers

I just received a preview of the program for the upcoming International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) conference taking place at University of Iowa April 25-27th. It's an amazing schedule of papers, including two related to college radio. Nick Rubin will present "'Your Better Alternative': College Radio Communities and the Popular Music Industry" and Brian Goedde is presenting his paper, "Selling College Radio in the Geographical Place and Conceptual Space of the University, the City, and Beyond."

The conference will cover a wide range of topics, including iPod Aesthetics, Religion and American Music, Bollywood, Jazz, Japanese Underground Hip Hop, Indie Metal, Opera in 19th Century Chicago, Myspace success stories, and indie music on television (to name a few topics). Having been to IASPM conferences before, I know that it's always a lot of fun and is definitely accessible to non-academics. There will be at least one film screening and a concert featuring The Mekons' Jon Langford and Sally Timms (who will both also be on hand for a plenary discussion about folk music and the public domain).

You can view the full schedule on the conference website.

Baseball and Indie Rock

I'm not really a sports fan, but I have to admit that I do pay attention when music is involved and was always intrigued to hear which themes songs are attached to particular players. In "The Narrowing Gap Between Indie Rock and Baseball," Bill Peters discusses how independent music is making its way into the soundtrack for Major League Baseball and baseball video games. He talks about how the indie-minded Pitchfork curated the sounds for the just-released MLB 2K8 videogame. His speculation about the implications of incorporating more and more underground music into baseball is just brilliant! He writes:

" the 2008 baseball season warms up, how weird and excellent would that be to see Gary Sheffield entering to Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'? Or if Justin Morneau approached the plate to the spooky-sounds-tape cave metal of Sunn O)))? Or if Alex Rodriguez entered to 'Negativland' by NEU! or 'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails. It could spread to commentators too. Chris Berman already used the 'This will change your life!' Shins reference from Garden State years ago. Hopefully, during a Touch 'Em All home-run roundup, he'll have a chance to use 'Man... or Astro-Manny!' before Manny Ramirez retires."

Which songs would you like to hear attached to your favorite players?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Richmond, Virginia's Wealth of Non-Commercial Radio Choices

A piece yesterday on "The State of Radio" provides an overview of the radio landscape (including commercial, non-commercial, satellite, and HD), specifically in Richmond, Virginia. The most interesting part of the article to me was the final section on non-commercial radio stations in the area. We're given a glimpse at indie-oriented community station WRIR, music-oriented public radio station WNRN and at two college radio stations. According to the piece:

"A couple of years ago, Richmond welcomed WRIR (97.3 FM), also known as Richmond Indie Radio. The station was quickly embraced for its eclectic programming that includes locally produced shows spotlighting music genres such as Cajun, bluegrass, honky-tonk, British oldies, industrial, indie and punk rock, techno and gospel (for a complete lineup, visit Also entering the market in 2005 was WNRN (103.1 FM)...The station (, like WRIR, offers alternative listening for genres including modern rock, folk, Celtic, bluegrass, ska and hip-hop. And, of course, college radio stations at University of Richmond (WDCE 90.1 FM) and Virginia Commonwealth University (WVCW, which streams at exist as a training ground for hopeful broadcasters."

Is Richmond unique? Or are there many cities with a wide variety of non-commercial radio options?

Radio UTD on XMU "Student Exchange" Yesterday

The most recent college radio station on satellite channel XMU's "Student Exchange" show was Internet-only Radio UTD from University of Texas at Dallas. They took over the airwaves for 2 hours yesterday playing the likes of Xiu Xiu, Makeup Club [correction: The Make Up] , Yacht, Mount Eerie, Huxtables, Crystal Castles and White Williams.

According to an article in the campus paper profiling Radio UTD's XMU gig:

"At 6 years old, Radio UTD is the youngest station ever chosen for the program, as well as the only one that doesn’t broadcast on FM radio...Radio UTD was nominated for best student-run radio Internet-only station in College Music Journal’s College Radio Awards two years in a row, which attracted XM Satellite Radio's attention."

UTD may have been the youngest station on the show, but they actually aren't the only non-FM station that's been featured since last week's "Student Exchange" station was Chico State University's Internet-only KCSC.

Does anyone know which station will be on the air this coming Sunday?

IBS Conference for College Radio in NYC this Week

The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) is a non-profit association for college radio that's been around since 1940. They will be holding their 68th convention March 7th-9th in New York City along with host stations WUSB 90.1 FM (Stony Brook University) and WFTU 1570AM (Five Towns College).

The convention is jam-packed with information for college radio station staff, with over a hundred workshops and sessions on topics ranging from nitty-gritty "how to" panels to more philosophical discussions of the future of radio and the music industry. Some highlights include conversations about community radio and low power FM (LPFM), social networking and college radio, satellite radio, HD radio, college radio and the presidential election, marketing and promotions, record company relations, indie labels, music-themed sessions on reggae, electronica, hip hop, rock, jazz, classical and Latin music, fundraising, engineering, how to do remote broadcasts, and aircheck critique sessions.

IBS has a lengthy history advocating for college radio. According to their website:

"...Intercollegiate Broadcasting System is a nonprofit association of mostly student-staffed radio stations... Over 1,000 IBS member-stations operate all sizes and types of facilities including Internet - Webcasting, closed-circuit, AM carrier-current, cable radio and FCC-licensed FM and AM stations. IBS was founded in 1940 by the originators of AM carrier-current campus college radio...Originally, most of the interest involved exchanging technical information...the interest evolved to include management, programming, funding, recruiting, training, and other operational and creative areas...When the FM broadcast band was shifted to its present band (88.1 - 107.9 MHz), IBS people were active in efforts to reserve a group of frequencies specifically for noncommercial educational use. The result was the creation of the reserved band (88.1 - 91.9 MHz) where most noncommercial stations are now located... "

If any of you are heading to IBS this week, please share your highlights in the comments section of this post.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Underground Music Panel in SF March 3rd

For you San Francisco folks, a discussion about underground music tomorrow night (Monday, March 3) at the Commonwealth Club could be pretty interesting. "The State of Music Today" will feature two of the founders of The Noise Pop Festival and a music writer/editor pontificating about indie music sounds and scenes in 2008 and beyond. According to the Commonwealth Club's website:

"Pop culture tells us that mainstream music is popular, and popular music is good. But what about the underground side of music that has such a huge influence on the industry? Terms like math rock, glam, hyphy and new grass permeate the scene. As music and sound continues to evolve, what will our time be remembered for? Which styles were just the flavor of the week, and which are here to stay? Who better to answer these questions than the artists and producers who are creating it? This panel of insiders sounds off on music in the 21st century."

If you make it to this panel, I'd love to get a report back about the discussion. Feel free to include your recap/reactions/insights in the comments section of this post.

Noise Pop Education Session Recap

Yesterday I attended the Noise Pop Education Session at the club 12 Galaxies in San Francisco and heard from musicians and music industry folks on the topics of "Promoting Your Band," "Careers in the Industry," "Starting Your Empire," and "How I Did It" (tales from musicians about their careers and definitions of success). As with the Noise Pop Festival in general, the panels were made up of people with "indie" leanings, including DJs, musicians, club bookers, tour promoters, and record labels.

A big theme of the day was the importance of working hard and paying one's dues in order to be a successful musician/writer/DJ/etc. Band members on the panel defined success not so much by industry trappings of record contracts and big money, but in terms of having a happy life and having the resources to make music and work with people they like. There was also a lot of talk about how the music biz is changing with online music distribution, social networking sites, and declining CD sales (and disappearing retail outlets).

College and commercial radio were discussed in the panels by Irwin Swirnoff, Music Director and DJ at University of San Francisco's station KUSF 90.3 FM and Aaron Axelsen, the Music Director at San Francisco commercial alternative station Live 105. KUSF's Swirnoff said that their station receives between 100 and 400 CDs in the mail every week (Live 105's Axelsen said he gets sent 500 CDs a week) from musicians seeking airplay and that at KUSF they listen to everything that is sent to them. Swirnoff also said that compared to many places their station is "...super old school...We still like vinyl."

It was interesting for me to hear from Aaron Axelsen as he seems like someone working in commercial radio who is passionate about music and still has some degree of control over the music that gets added to Live 105 and is played on his show. He said that he started working in local record stores when he was 16 and eventually started DJing at clubs and then began his career in the music biz through internships. He's been at Live 105 since 1995, when he was hired as an intern. He also started club night Popscene 12 years ago and is still managing that. Clearly he's someone in commercial radio who loves music and he seems to be aligned with a station that is in synch with his music taste. He's even able to do a 3-hour show on Sunday nights called "Radio Soundcheck" where he's playing indie, punk, local music, and imports (as well as major label stuff), which means that a handful of unsigned bands and indie label bands are getting commercial radio airplay. A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle did a nice profile on Axelsen and the role that "Radio Soundcheck" has played in introducing new bands.

In terms of the future of radio, Axelsen said that radio can survive by "adapting and evolving..." and gave examples of how his station accomplishes that by streaming multiple channels online and doing podcasts. He also mentioned that one of the ways that a band can get buzz (and potentially noticed by commercial radio?) is by getting college radio airplay. There are many examples of bands who've watched their audience grow on college radio before "moving on" to commercial success. Similarly, there are bands who are happy to remain underground and a portion of those have been very successful even if they don't get commercial airplay.

Minnesota Public Radio Station Emphasizes Indie Music

I have to be honest, I'm generally a college radio loyalist and don't spend much time listening to commercial or public radio. Yet I'm starting to realize that I may be missing out on some stations that are experimenting a bit more than I would expect.

The March/April issue of Utne Reader includes a profile of the relatively new Minneapolis/St. Paul public radio station KCMP 89.3 FM The Current, emphasizing its focus on indie music, something that isn't always a staple of public radio. The station actually had its beginnings as college radio station WCAL at St. Olaf College (a founding member of NPR that played mostly classical music in its final years), but was sold to Minnesota Public Radio in 2004 and relaunched as The Current in 2005. According to the article "Really Fresh Air":

"The freedom of DJs to program their own sets, song for song, is the clearest difference between the Current and its commercial-radio counterparts. As corporate-controlled stations of all formats have increasingly automated or templated their programming, the role of professional disc jockeys in sharing and promoting a sincere love for music has audibly diminished. By restoring a measure of faith in the DJ-as-passionate-tastemaker, the Current has attracted a new wave of listeners (and, ideally, paying members) to noncommercial radio."

Program Director Steve Nelson is quoted, saying:

"'Our aim is to play the best new music alongside that music’s roots and influences,' Nelson says, which nails it well enough, particularly if you appreciate the aesthetic kinship between Gram Parsons and Ryan Adams, Nina Simone and Feist, Public Enemy and TV on the Radio. 'It’s a little different from having your iPod on "shuffle," ' Nelson adds. 'We’re trying to be thoughtful about what we play. We’re all music lovers here.'"

It's refreshing to hear that there are some public stations with music philosophies similar to indie-minded college stations, but somewhat bittersweet in that its beginnings are linked to the demise of yet another college station.