Monday, June 30, 2008

What Do Young People Want From Radio?

On the "Inside Music Media" blog, Jerry Del Colliano writes about some of his insights from a session that he did with a group of radio industry folks at last week's Conclave Learning Conference about the future of radio. He writes:

"Radio is disconnected from the youth demographic for many reasons:

1) They grew up without the love of radio and had an alternative that they pioneered -- the Internet. They've moved on. Consolidation helped radio take its eye off the next generation.

2) They are more mobile and interactive than their elders -- and a Walkman is so Eighties to them.

3) What they really want, radio execs would choke on.

What is that?

• Djs who play their own music -- not corporate or station playlists (I know, I know -- it won't work. It never does. Tight playlists and repetition win out in the end. Bla Bla Bla). No, this Gen Y audience means it.

• Fewer commercials and better commercials..."

Oh yes, this post is another potential plug for the virtues and solid future of college radio, since many DJs do control their playlists and many stations are commercial-free.

What do you think? Are youth more connected with college radio than with commercial radio?

Radio UTD Profile...speaking of XMU

University of Texas-Dallas's Internet-only radio station Radio UTD, was profiled last week in their student newspaper. The piece specifically covers their appearances on satellite radio station XMU's "Student Exchange Show" and gives a bit of insight about the process. According to the article:

"Station manager Natalia Zuniga, an arts and technology senior, and summer music director Chris Ostlund, a molecular biology senior, have already produced three shows for the indie-oriented XMU station (Channel 43), which aired March 2, May 25 and June 15.

To create a show, Zuniga and Ostlund select tracks for a playlist, then record multiple takes of the introduction, song identifications and conversation in the radio station, located in the Student Union. Luke McKenzie, Radio UTD systems administrator, then assembles the pieces into a show.

They work without a script; some takes come out smoothly, while a few end in flubs and fits of laughter. Zuniga and Ostlund keep recording until they're confident they have a polished product."

It's interesting to note that Radio UTD is actually off the air over the summer, so their XMU gigs are the only chance to hear "the station" until the fall. The next Radio UTD appearance on XMU will be on Sunday, July 20th.

WERS Playlist from Yesterday's XMU Student Exchange Show

Yesterday Emerson College station WERS was again on the XMU "Student Exchange Show." I just starting getting the XMU "Top 30" list and noticed that 7 of the top 30 XMU artists this week are featured on this WERS playlist (My Morning Jacket, Spiritualized, Black Keys, M83, Jamie Lidell, Fleet Foxes, Raconteurs). Now I'm curious to see each week how closely the guest radio station playlists mirror the top hits of the station.

Coming up this Sunday, July 6th (1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern time) will be Capital University's WXCU.

Here's the WERS playlist from yesterday's show:

WERS – Emerson College
XMU "Student Exchange Show" playlist

My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges – Evil Urges
Atmosphere – Puppets – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold
Animal Collective – Water Curses – Water Curses
Eli "Paperboy" Reed – The Satisfier – Roll With You

Wolf Parade – Language City – At Mount Zoomer
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
Jim Noir – What You Gonna Do – Jim Noir
Spiritualized – Yeah Yeah – Songs In A&E

DeVotchKa – Transliterator – A Mad and Faithful Telling
Plants and Animals – Feedback In The Field – Parc Avenue
Atlas Sound – Quarantined – Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
The Black Keys – I Got Mine – Attack & Release

Lykke Li – Little Bit – Little Bit EP
Dr. Dog – The Breeze – Fate
M83 – Skin of the Night – Saturdays=Youth
Yeasayer – 2080 – All Hour Cymbals

The Raconteurs – Old Enough – Consolers of the Lonely
Born Ruffians – I Need A Life – Red, Yellow and Blue
Jamie Lidell – Little Bit of Feed Good – Jim
Grizzly Bear – Little Brother (Electric Version) – Friend EP

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Today’s Lesson – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers – Ballad of a Thin Man – I’m Not There OST
The Dirty Projectors – Rise Above – Rise Above

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin College Radio Memory

It was sad to hear that comedian George Carlin died this week. I remember listening to him with my parents when I was young and the one routine that sticks in my head was about gross things in the back of the refrigerator, containing the great line "could be meat, could be cake...meat cake." many who've been in college radio, George Carlin will forever be immortalized in my mind for the seven dirty words that were said out loud (but never over the air) repeatedly during radio training classes for my FCC license (back in the day when individual DJs needed licenses). Some of those words are now heard on broadcast TV, but still feel like "no no's" to me since they're on that list that I've had ingrained in my head for so many years thanks to Mr. Carlin.

So, it was kind of cool to find this blog post from a guy who remembered hearing George Carlin on his campus-only college radio station.

Rags writes:

"I bought his debut album, for which he received the Grammy (and on his second elpee you can hear his reaction as that performance was taped for that album, interrupting the routine that would later get him to the Supreme Court) and went to see him with Sally Mary Atkins with whom I was madly in love for a semester while I was at Rutgers and she went to Boston College. Actually we didn't see him in the student center in New Brunswick because the performance was sold out ten times over but the campus radio station, WRSU-FM, and its program director, my classmate Bob Berman, received permission to 'broadcast' it through the university's buildings (the radio station had no transmitters nor license so there was never a danger children might hear George say words on the radio that their parent said during arguments in their living rooms. Thank goodness!)."

Do you have any George Carlin radio memories? Does your station still ban the same 7 words from his famous routine?

Monday, June 23, 2008

WVAU Playlist from XMU's Student Exchange Show

The most recent college radio station to appear on the XMU radio show "The Student Exchange Show" was American University station WVAU on yesterday's show. They've been on the show before, and you can see a previous playlist from May here.

Coming up next Sunday June 29th (1pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern time) is Emerson College station WERS.

WVAU on "The Student Exchange Show"
6/22/2008 Playlist

Danger – 11H30 – 9/14 2007 EP
Tunng – Bullets – Good Arrows
The Helio Sequence – You Can Come To Me – Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Ladytron – Runaway – Velocifero
Death Cab for Cutie – No Sunlight – Narrow Stairs
These New Puritans – Elvis – Beat Pyramid

E.S.L. – Prove Me Wrong – Eye Contact
Matt Pond PA – So Much Trouble – Several Arrows Later
Portugal. The Man. – Gold Fronts - Waiter: "You Vultures!"
!!! - Leggy Blonde – Yadnus – Myth Takes
Tokyo Police Club – Your English is Good – Elephant Shell

Setting Sun – How Long – Children of the Wild
Charades - On Thursday the 12th – The Lydia Albright EP
Radiohead – No Surprises – OK Computer
Iron & Wine – Woman King – Woman King
Bishop Allen – Rain – The Broken String
Neutral Milk Hotel – Aeroplane Over the Sea – In The Aeroplane Over the Sea

The Decemberists – July! July! - Castaways and Cutouts
Minus the Bear – Houston, We Have an Uh-Oh – In Honor: A Compilation To Beat Cancer
Eskimo Joe – New York – Black Fingernails, Red Wine
Vampire Weekend - Mansford Roof – Vampire Weekend
Justice – Waters of Nazareth - †

Thursday, June 19, 2008

College Radio DJs Obnoxious, Vacuous and Self-Important?

It's funny, I hear that in radio what draws in the listener is often the over-the-top DJ personality. In college radio we often mock that and many DJs respond by having a mellower on-air persona. A former college radio DJ wrote on his blog World Without End about a variety of things he can't stand, including radio DJs. He writes:

"There are
maybe two or three voices on KCRW that don't make me want to jam a ball pein hammer through my temples (Tom Schnabel and Chris Douridas are the only ones that come quickly to mind), but I can't name a single other radio DJ on that station or any other that I can even kinda stand. What I fail to understand is how folks with such grating, irritating, awful voices and personalities get hired to speak on the air. Even more surprising to me is that people listen! I was a DJ on my college radio station for three years, and when I was on the air, I tried to speak as little as possible. I even avoided the legally required station IDs a lot of the time. Partly because my show was on early in the morning and I was tired, but also because radio DJs (even, almost especially, college radio DJs) are too often obnoxious, vacuous, and self-important. And that, Gentle Reader, I cannot get behind."

What do you think? Do college DJs take themselves too seriously? Are we all obnoxious, vacuous and self-important? I agree that there are some that I can't stand, but I have many favorite college radio DJs on a number of different stations who I think do a fine job without being obnoxious or cheesy.

A few items on College Radio Funding

I ran across a few articles about college radio station funding, including a piece about the Arizona station KAMP that had a positive outcome with a student referendum vote, but still must gain approval at an upcoming Board of Regents meeting. Also, University of Utah station KUTE-AM got some extra cash from the university after simply making a pitch--that's kind of inspiring! They are in the midst of updating their website and figuring out new call letters, as they found out KUTE was taken by another station.

Multi-Media Radio Coming to University of Wisconsin-Stout

Because of changing technology, there are some very interesting opportunities for college radio stations that embrace the many possibilities of the Internet, audio, video, and social networking.

University of Wisconsin-Stout has a new radio venture premiering September 3rd. According to an article in the Dunn County News:

"Student president of the new organization, Ian Itow, explained that the effort is 'more like podcast, or a Stout-cast: the ability to cast multimedia out to the Internet. It will have the ability to not just do radio, but video and any other multimedia tool that comes in the future going out to the Internet.'

In recent history, a campus radio signal was made available with audio-only programming generated from the CKTO dorm facility. The signal is modulated and routed around campus via the cable TV feed as Channel 20. It primarily features music and is fairly limited compared to the new radio/media vision."

Some of the dreams of the organizers include having an expanded presence on Facebook, MySpace, and Second Life. According to the article:

"[UW-Stout's Radio Vice President, Matt] Kaskavitch added, 'If we can gather a couple thousand people on Facebook, that information gets disseminated so fast it is incredible. Everyone on campus — and this is a given — spends hours and hours on Facebook. We are also experimenting with blogging and podcasts, and when these are combined with Facebook, you have just communicated with 2,000 people instantly.'"

Does your college radio station augment its broadcast with other offerings, like blogs, video and podcasts? Do you communicate with listeners using Facebook and MySpace? Is your station on Second Life?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Radio UTD on XMU Student Exchange Yesterday

Yesterday I actually was able to listen to the majority of XMU's Student Exchange Show, which this week featured Radio UTD (which has appeared on the show many times) from University of Texas-Dallas.

It was a team show this week, hosted by Natalia and Chris and I was impressed by the diverse selection of music, including bands that I love like Deerhoof, Mirah, and Wire.

Coming up this Sunday, June 22nd (1pm Pacific, 4pm Eastern time) on The Student Exchange is American University radio station WVAU.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

WICB DJ's Radio Show Diary

Today a DJ at the Ithaca College radio station WICB-FM did a blog post where he wrote a play-by-play of his entire radio show. I love this concept and am impressed that he had the time to write about what was going on while he went about the business of doing a show. What with picking music, cueing music, answering the phone, doing mic breaks, filling out logs, reading PSAs and filing music a radio show can be pretty hectic. Read on to find out how he has the time!

Here's a small tidbit from Rob's post called DJing Diary:

"Alright, I'm DJing for 2 hours today. Here's my running diary...

3:12- Not a ton going on today at the studio. There was a live remote from a dairy festival earlier, but it was a bit out of place for us modern rockers. Oh well. Next up is a new song from the Ting Tings, and it is guaranteed to be stuck in my head for the next four to five hours."

He also explains how he has the time to keep this diary, saying:

"3:17- I believe this diary will make it clear that DJing is a very slow job. Yea, it's fun, but slow. Lots of hurry up and wait, because you talk, play 12 minutes of music, then talk again. And now that it's all computerized, there's even less work to do..."

Take a look at his complete post to read about the deserted college campus, creepy callers, the computerized system they use to play music, his self-critiques, and feedback on some of the music he's playing.

WSOU Music Director Profile on CMJ

As part of their ongoing series of interviews with folks in the music biz, CMJ added another college radio Music Director profile to their roster this week.

Leanne Kohlbecker, Music Director of college radio station WSOU-FM (Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey), was interviewed on the CMJ staff site and she talked about the station's lengthy history (they've been around since 1948), their 60th anniversary happenings (including on-air sets by former DJs, a big alumni dinner, and a concert), and their legacy these days for metal and rock music. In discussing the station format Leanne says:

"When the station first signed on the air in 1948, the music that was played was contemporary to its time. In the 1950's our now longest running specialty show, Polka Party, was established, and is still on the air today! We continue to play specialty community programming on the weekends. The station first started playing rock 'n' roll in the '60s. The hard rock format took shape in the '80s, and that is the format we are most notable for. [We're] FMQB magazine’s No. 1 Metal Station two years running. We just recently were named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Best Of Rock radio stations in the nation."

According to WSOU's website, the station format is "modern active rock." In reading their FAQs, it was interesting to read that some listeners find a disconnect between a Catholic university radio station playing primarily heavy metal music. Part of the response to the website FAQ "Why does the radio station at a Catholic University play heavy metal music? Isn’t it anti-religious?" was the following:

"All songs on WSOU are screened for content to ensure that lyrics do not undermine the mission and values of Seton Hall University or the Catholic Church. If a band or song isn’t appropriate for WSOU, we don’t play it."

I'm sure that most radio station Music Directors screen material for content, but I'd be curious to hear about how this works at other radio stations affiliated with religious institutions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

College Radio Stations' Role in Booking Shows on Campus

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, posted some advice on his blog for bands touring the "college market." He made an interesting point that the real music fans on campus are at the college radio station, not necessarily working in the organizations that fund and bring bands to campus. He writes:

"One thing to get straight: don’t confuse college radio with college gigs. The kids that run college radio are the real music fans. The ones deeply into music for music’s sake. But the ones with the big budgets for entertainment and activities are called the 'Student Activities Office'.

These are usually made up of the girls in pink sweaters who won the election for Class Treasurer in high school. (Think Reese Witherspoon in the movie 'Election'.) It’s a very play-it-safe environment because they want everyone (yes every last person) to be happy, so they can get re-elected.

This means that the Student Activities Office wants to hire the most fun, safe, lively, crowd-pleasing entertainment possible."

This characterization strikes me as a bit dismissive about women's taste in music...although, I'll give the author the benefit of a doubt that perhaps he just didn't have male pop culture reference that was as iconic as Reese. Regardless, I'm curious if this is true that those holding the "purse" strings for campus entertainment still have this conservative mentality.

Now, back when I was in college in the 1980s that didn't seem to be the case, although I was at a liberal arts school where we actually had funding for 2 different music series on campus: The New Music Series and the Alternative Concert series (if I remember correctly). Between the two, a wide range of interesting bands, artists, and performers were brought to campus (Feelies, Robyn Hitchcock with They Might Be Giants as the opener, Living Colour when they were a bar band, Jim Carroll, Aztec Camera, etc.) who were not considered the mainstream acts of the day. The guy who ran one of the series had a real ear for music and has gone on to be a well-known music booker/promoter in NYC, so, yeah, we were kind of lucky.

Now, in terms of college radio, I'd love to know if your station plays a big role in bringing bands to campus or if that's handled by other campus organizations? I know some stations put on their own festivals and showcases, which is pretty inspirational.

8-Tracks, 78s, and Energetic PD at KSCL

College radio station KSCL's blog is always chock full of intriguing tidbits about the Shreveport, Louisiana station and this week is no exception. First off they have a new website, with lots of fun features to come. Also, they recently did a station clean-up to make room for more music and found some old 8-tracks and 78s. I'd love to know what kinds of titles they found and if DJs will be able to play these items over the air.

KSCL's summer Program Director posted that as part of his duties he listens to every show that's on the air. He writes:

" the Summer Program Director I'm responsible for listening to all the shows and evaluating each DJ's performance...I'm lovin' it that we have such a full schedule. We have back-to-back shows on Sunday from noon to 2am. That's totally awesome, but it also means I'm going to be listening to the radio for 14 hours strait today. Heh, heh...."

Wow. That's dedication! Is this typical of college radio PDs or is KSCL's a superstar? Do the Program Directors at your station listen to every show that's on to offer critiques and advice? Does this happen every week or just when a new DJ is getting started?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Radio Camp for Kids and Teens at Community Radio Station KXCI

How cool is this, if you're a kid or teen in Arizona you can sign up for "Radio Camp" at community radio station KXCI 91.3 FM this summer. The week-long day camp teaches kid the ins and outs of radio broadcasting and culminates in the group running their own radio show.

If you're a radio-obsessed kid in Tucson, the teen class (week of June 23rd) has a few more slots and there's also a kid class (for 9-12 year olds) in August.

I love it when college and community radio stations encourage kids and teens to get involved. I've been at stations with high school student DJs and I'm always super impressed when kids that young are interested in radio.

Do you have kids and teens at your station? Do you think you'd ever host a summer camp?

New Zealand College Radio DJ's World Tour

I was reading a profile in the Sunday Star Times about Nick Dwyer, a long-time college radio DJ in New Zealand who has embarked on a world tour exposing New Zealand music in unlikely places. Not only is he a college radio DJ, but he's also on C4, the MTV-like music network in New Zealand, for whom he's doing the world tour themed show "Making Tracks."

According to the article:

"Making Tracks is part travel show, part music documentary, and rests on a premise so simple it's surprising no one's come up with it before: take several legendary songs from home to some of the world's most interesting places and get the local musicians to make their own versions of them. Dwyer visits Brazil, Jamaica, South Africa, Israel, India and China; he brings songs like Bic Runga's Sway to Bollywood, The Mint Chicks' Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! to a Chinese jazz group, and Shihad's You Again to the baile funk stars of the Brazilian favelas. In between these surprising, hit-and-miss remixes, he does everything he can to get our songs played - blasting his boombox while walking around the streets, and hijacking radio stations and television music shows wherever he goes."

In his other life, he's on college station 95bFM, DJing 5 afternoons a week as Nick D (you can see his profile and a sample playlist here). According to the 95bFM website:

"In 1969 when students did crazy stuff, radio Bosom was born as a capping stunt. It was set up in a boat – which ran aground somewhere in Auckland's Waitemata harbour – and broadcast illegally on speakers around the Auckland University student union. Over the next few decades the Bosom morphed into the mighty 95bFM, a sizzling casserole of New Zealand music, news and views...It’s run on the sounds, sweat and tantrums of volunteers (technical term: vollies), and a core full time crew. 95bFM is a compilation of dedicated people from all walks of musical genre and political opinion. This makes for a fiery world of independent news and views and Auckland’s most vibrant musical injection."

The show and the station sound like fun. I'm particularly impressed that Nick's got one foot in the college radio world and another in mainstream media. I wonder how many MTV DJs are still doing college radio?

National Campus-Community Radio Conference in Canada This Week

Canadian College radio station CJAM 91.5 FM is sponsoring the National Campus-Community Radio Conference in Windsor, Ontario this week (just a hop, skip and a jump from Detroit for you U.S. folks). It sounds like good fun, with panels, performers and schmoozing with other college radio types. There will be a music director "caucus," panels on topics related to digital music management, DIY station repairs, feminism, conflict management, and fundraising and even a session for geeks like me called "Radio and Academia."

According to an article in the Windsor Star:

"More than 100 delegates from campus stations across Canada are expected to visit Windsor this week to join discussions on community broadcasting topics ranging from digital editing software to dealing with the F word."

It's kind of cool that CJAM's signal can be heard beyond the Canadian airwaves into the U.S. in the Detroit area. Be sure to read their interesting station history, along with a lengthy discussion about "How Free Can 'Alternative' Campus/Community Radio Be?," alluding to events at other stations in Canada.

Mark Fedak writes:

"...over the last few years, a few campus/community radio stations have been forced to dilute the critical sting of their programming, fire management and volunteers with radical perspectives (CHRW fm at U of Western), or defend themselves against an anti-station referendum (CFMU-fm at McMaster U); some stations (CKUR-fm, U of Regina) have even been closed down after student fees were withdrawn. So long as the majority of funding originates from compulsorary student fees, and especially when student council has direct control over station governance, the risk of campus/community radio programming being censored, or even station closure, is always present."

What do you think, can college radio still be a radical force?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Programming at Bellingham, Washington Station KUGS

The Western Washington University (Bellingham, Washington) radio station KUGS 89.3 FM was profiled today in the campus paper The Western Front. According to the piece, the station receives between 30 and 50 CDs a week and adds about 20 items to the library weekly.

The article quotes the station Music Director Chris Kazuo Mak, who says:

"'When I pick music, I try to find stuff that will be challenging to our listeners,' Mak said. 'Our niche is not to play "Top 40" music. We get to promote artists that don’t get a lot of airtime on commercial stations.'"

As the article continues, there's a discussion about how music is archived:

"Most music that doesn’t immediately receive airtime on KUGS gets archived in the music library, a series of shelves loaded with CDs from ceiling to floor in the station’s hallway.

But the station can’t store every album it receives, so KUGS volunteers and DJs sometimes end up taking home rejected music, Mak said."

In terms of programming rules, the station does ask DJs doing 2-hour non-specialty shows to play music that's designated to be in "current rotation," with some flexibility. The article states:

Jamie Hoover, general manager at KUGS, said DJs have ample opportunity to design their own playlists for both specialty shows and the more mainstream 'Music for the Masses' broadcasts...

DJs design their own playlist around the large selection of albums in rotation. Twice during a 'Music for the Masses' show, DJs are allowed to play any song they want.

'We don’t have those prescribed setlists that some stations have,' Hoover said. 'College radio can take more chances on artists, which allows for more breakthroughs.'...

A DJ has more freedom when planning a specialty show, but doing so can consume much more time than mapping out a 'Music for the Masses' playlist."

If I understand the policy correctly, non-specialty DJs are essentially only allowed to play one song an hour that's not in the current rotation library. I'm not sure how large the library of albums in current rotation is, but I wonder if DJs feel limited in that they can only choose a few tracks outside of that library. What do you think of this policy and how does it compare to your station? What other sorts of programming rules do you have?

Fun Historical Tidbits: KUGS, which has been around since 1974, was apparently the 2nd station in the U.S. to broadcast over the Internet (in 1997).

College Radio in Iowa City - IASPM Conference Paper

A few weeks back I wrote about Nick Rubin's college radio-themed paper that he presented at the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) conference held in Iowa City in late April. Well, I got my hands on the other radio paper from the conference. On April 26, 2008, Brian Goedde presented his paper "Selling College Radio in the Geographical Place and Conceptual Space of the University, the City, and Beyond," about KRUI 89.7 FM, the radio station at University of Iowa.

It's a nicely written overview of the campus radio station. In particular I like his discussion of who the listening audience is and his tales of DJ foibles. He writes:

"The roles of KRUI are as individual as those who comprise its staff and— I would like to say its listeners, but neither I nor they really know who these listeners are. 'It’s hard to say who the listeners are unless they call in,' [Programming Director] Erica said. There were surveys done years ago, I’m told, but the station has changed substantially since then...

'You ask about my audience,' said...a Pathology MA student...whose KRUI alias, on Fridays between 7 and 9 pm, is 'Frosty.' As Frosty talked his hands hovered over the boards, absently rehearsing his next series of buttons to push. 'I always joke that the number one audience has got to be Micky’s kitchen crew. I’ll get requests like, "I got the shittiest job in the world, I deliver pizzas every Friday night. It’s a lot to do after school, but having Funk music gets me through." Or a kitchen crew will call—"we like what you’re playing" "Well what do you want to hear?" "Nothing, just keep playing it." That makes a guy feel good.'...

'My first show was at was a Tuesday night, 4 am,' he said. 'Errors are more forgivable at that hour. I stayed up all night, then came in here and talked about 150 words per minute when I hit the microphone. It was atrocious. [The station manager] called me after my very first air break at 4:15 and said, "You’re doing a really good job, I’m up late working on a term paper, could you play some Public Enemy for me, and otherwise just slow down a little when you’re talking on the mic." I was convinced this guy never slept and listened to every show. I lived in fear. A terrible show is a lot of mistakes. We’re all learning here; mistakes happen. The board is pretty complex. Just before my show someone hit a button that turned off the mic so I spent fifteen seconds of dead air. That was frustrating.'"

I was also intrigued to read about a show at the station where the DJs don't consider themselves to be all that knowledgeable about music. Instead, they pick their music selections based on the album art. Brian writes:

"In the case of Allison and of the Tuesday mid-day show Grumpy Old Grad Students, KRUI presents music that they themselves are curious to hear for the first time.

'One thing to qualify right away is that we’re not big music buffs,' Allison said...'I have friends who say, "the music you listen to is really interesting" and I’m like, "Well, it’s randomly selected."'

Derek: 'We choose the songs by album cover art.'
Allison: 'And interesting names.'
Derek: 'We get there 10 minutes early and grab some CDs, some that we’ve played before that we like. But I would say 60-70% we’ve never heard.'
Allison: 'But we do good, we played Vampire Weekend and they’re the top indie band. That was a random selection.'"

I don't think these DJs are alone in using album art and band names as indicators of whether or not they might be interested in a release. I wonder if they are truly playing things at random or if they preview the albums right before playing them. If it's totally random, I'm curious how the flow of the show works and if the selections make sense during segue ways.

I definitely play music that I've never heard before, but I always read DJ reviews and preview a bit before playing anything so that I have a good sense of whether or not I like the track. But, I'm pretty focused on creating a specific flow to my show and not every DJ has the same perspective on what the perfect "flow" is.

By the way, KRUI has a nice blog and pretty impressive list of bands and in-studio guests who've come by, including The Pines (coming up this Saturday), Brother Ali, Film School, and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. There are also links to many specialty show blogs from the website, including a metal show, a south Asian music show East India Rock Company, and eclectic post-rock, math rock, ambient, drone metal, etc show Room Temperature Lounge.

Indie Irish College Radio Show and Squeaky Doors

Something that I love about college radio are the unique shows that reflect the specific passions of music-obsessed DJs. Today I ran across the website for Paddy-Whacked Radio, a college radio show at WQFS-FM (Guilford College, North Carolina) that focuses on Irish indie music. Recently they hosted a live performer and had quite the college radio moment:

"Paul Noonan and David Geraghty of Bell X1 were very kind in stopping chat with Paddy-Whacked Radio™ on WQFS in Greensboro...Please know that the fidelity of the recording is limited to studio equipment (it’s college radio, eh?). Also, please forgive the squeaky door during the final live song. Someone decided it was a good idea to walk in and out of the studio at that particular time. (grumble grumble)."

D'oh! Have any of you had some crazy interruption like this during a performance? I certainly have. I've also had microphones fall down while I was talking over the air.

Speaking of indie Irish music, my brother-in-law had an indie Irish college radio show back in the day at KSCU-FM (Santa Clara University) and told me that he primarily played imported music that was very difficult to find in the U.S. I wonder if this is still the case or if mp3s have changed everything in terms of access to international music.

Monday, June 2, 2008

KCRW's Record Library Digitization Project

It's pretty astonishing to me that Los Angeles-area college/public radio station KCRW (Santa Monica College) has made so much progress in digitizing its music library. So far they've digitized 50,000 CDs, 15,000 vinyl albums (including material from as far back as the 1940s), and 1200 live KCRW performances. Not only is KCRW lucky to have funding and sponsors for its digitization project, but they also employ a music librarian to oversee the collection. Starting this month they will be highlighting special selections from the music library over the air and on their website. You can also see a short documentary about their record library (used to help them pitch for funds to preserve it) on their website.

Like many stations, KCRW has rare recordings that they would like to preserve for the future. No doubt some of these are on dying formats like reel-to-reel tape, cassettes, DAT and carts (not all that long ago my current station still played the 8-trackesque cart), which may not even have playback equipment in studios anymore.

Additionally, KCRW encounters the same space issues that most college stations have to deal with: too many records, not enough storage. I've worked at places with an appreciation for vinyl and CDs, which means that with each passing week more and more material has to somehow get squeezed into shelves that are already jam-packed with material. Other stations probably address the space issue by just not adding CDs or vinyl, instead acquiring music primarily in digital formats. At some stations there may even be DJs who do entire shows without touching CDs or vinyl records.

How does your station archive its music? Do you purge things from your record library to make room for new items? Do you digitize music? Do you regularly acquire mp3s for DJs to play or do you primarily play vinyl and CD recordings? How would you feel about switching to an all-digital format?

Sonic Youth and The Feelies Play NY July 4th

I was just catching up on the latest from New Jersey community radio station WFMU and was alerted to the Sonic Youth and reunited Feelies show that they are helping to sponsor in NY on July 4th. It's part of WFMU's 50th birthday celebration and I am sure jealous. I saw the Feelies play at my college in the 1980s and I thought they were some of the most amazing performers ever.

If you want to catch the free July 4th show, you can reserve your tickets on June 12th at noon (Eastern time, I assume). Read the WFMU blog for more details.

While you're over at WFMU's blog, be sure to read some of their "Great Moments in WFMU History," including this one about a DJ hit man (really).

Also, word has it that you can listen to WFMU on iPhones and other web-enabled mobile devices. Has anyone tried this?

Is Radio Overplaying Specific Songs?

It's a common complaint that commercial radio plays the same songs over and over again. Addressing this perspective, Ben Fong-Torres wrote an interesting column yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle. He talks about a letter sent in by a reader who complained about hearing the same song repeatedly on her favorite stations. After doing a bit of research, Fong-Torres found out that the song in question wasn't played nearly as often as the listener thought. In "Radio Waves" he quotes KFOG Program Director Dave Benson, who says:

"'I often try to point out to listeners that everybody has an artist or two, or a song or two, that just get stuck in their craw. If it comes up, it's an irritant, and every time you hear it is too many times'...

Mike Preston, VP of programming for CBS stations Live 105, KLLC (Alice@97.3) and KFRC (106.9 FM), echoes Benson.

'Listeners tend to say a station repeats songs too much when they are playing the wrong songs,' he says. 'You can never play their favorite song too much, but if it's something they don't like, then only one play is too many.'

Chris Mays, former PD at Alice, believes that every radio station, regardless of format, gets that complaint.

'And it's from your most loyal listeners, who listen the most, and they hear the repetition,' he says. 'It's a really tough line, because the people who get the most tired of the repetition are your best customers. But if you were to solely serve them, your library would need to be vast, and you'd be playing relatively unfamiliar music for people who listen on a more casual basis.'"

Fong-Torres goes on to provide statistics on how often new tracks are played on commercial stations. It varies tremendously by station, from 3-5 times a day for a new song, to up to 19 times a day (at a station in Houston). In discussing a few San Francisco Bay Area commercial radio stations he writes:

"Rock stations such as Live 105 and Alice, Mediabase shows, play new tracks six or seven times a day. So does country station KBWF (the Wolf, 95.7 FM). KIOI (Star 101.3) spins its most popular newer songs five or six times a day.

And then there's KFOG, whose most-played new track, Coldplay's 'Violet Hill,' got five spins over 24 hours. Most other newer tunes maxed out at three airings a day. Older tunes pop up about once a day.

KOIT plays its most popular artists' current songs three times a day, while KFRC rotates even less often, with no one 'classic hit' getting played more than twice a day.

And still listeners complain. And the stations conduct research, hoping to learn when listeners are beginning to tire of songs. It's an art - and a science."

I'm curious how often new tracks are getting played at college radio stations. Back when I was tallying playlists at WBGU to compile our "tops charts" to submit to CMJ and record labels, I remember that our top albums for the WEEK got maybe 10 plays if we were lucky (meaning that one track was played even less). For the most part, the top 30 list was made up of albums that were played around 5 times a week. (Additionally, I remember struggling to come up with the list in weeks where 10 albums were tied with 5 plays each, for example)

Similarly, I've had conversations with DJs who believe that one should not play the same song on one's radio show more than once a year, as many DJs strive for more music diversity, shying away from playing the same artists/tracks week after week. What kinds of guidelines does your station have? Do you pay attention to whether or not you are playing the same artists and tracks repeatedly? As a radio listener, how often do you want to hear the same songs?

KCSC Playlist from XMU Student Exchange Show

Yesterday Chico State radio station KCSC provided another fine set of music to satellite station XMU's "The Student Exchange Show." Coming up next week is another repeat visitor to the show, college radio station KSLU (St. Louis University).

Here's KCSC's playlist:

XMU Student Exchange Show Playlist 06/01/08

Mates of State – The Re-arranger – Re-arrange Us
Tilly and the Wall – Jumbler – O
The Kills – Cheap and Cheerful – Midnight Boom
The Black Keys – I Got Mine – Attack & Release
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – You Could Write a Book – Pershing
A.A. Bondy– Rapture (Sweet Rapture) – American Hearts

Clare & the Reasons – Pluto – The Movie
The Jealous Girlfriends – Hieroglyphics – The Jealous Girlfriends
No Kids – For Halloween – Come Into My House
Joan of Arc – Insects Don't Eat Bananas – Boo! Human

Colin Meloy- Barbara Allen – Colin Meloy Sings Live!
Born Ruffians – Kurt Vonnegut – Red Yellow & Blue
Flight of the Conchords – Bowie – Flight of the Conchords
Islands – The Arm – Arm's Way

MGMT – Electric Feel – Oracular Spectacular
The Ting Tings – Great DJ – We Started Nothing
Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Battle Royale – You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into
Foals – Cassius – Antidotes
Cut Copy – Lights & Music – In Ghost Colours

Calling in Sick – Disco Sirens – Demo
Cary Brothers – Ride (Tiesto Remix) – Who You Are
Morgan Page – The Longest Road (Deadmau5 Remix) – Elevate
Braille – Counter Attack (ft. Theory Hazit and DJ Idull) – The IV Edition
James Pants – Good Things – Welcome

J-Live – The Upgrade ft. Oddisee & Posdanous – Then What Happened?
Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Digitalism Remix) – Hourglass Remixes
Neon Neon – Tricks for Treat (Hot Chip Remix) – Raquel

M83 – Couleurs – Saturdays = Youth

Coming up next Sunday, June 8th (1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern) is KSLU (St. Louis University) on XMU, channel 43. You can read an interview with KSLU's Music Director, in which she discusses a previous stint on XMU's Student Exchange Show, on the CMJ blog.