Monday, December 8, 2008

College Radio Story in New York Times

A few days ago the New York Times published an article, "In a Digital World, College Radio Perseveres," which discusses college radio's current role in the music landscape.

According to the article:

"...campus radio stations...for generations have served as a clubhouse for connoisseurs and a training ground for the music industry."

In discussing Troy, New York radio station WRPI (at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), the article makes an interesting (and surprising) point that student DJs may not even been avid radio listeners. The article states:

"But when WRPI’s student D.J.’s leave the studio, they said, they are unlikely to listen to the radio at all. 'Even when I’m in the car, I’m usually listening to my iPod and not that much to the station,' said Blair Neal, the music director."

The article goes on to argue that with decreased listenership, college radio stations may not have the same role in the music biz that they once did:

"In the age of blogs and MySpace, college radio might seem an anachronism, an analog remnant in a digital world. With young people listening to the radio less, student stations no longer enjoy the influence they had when they gave bands like R.E.M. and Nirvana an early boost to stardom."

Yet, the piece also makes the point that college radio may be more influential than people realize, arguing:

"But instead of clashing with the Internet, the 700 or so college stations around North America have persevered alongside it, settling into a role as the slower but more loyal foil to the fickle blogosphere. And thanks to the continued passion of their personnel, the stations remain surprisingly successful at promotion, according to many in the music industry, playing a bigger part in breaking new acts than is usually acknowledged."

The article goes on to point out that college radio stations are much more likely to have an online presence, stating:

"To reach new audiences, college and other noncommercial stations have taken the lead in Internet broadcasting: 60 percent have Web streams, compared with 36 percent for all stations, according to RadioTime, an online service. KALX at the University of California, Berkeley, one of the most influential college stations, averages about 60 listeners at a time for its stream, and often has more than 100, said Sandra Wasson, its general manager. But most stations have seen only a trickle."

I agree. And would add that college radio stations often do a much better job with technology in general. Their websites are typically more sophisticated than commercial radio websites and they are much more likely to have regularly updated blogs and pages on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

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