Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Radio Station Field Trip 6 - WNYU in New York City

Entrance to WNYU at New York University
October 24, 2008

It was an embarrassment of riches for me at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City this year, as I was able to visit three different radio stations. I love seeing how different stations operate and it's always fun to chat with station staff and DJs, check out their record libraries and equipment (like the fabulous "Instant Replay" machine pictured below that plays station IDs and promos!), and hear station lore.

"Instant Replay" Machine at WNYU
October 24, 2008

On my final afternoon in NYC for CMJ I signed up for a special tour and live performance at New York University station WNYU. In conjunction with the CMJ conference, WNYU set up live performances and tours of their radio station every afternoon for a limited number of CMJ attendees. When I came to visit on Friday, October 24th, I was among a small group of 3 people who were interested in seeing the station and hearing a live set from Kurt Vile.

Program Director Jonathan Williger of WNYU

Thanks so much to Program Director Jonathan Williger for showing us around the station and for chatting about WNYU. He told me that the station had moved to new studios in August (out of a "tiny closet in Tisch"), so not everything was set up quite yet. He mentioned that much of their vinyl (thousands of records) is still in storage, that the on-air studio will be moving soon, and that they needed to put more posters on the walls to make the station feel more like home.

WNYU airs their programming online 24 hours a day, but splits their FM signal with another station (WFDU), so only airs their programming from 4pm until 1am terrestrially. Jonathan told me that some of their online-only shows serve as a training-ground for new DJs. Additionally, when there's no on-air DJ, WNYU uses a "jukebox" to shuffle through songs online.

WNYU "Jukebox"

WNYU has a lengthy history and turns 35 years old this year. They have programs that have been on the air for close to a decade, including Tim Sweeney's "Beats and Space" and a hip hop show called "The Halftime Show." Many of their shows are specialty programs, covering a variety of genres like punk, metal, dance music, reggae, electronic, and experimental.

DJs at the station are mostly students or former students at NYU.

A portion of the vinyl at WNYU

When I asked about vinyl, I was told that they do still get a lot of vinyl releases at the station, especially from labels like Siltbreeze. Jonathan said that during his show he'll typically play 3 to 5 vinyl tracks. He also told me that they also play cassettes, especially on the "Make the Product" show, which specializes in self-releases and hard-to-find limited production cassettes, CD-Rs, and vinyl recordings.

Kurt Vile Performing at WNYU
October 24, 2008

At the end of the visit, we were all treated to a live in-studio performance by Philadelphia-based musician Kurt Vile. Bright lights blazed into the space, creating an eerie glow as we watched from the soon-to-be on-air studio. Kurt Vile did a lovely set of Gothic-inspired folky acoustic music. His lyrics were fascinating and mesmerizing, with references to a yellow Schwinn bicycle, Bob Seger, and acid.

Kurt Vile at WNYU
October 24, 2008

He talked about an upcoming vinyl release of his (which thrilled me!) and it was particularly enchanting to hear that he was going to be playing that night in Brooklyn at a venue called the Meat Wallet. To hear Kurt Vile's set, you can listen to the archive of the "New Afternoon Show" from October 24th, 2008.

Thanks again to my hosts at WNYU for a fun visit.

Previous Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips:

Field Trip to WECB at Emerson College
College Radio Field Trip 2 - Cal Poly's KCPR
College Radio Field Trip 3 - Notre Dame's WVFI
Radio Station Field Trip #4 - WFMU in Jersey City
Radio Station Field Trip 5 - East Village Radio in NYC

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