Friday, August 29, 2008

Philadelphia College Radio Collective

One of the reasons that I started Spinning Indie, is because I was hoping to bring together college radio DJs and listeners from all over the country in order to share tales about what's happening at stations that may not be in one's own backyard. Often college radio staff members work in isolation from other stations. One reason could be that DJs feel that they are in competition with the stations in their area.

With that in mind, it was so thrilling to read about the Philadelphia College Radio Collective, an organization that works to bring together college radio stations in the Philadelphia area in order to " together to connect Philadelphia college students to the city's music scene."

The Collective, which seems to have begun this summer, is working to promote music through their website (which includes a list of Philly bands, music reviews, a concert calendar, etc.) and through a series of concerts.

The 8 participating college radio stations include La Salle's WEXP, Temple's WHIP, Haverford/Bryn Mawr station WHRC, Princeton's WPRB, University of Pennsylvania student station WQHS, St. Joseph's University station WSJR, Swarthmore's WSRN, and Villanova Station WXVU.

Do college radio collectives exist in other cities?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Villanova Librarians Dig Underground Music

This morning (10-11:30 am Eastern time), "Reference Radio" returns to Villanova University's college radio station WXVU-FM. The show, hosted by library staff, sounds awesome in a geeky-cool sort of way. According to their blog:

"The creators and hosts of 'Reference Radio,' Dan Overfield, Research Librarian, and Chris Barr, plan to include regular segments including interviews with authors, musicians, librarians, and faculty as well as detailed reviews of databases and their content, reviews of library services, and trivia questions that require the use of library resources, interspersed with music.

The show was created to raise awareness and promote library instruction across Villanova’s academic community...

Dan and Chris believe that the 'Reference Radio' show accesses new patrons via an exciting and vibrant media. In addition to student requests, the musical component of the show is designed to expose listeners to an eclectic collection of music. 'We are excited to have the opportunity to share our love for independent and underground music, while helping students with their research needs. I could think of a better way to blend my personal and professional interests,' says Barr."

That's definitely a creative way to promote the campus library.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Minnesota DJ's Thoughts on Spinning Live at the Fair

I've heard about college radio stations broadcasting live from a variety of remote locations, including concerts, out of town festivals, laundromats, record stores, and now, state fairs.

A college radio DJ from University of Minnesota station Radio K shared some thoughts about broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair. Ally W writes:

"...I was at the Fair because my college radio station (Radio K Where Music Matters Most aka Suck It, Mark Wheat) was broadcasting live from the stage designated for the University of Minnesota for two hours a day. I had giddly signed up two weeks prior, knowing that while it might just be me playing indie rock songs on all three of my college radio station's anemic signals, that did not change the fact that I would be playing indie rock songs at the State Fair, a place where every local radio man/woman I idolized as a child had performed...As small as it might have been, it was still doing a live broadcast in front of possibly thousands of people. I guess it's sort of like performing the sound checks at Woodstock or designing the guest brochures at the Louvre - you might be a pissant but god damnit you're there..."

As Ally W points out, it's a very different experience for a radio DJ to get up in front of a huge crowd of people to spin records vs. doing a show at a radio station for an unseen audience. The post continues:

"I took the stage after the show started and looked out on the fair fare in front of us - the...Pronto Pup cart, the Buffalo on a stick place. Directly in front of me about fifty feet was Love 105, the radio station where you will probably hear a Burt Bacharach song. No, you will definitely hear a Burt Bacharach song. As a sort of war cry in the middle of our set, me and my partner for the day Josh played "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, which caused all the people to dance and (I assume) the Love 105 DJ to curse, knowing that his 5 o'clock hour was now screwed up..."

What are some of the most interesting live remote broadcasts that your favorite stations have done? And if you've done a live remote, how different did it feel to see your audience?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stay Up Late for KFJC's Live Broadcast From Japan

Early this morning Foothill College radio station KFJC 89. 7 FM (Los Altos Hills, CA) aired a live remote broadcast/netcast and videocast from club Earthdom in Tokyo, Japan. "Live from the Japanese Music Underground" is a 2-day festival that KFJC helped to organize in order to help expose underground Japanese artists to a wider audience.

Tonight at 6pm (Pacific time) there will be a rebroadcast of day 1 of the festival (featuring Sax Ruins, Katsurei, and others). Then, at 2am (Pacific time), you can catch day 2 of the festival live (featuring Amazon Saliva, Up-Tight, Astro, Tabata Mitsuru and others). Tomorrow night at 6pm that show will be rebroadcast as well.

See the KFJC website for the complete band lineup and instructions on how to access the videostream and netcast.

KSLU Playlist from Yesterday's XMU "Student Exchange Program"

(Image from KSLU)

Yesterday (August 24, 2008) on the XMU satellite radio show "Student Exchange," KSLU from Saint Louis University provided the sonic entertainment. They've been a regular on the show and most recently curated the show on July 27th. This coming Sunday, August 31st, WXCU (Capital University) will hit the XMU airwaves again (1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern).

KSLU (Saint Louis University)
"Student Exchange Program" playlist
AIR DATE: 08/24/2008

Conor Oberst – Cape Canaveral – Conor Oberst
Amy Millan – Losin You – Honey From The Tombs
Wilco – Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway (Again) – Summerteeth
Broken Social Scene – Looks Just Like The Sun – You Forgot It In People
Spoon – Small Stakes – Kill the Moonlight

The Hold Steady – Constructive Summer – Stay Positive
Cut Copy – Out There On The Ice – In Ghost Colours
Margot & the Nuclear So And So’s – Quiet As A Mouse – The Dust Of Retreat
Hey Rosetta! – New Goodbye – Into Your Lungs
Memphis – Incredibly Drunk On Whiskey – A Little Place In The Wilderness
The Most Serene Republic – Present Of Future End – Population
Arcade Fire – (Antichrist Television Blues) – Neon Bible

Styrofoam – Couches In Alleys – Nothing’s Lost
Yeasayer – 2080 – All Hour Cymbals
Battles – Race In – Mirrored
The Virgins – One Week Of Danger – The Virgins
MGMT – Weekend Wars – Oracular Spectacular
We Are Scientists – After Hours – Brain Thrust Mastery
Black Kids – Hit The Heartbrakes – Partie Traumatic

M83 – Graveyard Girl – Saturdays=Youth
The Magnetic Fields – California Girls – Distortion
Stars – Soft Revolution – Set Yourself On Fire

The Decemberists – July, July! – Castaways and Cutouts
Born Ruffians – Hummingbird – Red, Yellow & Blue
The Wrens – This Boy Is Exhausted – The Meadowlands

Friday, August 22, 2008

WCOM Community Radio Documentary

It's always really fun to catch glimpses of radio stations from different locales in order to compare and contrast them to other stations. This vicarious enjoyment has gotten so much easier with the power of the Internet, YouTube, and other video outlets. I haven't done extensive searching yet, but I've seen a few radio station documentaries lately and have really been enjoying these virtual tours.

WCOM, a lower-power FM community radio station in Carrboro, North Carolina has a 15-minute documentary "WCOM 103.5: A Radio Community" posted on It's a nice overview of the station, with interviews with a variety of DJs talking about why they are passionate about community radio, shots of the studio so that you can get a sense of their equipment and set-up, and a bit of an overview of their history and what low power FM is. In one scene a DJ chats about the station while he's doing his show, putting away vinyl and cueing up music. There's a also a great quote about community radio being the "bottom of the radio food chain," and how that gives them a lot of freedom.

According to the description on

"...From September to November 2004, we played a specially selected mix of music 24-7. The real excitement started in November, when WCOM's first DJs hit the airwaves. Today our program schedule includes close to 50 locally produced music and talk shows and new programs are still being added...WCOM is a different kind of radio. When you tune in to WCOM you will hear our community—our people, environment, events, music, and attitude...WCOM's volunteers love the medium of radio and care about the people who live here...In many ways it is closer to old-time radio than its modern cousins. We are proud of WCOM and think the radio produced in this small corner of the world will be some of the best to be heard anywhere."

Are there other non-commercial radio documentaries that you've enjoyed?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Austin Station KUT Turns 50

University of Texas public radio station KUT marks its 50th anniversary today and is embarking on a year full of celebratory events. According to an article on the University of Texas website:

"Since receiving the call sign of KUT from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Aug. 21, 1958, KUT Radio has nurtured and shared the most authentic and remarkable voices of the community—and the world—through local and national news, and through innovative and authentic music that is picked for qualities of substance and integrity. Today, KUT is one of the top public media institutions in the country, reaching 500,000 people each week through traditional radio, two HD Radio channels, the Internet, podcasts and mobile devices."

The article notes that KUT has a strong commitment to music programming, particularly local music:

"KUT is also known nationally for its diverse music programs and its efforts to play artists of importance to Central Texas while introducing national acts that might not get airplay on commercial stations."

They've got an awesome bunch of videos of indie artists (Bill Callahan, Yacht, Akron Family, etc.) on their website that are worth checking out. Called the "Retread Sessions," the music vids are shot in random non-studio locations, like nature. The Texas Matters section of their website includes feature articles, Texas music tidbits and "song of the day" music downloads.

The history of KUT goes back even further than 50 years according to the detailed historical timeline on Wikipedia. It's also interesting to note that in addition to KUT, University of Texas also holds the license for student-run radio station KVRX-FM.

Austin Community Radio Station Celebration This Weekend

An article on yesterday, "KAZI Radio: The Left Side Doing it Right," profiled Austin, Texas community radio station KAZI-FM. According to the piece:

"...KAZI...began broadcasting on the 88.7 FM frequency in 1982. The station was launched by a group of students and community organizers led by the late John Warfield, professor of African American Studies at the University of Texas, as a media outlet designed to provide an African American voice in Austin. In the early days the station focused on news and information programming and the music played was primarily gospel."

Since the station began in the 1980s there have been various changes to their programming and upgrades to their studios and technical capabilities. The article discusses the current station format, which includes news, information, "Democracy Now," Austin City Council meetings, talk shows and music programming. According to the piece:

"A wide variety of music programming covers jazz, blues, reggae, R&B, gospel, hip-hop, rap, pop and zydeco, what [Station Manager Steve] Savage refers to as 'the sounds of blackness, all music that started from a black form.' All of the music programming has an emphasis on local music, classics and underground sounds. The hip-hop and R&B played on KAZI, for example, differs dramatically, one might even say refreshingly, from that played on the city's two commercial stations."

This weekend (Saturday, August 23rd) KAZI will be hosting a festival called SummerFest2008, which is both a celebration of its 26th anniversary and a fundraiser. The all-day event will feature music, performance, seminars, various vendors and kids' activities.

XMU "Student Exchange" a Re-Run Last Weekend, KSLU appears on Sunday

I just found out that last Sunday's "Student Exchange Program" on XMU was actually a re-airing of the February 24, 2008 broadcast by Chico State station KCSC. I don't have the playlist for that, but you can read my post from February in which I covered the show when it initially aired and also go into some detail about the history of KCSC.

Coming up this Sunday on the show (1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern) will be St. Louis University station KSLU. I'll post their playlist next week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Massive Vinyl Collection on Sale for $3 Million

A massive collection of vinyl and other forms of recorded music is up for sale, with the asking price a paltry $3 million for 3 million vinyl records and 300,000 CDs. The seller is hoping that a music archive or library will step up to preserve all of this music.

According to the owner of "The World's Greatest Music Collection":

"Every recording
in this amazing collection has been purchased by its owner, Paul Mawhinney, over a period of a half century, and stored in a 16,000 square foot climate - controlled warehouse. Many millions of dollars have been invested in the acquisition and storage of the collection, the estimated value of which is now greater than fifty million dollars."

When I was at Bowling Green State University, they had a really impressive Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives. On my tour of the collection during orientation for my grad school program, I remember the enthusiastic staff member William Schurk showing off some of the more intriguing holdings, like antique wire recordings. According to their website the collection has nearly a million recordings and is the "largest collection of recorded popular music in an Academic Library in North America." Perhaps they have a few million bucks to make their collection even larger?

College radio stations often have amazing collections of vinyl too, but with all the wear and tear, storage constraints, theft, and staff turnover, radio station archives aren't really designed to remain pristine. A working library is quite different from a climate-controlled collection of unopened music.

Public Radio Station KUSP To Reduce Music Programming

Back in March I wrote about Santa Cruz public radio station KUSP, which was in merger talks with another local public radio station. In the aftermath of the failed merger, KUSP is now making programming changes at the station, namely decreasing their local music programming.

According to an article in yesterday's Register-Pajaronian,

"Airtimes for several volunteer-produced programs on public radio station KUSP 88.9 will soon be shifted to clear the way for additional news and information.

This change, set to take affect Sept. 1, means the station will now air National Public Radio programming during midday timeslots on weekdays, as opposed to the local music and news shows that make up 70 percent of KUSP’s current schedule."

This is another sad sign of the decreasing amount of locally-produced programming on public radio stations.

The article continues:

"Established in 1972, KUSP is an independent nonprofit community radio station that now reaches about 400,000 listeners in Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, south Santa Clara and north San Luis Obispo counties...

On Monday, [General Manager Terry] Green said the station intends to establish partnerships with other public radio stations, such as KALW in San Francisco, to continue providing a local, regional focus to its news items...

In addition, KUSP is looking for ways to deepen its relationship with KZSC, the volunteer station licensed to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is in the midst of evolving its Web site to include a multi-channel delivery."

To learn more about these programming changes, view the KUSP website, where there are links to a blog post by the General Manager, a letter from the President of the KUSP Board of Directors, and a podcast of a call-in show on this topic.

And, take a look at Dave Freedman's history of KUSP, where he recounts the very early days of this community radio station, which was founded in 1972. It seems to have changed a lot....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do You Play Jazz?

A few days ago I was getting caught up on old episodes of the fabulous teen show Degrassi: Next Generation, when I heard a disparaging remark made about jazz by one of the characters. In the scene, a jazz loving guy was assumed to be old fashioned and a total bore by his college classmates.

At college radio stations I've heard people joke about DJs who were "afraid" of jazz. At many places, jazz is relegated to specialty show time slots and isn't heard at any other time. However, some stations try to embrace jazz throughout the programming schedule, even encouraging all DJs to play a bit of jazz. The Revolution 21 blog wrote on this very topic, saying:

"When I was in college, LSU's campus radio station, then called WPRG, had what I considered a great format -- pretty much the full spectrum of album rock and college-y alternative fare, plus a minimum of one jazz cut an hour.

SOME DJs BALKED at the jazz thing, but I thought it was brilliant, and it made WPRG sound a sophisticated cut above your average college-radio fare."

I like to hear jazz on college radio, especially given the wide range of experimental and underground varieties that are a perfect fit for indie-minded stations. How much jazz is on your station?

Monday, August 18, 2008

College Radio DJ Heroes

On her Idolator post "Which Radio DJ Saved Your Musical Life?" last Friday, Maura Johnston discusses the impact that certain DJs have had on their audiences. She also shares how important college radio has been to her over the years and wonders if radio personalities today still have the same draw, saying:

"As a high schooler who was slowly transitioning out of her hard rock fandom, college-radio DJs were really important to me, turning me on to bands like Tiger Trap, Lush, and Smashing Orange. But the transient nature of college radio and my own transition to the other side of the microphone resulted in the relationship being nowhere near as long-standing as the ones that the other personalities I've mentioned here have enjoyed with their audiences. Is it even possible to have that sort of fan-subject relationship with a DJ anymore? Or has something else entirely filled that void, thanks to the many problems terrestrial radio has had and the explosion of outlets that have taken on the mantle of bringing people music?"

The comments section of her post contains many pro-college radio voices, including this from Mike A:

"I can't stress enough how important college radio was to me. I discovered it literally by accident, and it immediately opened up the possibility of a new world - something that was quite mysterious at age 14. What made listening to WRSU and WPRB so special was the DJs. The patented 'college radio monotone' may be an easy target for ridicule, but for me, it was the voice of normal people not so different from me, only a few years older, who had access to great records I hadn't heard and were enthusiastic to share them. I don't think I would have gotten so deep into music without them (for better or worse)."

I love it. These are the sorts of comments that all college radio DJs should hold near, especially when on the air, wondering if anyone is out there listening.

University of Kansas Radio Station Moving Out of Shack

Many of us college radio vets revel in the obscure and dingy digs that our stations are often housed in. Basements, hidden corners of campuses, and dorms are all beloved homes to college radio. University of Kansas station KJHK-FM (Lawrence, Kansas) is about to embark on a move from its current 900 square foot shack to a larger space in the student union. The move and renovation is expected to cost between $350,000 and $400,00 according to an article in The Lawrence Journal-World. The piece goes on to discuss some DJ sadness over changes to the station:

"One of the changes is departing from an environment that's become a second home. 'I think we’re all really sad we have to move,' [DJ Ian] Hrabe said. 'We're going to have a nice, slick, sterile studio. At the shack, stuff will come undone, and speakers will come out. I personally like the uncontrolled aspect.'"

You can read a bit about the history of KJHK in an excellent article from 2005 called "Alternative Flashback," which includes lots of stories, audio interviews, and a collection of station logos over their 30 year history on FM radio.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

College Radio Day at CMJ

CMJ posted a few more details about college radio-focused events at this October's CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. There will be a college radio mixer on Tuesday, October 21st and "College Day" will be Thursday, October 23rd, featuring a music directors' forum and panels about digital music and event planning. According to CMJ's website:

"This year's College Day program, taking place Thursday, October 23, includes thought-provoking panels like WMP3: The Revolution Will Be Digitized, Music Directors' Summit, Radio Hostessess With The Mostesses, as well as a special breakfast, OurStage-sponsored lunch and performance, and the annual CMJ College Radio Awards where one lucky radio programmer will have the chance to win a trip to Perth, Australia..."

In addition to the panels and college radio events, CMJ is known for all the live music throughout the week.

There are some discounts available on student badges if you register for the CMJ Music Marathon by August 19th.

DJ Robot Love at Iowa State's KURE

Some college radio stations have difficulty filling up their schedules with DJs, so they resort to automated programming. Apparently this is something that happens at Iowa State University station KURE-FM in Ames, Iowa, where some nighttime slots are "filled by an automated music selector, nicknamed the Autobot" according to Wikipedia. Their MySpace page even includes some shout-outs to "the bot," which seems to be attracting love and lore.

One KURE listener wrote a post "I Like it When Robots Do the Djing at KURE, Not College Kids," on the Mile 222 blog about the merits of automated DJs and the annoyances of real ones.

According to the post:

"...on my way home I was digging the college radio. KURE 88.5 FM to be exact. Iowa State University’s college radio station has always been pretty decent, but I’ve never really committed completely mostly because I switch to a CD or my iPod out of embarrassment for the DJ on the radio. They talk too long about nothing, just to hear the sound of their own voice, or blurt out some inside joke only their roommate will understand. That’s not all of them, no, and even if it was there’s also the issue of musical taste."

The author goes on to describe the DJ robot on KURE:

"Today...a nice robot from KURE played me his songs, and they were delightful. Now I’m sure that has a lot to do with the songs that were put in my a human to be rotated, but I dug the tiny bits of the robot’s voice cutting in for no more than 5 seconds with: 'You are listening to KURE, I am trapped inside a box.' "

A post on MySpace seemed to concur, saying, " the bot was kicking so much ass I thought it had to be a real dj.. but lo and behold it was the bot..."

Now, I'm not sure how serious the Mile 222 blogger is as the post continues:

"Why not let the humans pick the songs and the robots do the talking. They are much better at it, plus save your human talents for things like talk shows, band interviews, special editions and the very highest quality specialty shows...College radio is a great thing, not enough people use or know about. It used to be a bastion of college antics...Today, it just seems forgotten... Branch out college radio! Take risks! Think of it. KURE’s new slogan…Picked by humans, spun by robots.""

I think this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as the author does profess love for college radio. But, hey, if you live in Iowa, KURE is recruiting real DJs for its staff. According to their website, "It's good to have living, breathing DJ's filling the airwaves..."

What do you think? Can a robot be a better DJ than a human?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Protest Music on the Radio?

There was a great article about music with political content in The Star-Telegram yesterday called "Songs in the Key of Strife: Could Protest Songs be Making a Comeback?" Cary Darling looks at the history of protest songs on the radio and the current dearth of that kind of music on mainstream stations.

Cary points out:

"From listening to pop radio, few would know that the U.S. is involved in two wars and a hotly contested presidential election, or that economic worries abound."

Much of the apolitical content of commercial radio may be due to its increased conservatism in the wake of media consolidation. The article continues:

"Others suggest that shifts in radio-station ownership in the '90s have narrowed musical choice and shaped listener demand for material that’s not going to rock the boat. Longtime North Texas DJ Redbeard...believes one effect of broadcast deregulation — which lifted the cap on the number of stations one company could own — has been to put more emphasis on the bottom line.

'It causes radio to become more of a mirror rather than a leader,' he says. 'So when something comes down the pike musically that smacks of controversy — and that may blow either way politically and might incite people to feel or react — that’s considered a risk. And, with shareholders, risk is a bad word.'

'And so you’re back to the '50s,' says Dave Marsh, author of books on Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles, host of Kick Out the Jams on Sirius satellite radio and editor of 'Rock & Rap Confidential,' an online newsletter about music and politics.

'Why would any [musician] who's ambitious care about what radio stations think? They're not stupid. They know radio stations won't play [something controversial]. College, public and satellite radio might play it, though...'"

It's a good reminder that college radio is a place where one can still find protest music and controversial material. Does your station ever pass on certain releases due to their lyrical content? Do you play things that you know may be controversial and has this ever gotten you into trouble?

Summertime in College Radio

I got a comment last week from a musician wondering if summer was a good time to send promo CDs to college radio stations, since many stations are shut down or operate with a skeleton crew during that time.

I'm sure it varies tremendously by station. Many bigger stations operate year-round, and listeners and bands don't notice any difference between the school-year and summertime. Other stations, however, shut down completely. When I was at Haverford station WHRC, there was no radio during summer and winter breaks. At Bowling Green's WBGU-FM, we were on the air during the summer with longer shows (3 to 4 hour shows vs. 2 hours during the school year) since there were fewer DJs around. Other stations have DJs pre-record shows to be aired during vacation-time.

Boston University's student-run carrier-current (and online) station WTBU (Howard Stern's alma mater) also shuts down programming during winter and summer break, but this year they decided to spend the down-time focusing on beefing up their blog with station news, music reviews, concert reviews, etc.

What did your station do this summer?

WERS Playlist from Yesterday's XMU "Student Exchange Program"

On yesterday's "Student Exchange Program" on satellite station XMU, college radio station WERS-FM (out of Emerson College in Boston) made another appearance.

They played several of the same bands (My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes, Black Keys, Raconteurs, DeVotchKa, Jamie Lidell) that they played when they were on the the show earlier this summer, which makes me wonder a bit about how stations select their playlists for XMU. Some stations seem to mix it up quite a bit, choosing artists that aren't played frequently on XMU, whereas others regularly have lists with popular XMU bands.

To get another station's take on the XMU sound, tune in this coming Sunday, August 17th, 2008 (1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern) when Chico State station KCSC has another stint on the show.

WERS - Emerson College
"Student Exchange Program" Playlist 8/10/2008

Delta Spirit - Trashcan - Ode to Sunshine
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
Duffy - Mercy - Rockverry
Blind Melon - Tumblin Down - For My Friends

Adele - Right As Rain - 19
Beck - Modern Guilt - Modern Guilt
Brazilian Girls - St. Petersburg - New York City
The Black Keys - Psychotic Girl - Attack & Release

Kate Nash - Pumpkin Soup - Made of Bricks
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges - Evil Urges
Bon Iver - Creature Fear - For Emma, Forever Ago
The Raconteurs - Old Enough - Consolers of the Lonely

Dr. Dog - The Rabbit, The Bat, and The Reindeer - Fate
The Avett Brothers - St. Joseph's - The Gleam II
The Hold Steady - One For The Cutters - Stay Positive
Conor Oberst - Sausalito - Conor Oberst

Nik Freitas - Sun Down - Nik Freitas
DeVotchKa - Transliterator - A Mad and Faithful Telling
Jamie Lidell - Little Bit of Feel Good - Jim
Jesca Hoop - Dreams in the Hollow - Kismet

Cat Power - Aretha, Sing One For Me - Jukebox
Wye Oak - Family Glue - If Children
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - Substance

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Zelda Marathon at Florida International University Radio Station

An article on covers the news of that a college radio station in Florida is the site of a 72-hour Zelda Marathon that's happening this weekend. Two DJs from Florida International University radio station WRGP, along with 3 other friends, are playing the game right now to raise funds for the Child's Play charity.

If you visit the webcast this weekend, you'll be able to see them sitting on the radio station couch! Other than that, I'm not sure what the radio station's involvement is, but it's kind of a cool use of their space.

I'd never heard of the independent music-focused WRGP, aka Radiate FM, before, but I really enjoyed learning about all of their transmitter travails over the years, including hurricane damage, ownership changes, and lots of back and forth with the FCC while they waited for approval for a translator to increase their coverage.

Norfolk State's Urban Contemporary College Station Praised for Local Content

A big complaint about radio these days is that it fails in terms of playing local content. In a blog post this week, a college student vents about this topic and offers praise to college radio station WNSB (Hot 91.1) at Norfolk State University in Virginia because they do play local artists. According to the Life of the College Girl blog:

"...I was listening to Hot 91, which is Norfolk State’s radio station, and The Clipse was on the radio...they are a rap duo from Virginia Beach, VA...they were on the radio talking about how other radio stations don’t really support the hometown artists and they basically play the same songs.

I listen to Hot 91 all the time because they are diverse with their music. They play things that you don’t hear on any other of the radio stations in Hampton Roads...

Anyway, I’m writing this because I have to say that I do agree with them. I don’t think other radio stations in the area support artist from VA like they should...I know I would be pissed if I was a established musician and the radio stations that I’ve been listening to for years didn’t even want to play my music."

It's also interesting to me that WNSB is a college station, a public radio affiliate AND since 2000 has featured an urban contemporary format (they were a jazz station prior to that and played mostly instructional programming when the station began in 1980). They also have satellite jazz programming at night via Chicago station WFMT.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Community Radio Kudos in Utah and Virginia

I found a few bits and pieces about community radio this week, including a discussion with musician Amy Ray on about her song "SLC Radio," which is an ode to Salt Lake City community radio station KRCL. According to the CNN piece:

"...'SLC Radio,' about KRCL-FM, which Ray describes as 'a really progressive community station.' In the song, Ray, an out lesbian, sings 'Radio radio SLC fighting the good fight for me/ Boys and girls lend a hand, bend an ear in God's land.'

'I was thinking about community radio in general, and I was thinking about Mormonism and the fabric of the country and how much you see when you're traveling ... and the idea that change comes, but it comes slow, and it comes one person at a time,' she explains."

Additionally, an article on profiles community radio DJ Anna Golden from Richmond, Virginia station WRIR. Anna explains why she loves community radio, saying:

"I just think it is so important to have local people controlling their media. I have always really loved radio, and can sort of define my life by DJs and stations I listened to. Since radio is dying because of corporate influence, community radio is one of the few places where you can hear voices and music that are out of the mainstream."

She also shares an observation about the typical DJ personality:

"James Hickman (president of the Virginia Center for Public Press) said something interesting to me about the best DJs being introverts, because extroverts need actual live people to talk to. I think that may be true. DJs are just happy playing the music."

What do you think? Are most DJs introverts? How does this change one's approach to doing radio?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Inspirational" College Radio

Attesting to the wide range of college radio station formats, today I read some news about Criswell College's 30+ year old Christian station KCBI in Arlington, Texas. According KCBI's website:

"Identified in the industry as an 'Inspirational' radio format, KCBI broadcasts a mix of teaching programs and music along with award-winning news from a Christian perspective, weather, and information...KCBI is licensed to the Criswell College by the Federal Communications Commission as an Educational, Non-Commercial station."

The latest on KCBI is that they just elected a new General Manager. The Religion Blog on the Dallas Morning News website quotes a press release that states:

"In a unanimous decision, Mike Tirone has been elected as the new general manager and Senior Vice President of 90.9 KCBI and Criswell Comminications [sic].

'The Lord has blessed KCBI because we don't manage the station to seek the approval of men,' said Mike Tirone. 'We only seek the approval of our Lord Jesus Christ. KCBI strives to follow the words of Philippians 2:15, "We need to become blameless and pure, children of God, without fault, in a crooked and depraved generation, in which we shine out like stars in the universe and hold out the Word of life."'

This is an interesting programming philosophy, if I understand it correctly, to seek the approval of a higher power as opposed to the approval of the listening audience. In a way, it's not all that different from other rebel college radio stations who strive to be leaders (playing edgier material), rather than followers (playing what the audience asks for/wants/is familiar with).

P.S. There's been some buzz lately about rumors that Criswell College wanted to sell off assets, including radio station KCBI (estimated to be worth $20 million). This week news came out about the resignation of the president of Criswell College due to "philosophical differences" about the future of the college.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Radio UTD Profile on CMJ Blog

The CMJ Staff Blog writes occasional profiles about college radio stations. Last week they covered Radio UTD, the Internet-only station at University of Texas-Dallas. Readers of Spinning Indie will note that Radio UTD is also a regular on XMU's "Student Exchange Program," most recently on July 20, 2008.

The CMJ piece discusses how Radio UTD uses the Internet to promote the station, their tips on ticket giveaways, and what the station is like during the summer vs. fall. They also talk about some work they are doing with a big retailer. In the CMJ Profile of Radio UTD, station GM Natalia Zuniga says:

"We're working with American Eagle and HUM Media to be featured as one of the best college stations in the nation for their music page. We will be taping live shows for them once or twice a month for their website."

Wow. Radio UTD really gets around!

Monday, August 4, 2008

WVAU "Student Exchange" Playlist from Yesterday's Show

WVAU, the Internet and campus station of American University in Washington D.C. made another appearance on the XMU satellite radio show "Student Exchange Program" yesterday. DJ Adam Dexter, who does the "Dexter's Lab" show on Sunday afternoons was the guest DJ and he wrote a bit about the playlist on his website if you need more scoop.

Coming up next Sunday, August 10th (1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern) will be Emerson College station WERS (read more about them in my earlier post today).

XMU "Student Exchange Program" Playlist 8/3/08

Florence & The Machine - Kiss With A Fist – Kiss With A Fist 7”
The Submarines - You, Me, & The Bourgeoisie – Honeysuckle Weeks
LCD Soundsystem – Disco Infiltrator – LCD Soundsystem
Does It Offend You, Yeah? – We Are Rockstars –You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into

Passion Pit – Sleepyhead – Chunk of Change
Faded Paper Figures – Metropolis – Dynamo
Rooftop Vigilantes – Oscar Want 7” – N/A Single
Black Lips – Veni Vidi Vici – Good Bad Not Evil
Gotye - Thanks For Your Time – Like Drawing Blood

The Grates – Inside, Outside – Gravity Won’t Get You High
E.S.L. – Prove Me Wrong – Eye Contact
Charades – (Fish and) Ships – The Lydia Albright EP
Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Boys Noize - &Down – Oi Oi Oi

Death From Above 1979 – Blood On Our Hands – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine
Beck – Timebomb – Timebomb (Single)
The Battle Royal – Shook Up – Wake Up, Thunderbabe
Bright Eyes - Classic Cars – Cassadaga
The Morning Benders – Damnit Anna – Talking Through Tin Cans…

Hot Chip – Wrestlers – Made In The Dark
The Touch – Le Night Dominator (Original Version) – The Touch EP
!!! - A New Name – Myth Takes
Ratatat – Mirando – LP3
The Faint – Posed To Death (The Calculators Remix) – Danse Macabre Remixes

Radio Journal Article Analyzes "Alternative" Programming at Boston and NY College Radio Stations

The main impetus behind starting Spinning Indie was that I was becoming increasingly obsessed with college radio after spending a bunch of time researching indie radio for an academic article that I was working on for The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media. My article, which is focused on the role of "indie" at one specific college radio station in the late 1990s, is now officially published and will soon be accessible online in Volume 5.2 of the journal.

In the meantime, I just discovered that the previous issue (Volume 5.1 from 2007) of Radio Journal includes another piece about college radio by Tim Wall called "Finding an alternative: Music programming in US college radio" (note: this link will only work for a short time until the next issue is published online).

According to the abstract for the paper:

"Radio stations based at universities make up only about 11% of all over-the-air stations in the United States of America, but college radio is often presented as offering an alternative in music radio to the for-profit stations that dominate the airwaves. College stations are now seen as a key means of promoting 'indie rock'. This article traces the development of university-based radio stations in the United States, and reports on a five-year study of music programming in three stations based in Boston and New York, to examine their claim to alternativeness. The paper concludes that the stations do use different forms of music programming, that the programming extends well beyond the scope of 'indie rock'..."

In his paper, Wall took an in-depth look at the programming policies of three college radio stations between 2002 and 2007. The stations he examined were Fordham University's WFUV in New York, WERS at Emerson College in Boston, and WZBC from Boston College (alright! This was my favorite station on my trip to Boston in April). Through his research he found that:

"...there is not one type of alternativeness; and the distinctive sense of alternativeness articulated by the jazz, world, indie rock, folk and Americana music played on the college stations was as much rooted in the cultural histories of those musical genres as it was in the way they were programmed and presented."

Here is a bit of a summary of what he found at each college radio station:

WZBC (Boston College)

Wall tells us that WZBC is run by students and has a free-form format. Of note, is that the station has a relationship with public radio, but that this didn't seem to influence the majority of the programming. (When I perused their website, the only public radio indication I saw was that they air the program "Democracy Now")

He says, "In my independent discussions with three station presenters, they each stated that they had a very committed listenership in the Boston area, but they also argued that it was widely perceived that most Boston College students were not interested in the station’s output. In doing so, they constructed parallels between their own personal sense of being outside of mainstream college life with the commitment of a group outside the university and a musical form that they perceived to be 'alternative' and 'underground'."

This comment, that listeners tend to not be students, is something I've heard about many college radio stations. He continues:

" our conversations the staff went to particular lengths to distance themselves from the 'college rock' forms of radio they perceived as the norm in college stations...The presenters selected music on a track-by-track basis as the show progressed, usually chosen in response to the record currently playing. Most often these records were from a pile the presenter had pre-selected and brought in from their own collection, but also drew on records from the station’s extensive library..."

WERS (Emerson College)

During Wall's research study, WERS made significant changes to its programming policies. He writes that by the end of 2005 "block programming" was replaced by "strip programming" from 2am to 7pm that was " '...a blend of folk, rock, jazz, world, blues, soul, electronic and reggae’..."

The playlists at WERS are more tightly controlled that at freeform WZBC. Wall writes: "By the end of the five-year period, the station’s daytime programming operated on an entirely centralised playlist, although the presenters of the specialist reggae and hip hop shows had freedom to select their own music."

As I mentioned after my own visit to the radio stations at Emerson College, WERS seems to be more pre-professional than many college stations. He writes: "Rather than a commitment to a particular lifestyle, WERS staff were either interested in a career in broadcasting, or felt that it was an effective way to pursue their interest in particular kinds of music."

WFUV (Fordham University)

Finally, Wall wrote about Fordham public radio station WFUV, which had the least amount of student involvement and was the most tightly controlled, "professional" station of the three.

He writes:

"Station staff spoke quite proudly of the station as an AAA station, and their role in establishing the format within more conventional radio practice. This format – Album Adult Alternative – is relatively new in US radio, although it has antecedents in Adult Oriented Rock (AOR) and Adult Contemporary (AC) formats. As the names suggest all three are aimed at adult (aged 25+) listeners and grew out of FM radio. AAA stations are presented, in the words of station staff, as offering an alternative to the 'rock-clich├ęs and rock-lite formula of AOR', and the 'pop sensibilities of AC', by playing 'music at the margins’'of American rock, with a strong folk/acoustic and world music flavour."

In distinguishing WFUV from WERS and WZBC, Wall writes:

"While staff at WZBC and WERS in 2003 felt that it was important to have music and other programming systems that differed from for-profit stations...WFUV saw these as professional tools...Their professionalism was very important to them, and they used this self-identity to distinguish themselves from other college stations. On the other hand, they associated themselves with the college’s commitment to education as a way of distinguishing their values from those of the stations whose primary objective was profit."

WFUV definitely seems to benefit from having a paid staff and great funding. Wall didn't mention this, but they have a project coming up this fall that is going to provide yet another "alternative." According to their website,

"WFUV (90.7 FM) will launch an alternate channel online...and in HD at 90.7 FM in the New York City area, to include a blend of established and emerging NYC-based indie rock, electronica, world, dance and other musical hybrids, in Fall 2008. The new site is supported in part by The New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors."

In summarizing the whole paper, Tim Wall writes:

"The case studies reveal that there is no one form or expression of alternativeness in American radio...More important than a simplistic sense of 'college music' as alternative rock, it is the themes of progress, cultural uplift and alternative lifestyle that have threaded throughout the development of American education and broadcasting, and they continue to play an important part in the discursive practices of college radio today."

I'm glad to see more academic attention to college radio, which is, indeed an alternative to commercial radio, no matter what form it takes. However, as Wall pointed out, these stations really just scratch the surface in terms of the wide range of programming philosophies and interpretations of "alternative" that can be found at college radio stations in the US.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Princeton Review's "Most Popular" College Radio Stations

I just got wind that Princeton Review released their annual college survey results this week. For their "2009 Best 368 Colleges" rankings they include a "Best College Radio Station" category that is based on responses to student surveys.

According to the Princeton Review press release: the rankings are "...based on surveys of 120,000 students (average 325 per campus) at the 368 schools in the book during the 2007-08 and/or previous two school years. Ninety-five percent were completed online at"

As I discussed in my March 2008 post about the 2008 results, this survey has been widely critiqued. The top college radio station list is actually based on college students' answer to the question: "How popular is the radio station?" So, this list has more to do with awareness of college radio on specific campuses, than on quality or popularity.

According to Princeton Review's 2009 rankings, the most popular college radio stations are at the following colleges. The ratings don't specify a specific station and in some cases colleges have more than one station, so I've added radio station names and links to this list since those are not included in the survey results.

Princeton Review's
Most Popular College Radio Stations-2009 Edition

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

If you take a look at last year's survey, you'll see that the rankings are pretty much unchanged with the exception of the addition of Stanford University (whose station KZSU turned 60 last year and on that occasion brought back alum DJs for special programming reflecting all 60 years of their history) and Westminster College (a small liberal arts college that's home to Titan Radio, which released a press release about the Princeton results).

Leaving the list to make room for these two are Manhattanville College (WMVL-FM, NY) and Denison University (WDUB-FM, Ohio).