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?

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