Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some Reflections on College Radio at the End of the Decade

Over on Radio Survivor, a group blog that I write for, we're counting down the top radio trends of the past decade. The first two trends that I've reported on both have to do with some gloom and doom stories about college radio.

Yesterday I wrote about college radio tightening its playlist and today I discussed the disturbing trend of universities turning their backs on college radio.

Although it bums me out to read about college radio losing funding, getting shut down, and being overtaken by public radio content; I remain eternally optimistic about the future.

It's my mission to give more attention to independent radio and to remind EVERYONE about its ongoing relevance. So, in 2010 I'll still be doing my best keep college radio alive.

Our trend stories will continue next week and many of the pieces will have implications for college radio. I encourage you to take a look and share your thoughts about the past and future of radio and let us know if there are big stories and radio trends that we missed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WRVU Reduces Number of Non-Student DJs

Well, I just got word that Vanderbilt University station WRVU is another college radio station that has recently decided to limit the number of community DJs on their airwaves. According to an article in the Tennessean last week,

"The Vanderbilt Student Communications board voted in November to limit the number of disc jockeys on the station who are not directly affiliated with the university, cutting the number from roughly 50 to 25. Over the past week, many of them have signed off. Chris Carroll, director of student media, said the cap was necessary because there were too many 'community' DJs on the airwaves, and managing all of them had gotten difficult for the station's student staff. 'There was a loose belief that anyone who had an interest in radio had an opportunity to come have a show,' he said. 'That was not what was ever intended.'"

On The Nashville Scene blog there's a list of the shows being eliminated and saved at WRVU.

This is quite similar to the new policy implemented at WITR (which by the way has inspired its own protest group on Facebook). As others have pointed out, it will be interesting to see if there are enough students willing to fill the open shifts.

Although it's important to make room for student DJs, I know that most stations struggle to get enough DJs to fill all of the open shifts. The growing trend is to air automated programming when shifts aren't covered. Hopefully these stations will still keep an open mind about utilizing community members for difficult to fill shifts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

WITR Reduces Community DJ Shifts to Make Room for Student DJs

Here's a story that's sure to stir up some debate. According to an article in today's Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester Institute of Technology's student radio station WITR has made the decision to reduce the percentage of airtime devoted to shows hosted by community DJs in order to make more room in the schedule for students. The article states:

"The campus radio station at Rochester Institute of Technology will be cutting back, but not eliminating, programming hosted by non-students. That's the final decision of the student Executive Board of WITR-FM (89.7) after a month-long debate over community programming that had escalated after the sudden resignation of Colin Thomas, who had hosted the Saturday afternoon Reggae Sounds, which the station said was the longest-running reggae show in the country.

Student managers did not return several phone calls asking for comment over the past two weeks, but the community disc jockeys say the biggest failure during this debate was a lack of communication from the students. The bottom line, according to a memo issued by the station, is that community slots will be limited to two hours starting in January. Six shows that the station's programmers deemed unnecessary, including three dedicated to Christian rock, have been eliminated. The goal, according to the board memo and the community DJs, is to create more on-air slots for student DJs."

According to an article earlier this month, long-running shows at the station included a reggae show that's been on the air for 30+ years, a gospel show with a 28 year tenure, and a 25-year-old garage rock show.

As a result of changes in the schedule, some community DJs have already given up their shows. Some long-time listeners and former DJs are publicly venting about this and have expressed concern that this schedule change is part of a larger mission to standardize the station and make it more like a commercial station.

Yet current staff members argue that this is not the case, that they are just making a few tweaks to programming requirements. One DJ pointed out in a comment on the WITR Facebook page, "There are non college members that are taking away opportunities from college students on a college station."

However, some listeners point out that this focus on current student needs may not be the best idea. One commenter on today's story argued,

"This is an extremely short-sighted move for WITR. Just look at the number of years these shows have been running: 10 years, 25 years...How long does a student's college stay last...maybe 5 years at most. And how long will this sudden wave of radio interest last...maybe one semester."

Another listener writes, "There are certainly more community members compared to RIT students that listen to WITR. The community DJs bring a wealth of experience and contribute great programming." And, this comment may get to the core of what WITR is hoping to change. By reducing the amount of time devoted to long-time specialty programming (which is probably favored by older listeners) and tightening up their indie rock playlist they may be hoping to attract more college student listeners.

Every college station has different guidelines concerning non-student DJs. Some stations only allow students to be on the air, whereas others have an unlimited number of community DJs. Some say that community DJs are the glue that holds together a college station, since students come and go and don't always keep an eye on station tradition. Yet others argue that long-time community DJs can make for a more stagnant airsound. For that reason, many stations require that all DJs reapply for their shifts every semester; so that the programming department can re-evaluate all of the shows and make room for new DJs.

Every station has its own mission and priorities as far as programming goes; so there's certainly no right answer on this one.

How does your station incorporate non-student DJs into the schedule? Has this ever been a source of controversy?

By the way, here's an amazing gem from WITR's past: some 1968 film footage of the student radio station!

WWRM's Renaissance at Randolph College

In spite of all of the gloom and doom stories about radio these days, my optimism for college radio remains strong. This week's Lynchburg News Advance story about Randolph College station WWRM is a nice reminder that college radio perseveres. Like many stations, WWRM (aka "The Worm") has been through its highs and lows over the years, but seems to be on an upswing. According to the article:

"Shows on the censorship-free station run the gamut from indie rock and zombie music to sports talk and poetry readings. Students can talk about whatever they want, as long as they do not slander members of the Randolph College community. And any music is fine, as long as it’s not pirated...

This fall, WWRM experienced a renaissance, growing from a handful of inconsistent shows to 47 deejays putting on 28 live shows a week...

'Radio definitely is a dying art, but I think that’s part of the appeal maybe on this campus,' [student manager Sarah] Kreiger said...

The studio dates back to when the station was founded in the 1960s. The musty brown rug and a collection of about 2,000 vinyl records have survived the decades..."

According to WWRM's website, the online-only station originally broadcast over AM carrier-current, then through cable TV at Randolph-Macon Woman's College. The complete history of the station is a bit of a mystery, although it looks like campus radio dates back to at least the 1950s. A 1950s station with the call letters WAVA was based at the college, but, somewhere around 1957 the call letters and some equipment was sold off, perhaps evolving into WWRM.

Monday, December 14, 2009

KFJC's 50th Anniversary Bash this Friday in San Francisco

It's been a fun year at Foothill College (Los Altos Hills) radio station KFJC, as we've been reminiscing about our 50 years on the air all year. The grand finale of all of the celebratory activities will be a big party at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco this Friday, December 18th starting at 7pm.

The free, all ages event will include a bunch of live bands, including Pink Canoes, T.I.T.S, Seven Lies about Girls, and Al Qaeda (who are nicely profiled in this piece about the KFJC bash in the SF Weekly).

Lots of KFJC DJs and alumni are expected to be in attendance and no doubt there will be opportunities to pick up KFJC T-shirts, CDs, and miscellaneous paraphernalia. More details can be found on the KFJC website.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Radio Station Field Trip 20 - WGBK's Glenbrook South Radio

A few weeks ago I was driving around near Chicago, scanning the dial for interesting non-commercial radio stations when I suddenly became riveted by what I was hearing. The voices were young and it seemed clear to me that it must be a high school station.

As I continued to listen, I heard a public service announcement about depression, an ad for a high school newspaper, references to a recent loss by the girls volleyball team, a restaurant review for McDonald's, an investigative piece about a new trash pickup system, and a series of technical snafus and dead air. In terms of the music, it ranged from metal to Bob Marley to Tom Petty.

I was charmed and made it my mission to learn more about the station.

Broadcast Studio (Studio K) at Glenbrook South High School

As it turned out, the station that I was listening to, WGBK, was indeed a high school station located in the suburbs of Chicago near where I was staying with family. The Saturday morning programming that I was treated to was produced by students at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois. I later learned that Saturday mornings are reserved for DJ trainees; so the on-air struggles and dead air that I heard could be attributed to that.

From the archives... a cart machine at WGBK

WGBK broadcasts in the Chicago suburbs over 88.5 FM. Their FM programming is split between two high school stations: Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South; with each school handling programming on different days of the week. Each station also has their own separate webstream.

The school district purchased the station in 1997 from a Christian day school (Midwestern Academy) which had run the previous station under the call letters WMWA. In the period prior to the sale, WMWA offered the district air time and this began with broadcasts of sporting events and evening programs by radio students at Glenbrook South beginning in the 1980s.

WGBK's Original Board from the 1980s

Thanks so much to the students and staff of WGBK for welcoming me to their station on the afternoon of November 16, 2009. I sat down with station adviser/broadcasting teacher Dan Oswald (known to his students as "Doc") to talk about the radio program at Glenbrook South, with which he has quite a history. Dan was actually a student at Glenbrook South from 1988 to 1992, starting his "radio career at 13." He has been in charge of the station as a faculty member since 2004. Dan told me, "it's nice to come back to a program that I got a lot out of." During his tenure as a faculty member he's been able to take the station online and 24/7.

Some Vintage Vinyl from their Collection

This was my first visit to a high school radio station and I was both jealous and impressed, since I didn't have the opportunity to do radio at my high school. Glenbrook South is a large suburban high school on Chicago's north shore with gorgeous facilities. They have a broadcasting department, with a number of radio classes available for students. Between 130 and 140 students participate in radio classes and/or work at the station. Right now the majority of those kids are boys, with girls making up only about 10% of radio participants. Dan said that he's been working on increasing partcipation by girls, saying, "I would like more young ladies to take radio."

The Glenbrook South station, which broadcasts over FM on Mondays, Wednesdays, every other Friday, and on Saturdays is programmed like an "alternative rock station" with a "college radio feel," according to the station's adviser Dan Oswald. Like many college stations, they report their charts to CMJ.

Sticker-covered cabinet

Generally the station is live on the air in the afternoon and evening, from 3:30 until 10 or 11pm. They can be on the air as long as they like on their scheduled days, with the one stipulation being that an adult supervisor must be present. Many retired radio teachers from the program stick around as supervisors, including Mr. Weiss, who I met on my visit.

When they don't have live DJs they broadcast automated programming. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and alternate Fridays the broadcast transitions to the station at Glenbrook North High School beginning at 6am. Each high school has their own studios, but they share a frequency. Dan said, "we're one station...our programming complements one another." He noted that the station is a "window" into the school community since it airs both schools' sporting events, a range of music, documentaries and public service announcements.

Glenbrook South's station is the result of a rigorous radio program, which Doc says he teachers like a college course. All advanced radio students also have jobs at the station, much like one would in college radio. They have been recognized with numerous radio awards and according to Doc, the station has won numerous John Drury High School Radio Awards.

Their online stream (facilitated through Live 365) has seen listeners from Ireland, Canada, Argentina, and Belgium. Alums from the program include not only the station adviser, but also Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump and the young music journalist behind MissExclusive.

DJs at the Glenbrook South station do still play CDs and vinyl, but mostly use mp3s. I was very impressed to see that they do maintain a vinyl library and the students who toured me through it noted with pride that they value the station's history and music collection. The Radio Club began at Glenbrook South in 1981, so there is some music dating back to the 1980s in their library. Additionally, when the station was purchased from WMWA they also aquired that station's music.

Vinyl Library

I talked with a few of the student DJs, including Alex (one of the station managers) about their take on the future of radio. Alex said, "when I do my show...I like to do radio the way....I would want to hear it...playing more music....less talk....[for a] classic radio vibe." He also admitted, "I still like to listen to my iPod," saying that he does more iPod listening than radio listening.

New Music Director Blake said, "I had no idea that radio was dying at the time that I joined [the station]," but isn't particularly focused on the "movement to change that" either. Like Alex, he told me that he wanted to do radio that represents what he'd like to hear, including a "balance of news."

It was clear from my visit that WGBK was a special place and that the students in the program had a great deal of respect for their adviser and pride in the work of their station. It brought back memories for me of my experience on my high school newspaper, as we also had an inspirational adviser with high expectations. That combination can be magical and I was happy to see students who had this opportunity to do radio.

According to Doc, many graduates of WGBK go on to work in college radio; and the DJs who I spoke with also expressed interested in continuing their work in both radio and music production.

Thanks again to everyone at WGBK for showing me that radio is alive and well on at least one high school campus.

The requisite radio station couch in the "employee lounge" at WGBK

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
Radio Station Field Trip 6 - WNYU in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 7 - Northwestern's WNUR
Radio Station Field Trip 8 - Stanford's KZSU
Radio Station Field Trip 9 - University of San Francisco's KUSF
Radio Station Field Trip 10 - Santa Clara University Station KSCU
Radio Station Field Trip 11 - UC Berkeley's KALX
Radio Station Field Trip 12 - KSJS at San Jose State University
Radio Station Field Trip 13 - WBAR at Barnard College
Radio Station Field Trip 14 - KFJC at Foothill College
Radio Station Field Trip 15 - UC Santa Cruz Station KZSC
Radio Station Field Trip 16 - Haverford College Station WHRC
Radio Station Field Trip 17 - FCCFree Radio in San Francisco
Radio Station Field Trip 18 - Flirt FM in Galway, Ireland
Radio Station Field Trip 19- WRXP 101.9 in New York City

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spinning Indie 50 State Tour: Stop 13- Nebraska's KRNU

There's been a burst of energy on the Spinning Indie 50 State Tour, as I've begun pestering some of the stations who have been on my interview wish list for awhile. As you might recall, I'm making my way through all 50 states in order to highlight some of the amazing radio stations that might not be familiar to people who live in other parts of the country.

This virtual tour of radio stations has so far included stops in 12 states, including Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, West Virginia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana and California.

Next up, I'm happy to share with you a virtual trip to Nebraska, to learn more about University of Nebraska (Lincoln) station KRNU. Thanks so much to KRNU Music Director Casey Welsch for taking the time to answer some questions over email. You might remember that I recently posted a piece about a column that Casey wrote for his campus paper about his favorite college radio stations.

Radio history goes as far back as 1922 at University of Nebraska, with various radio experiments and stations along the way. KRNU has been in existence since 1970 and will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year. The current alternative music format has been a staple of the station for 20 years, as it began in 1989.

I was very interested to learn more about the current state of things at KRNU as they went through some programming changes and added a web channel in August 2009. According to an August 2009 press release quoting General Manager Rick Alloway,

"'This fine-tuning of the 90.3 KRNU format will create a modernized training experience for students while focusing more attention on the alternative/indie music interests of the 18-24 year-old listening audience. At the same time, the creation of the second web channel will allow the continuation of the innovative and eclectic programming the college has always produced.'"

With this shift in programming, many specialty shows, sports and talk were moved to a web channel known as Studio 201. The main station, KRNU, is now a more tightly formatted indie station.

In his interview with me, Music Director Casey Welsch explains the changes at KRNU and talks about the station's role in the broader music community of Lincoln, Nebraska.

KRNU Music Director Casey Welsch
Photo courtesy KRNU

Spinning Indie: What motivated you to get involved with college radio?

Casey Welsch: I started working at KRNU one month after I arrived at UNL. I was a music snob and kind of a no-it-all about all things music, and I had always liked the station whenever I heard it going through Lincoln, so I jumped right on. I've been here over two years now and started working as a music director last May. I've been loving the job ever since.

Spinning Indie: How is college radio in 2009 different from when you first began at KRNU?

Casey: In general, there is a lot more research to be done on the internet. It seems that all the big tastemakers right now are music blogs and such. We still try to play more than what the blogs recommend, since internet music often sounds the same as everything else and is driven by hype, but we monitor the net a lot more now.

For KRNU specifically, we split into two separate playlists just this summer. A tighter, more unified playlist now dominates KRNU, and a more twitchy, experimental, freeform playlist is now on our web station, Studio 201. That's made music directing a lot tougher, but it gives us a wider medium to play music on as well.

Photo Courtesy KRNU

Spinning Indie: It's amazing that radio dates back to 1922 at University of Nebraska. Can you tell me a bit about the history of KRNU?

Casey: KRNU has gone through a lot of changes and moved around quite a bit over its history. In the beginning, it was just news and classical music for most of the day, and didn't broadcast 24/7. As it got older and older, the music started to change with the changing times, and it eventually became a pop station. It has always carried Cornhusker sports, though.

The current format started in 1989 and it has been an indie/alternative station ever since. We now broadcast 24/7 over the air and with two channels on the web at KRNU has been in its current studio since 2001 when the college of Journalism and Mass Communications moved to its new current building.

DJ Cole
Photo Courtesy KRNU

Spinning Indie: Do you have any music or artifacts from the early years of the station? Tell me about what you have and if DJs continue to play any of the old records.

Casey: There are actually hundreds of old TV, Radio and Newspaper artifacts on display all over our college. Our former dean was a huge collector of old journalism paraphernalia, and he donated his entire collection to the college when it moved to its current location, and old federal building. There are simply too many pieces to describe, it's like a museum.

Spinning Indie: Explain the new station format and how it's different from prior years.

Casey: KRNU has gone a bit more chart-conscious with its music in an effort to attract new listeners. This is a new development and we are yet unsure how well it's working. KRNU as it used to be is now online only and was renamed Studio 201 (the room it broadcasts out of). There are more people in the crew that manages KRNU, as we have become a bigger operation, so it can get a bit crowded as far as management goes, but it still runs smoothly.

Spinning Indie: Why did the overall programming philosophy change and what kind of response are you getting to the new format?

Casey: The programming changed at the request of the University, who wanted to see the station bring in more money. They hired a group of radio consultants who came in and kind of made us make the station a bit more mainstream. There was initially a huge public outcry against what we were doing with the station, and many of us here did not like what was happening at all. We have wrestled control back from the consultants now, however, and are trying to stay true to our incredibly devoted audience here in Lincoln. More changes are to come. We're still evolving.

Spinning Indie: Are there any specific rules about the music that gets added to your station? Are DJs required to play anything in particular? Is there anything they aren't allowed to play?

Casey: The one rule about music on KRNU is that it has to be GOOD. It has to be truly good. We don't care how well something is charting or how much blog buzz it has, because if it sucks, we aren't playing it. Admittedly, we have had to be a bit more chart-conscious as of late, but we try to have foresight and pick out the artists who we know are only going to chart for a week or so on buzz alone. We pay them no mind.

DJ Kate in one of KRNU's 4 production studios (note the reel-to-reel behind her!)
Photo Courtesy of KRNU

Spinning Indie: Do you add MP3s? vinyl? cassettes? What format of music gets played the most?

Casey: We use a very old system to automate our station that requires uploading everything directly from CD format. KRNU has made the switch to all .WAV files for our music, and Studio 201 still uses mostly CDs.

Spinning Indie: What's the music scene like in Lincoln and what role does KRNU play?

Casey: Lincoln is a small city that has a music scene the size of a much bigger one. There are so many great bands in Lincoln that span all genres. Some of the most popular acts in Lincoln include a soul singer called Son of 76, a hard psych/krautrock band called Gold Lions, a one-man freakshow called The Show is the Rainbow and an accoustic Bluegrass band called Triggertown.

And of course there's UUVVWWZ and Eagle Seagull. We're very proud of how well they both have been doing. As for KRNU's role in the community, we have a very good local show called Lost & Found that has been going for several years now. The hosts like to have lots of live performances on the show and they do a great job of getting new music to the people of Lincoln.

Spinning Indie: What's the longest running show/DJ at the station?

Casey: Our longest running show is actually our metal show Heresy. It has been on the air since 1989 and has changed with every new movement in metal. When it started it was a hair/glam show and is currently a loud rock/death/grind show. It has seen more hosts come and go than anything else on the air.

Spinning Indie: Are the majority of your DJs students? What's the role of community DJs at the station?

Casey: All of the DJs on KRNU are students. It is a policy of ours. Any UNL student can be a DJ and any CoJMC [College of Journalism and Mass Communications] student can have a specialty show. No one can be on the station without being currently enrolled. There are actually classes at CoJMC that require a shift on KRNU, so we like to keep it student-exclusive.

Spinning Indie: What specific specialty shows are you airing on KRNU and on Studio 201?

Casey: They vary. One of the changes on KRNU was that we took all of the sports and talk shows and stuck them on Studio 201. On KRNU right now we have two hip-hop shows, two electronic shows, a metal show, an industrial show, the local show, an alt country/folk show and a funk/soul show that I have been hosting for over a year now. On Studio 201 we have a ska/reggae show, two sports shows and a general talk show, as well as hourly news updates and bi-hourly sports updates that are engineered by students in broadcast news classes.

Spinning Indie: Do you listen to other college radio stations? Which stations do you admire?

Casey: I listen to many other stations. But you already knew that.

Spinning Indie: Anything else you want to share about KRNU?

Casey: To all who doubted us through the changes, we're still with you, and we're doing everything we can to bring things all back home. Have faith and patience, and we'll make KRNU the people's station once again.

Stay up on the Spinning Indie 50 State Tour: a station from Idaho.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips

Beginning in March 2008 I set out to visit as many college radio stations as I could all over the country. For the most part, if I have plans to travel out of town I will attempt to visit a nearby station.

In January, 2009 I turned my attention closer to home and scheduled trips to five college stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. So far, the furthest I've traveled was to Ireland, where I have visited college radio stations in Galway and Dublin.

Although I've expanded my travels to include community radio stations, commercial stations, unlicensed low power stations, high school stations, a religious station, a pop-up radio station, and NPR; my focus still remains fixed on independently-minded radio.

So far, I've visited the following places (not necessarily in chronological order of when I visited each station!):


Field Trip 1 - WECB at Emerson College in Boston
Field Trip 2 - Cal Poly's KCPR
Field Trip 3 - Notre Dame's WVFI
Field Trip 4 - WFMU in Jersey City
Field Trip 5 - East Village Radio in NYC
Field Trip 6 - WNYU in New York City
Field Trip 7 - Northwestern's WNUR


Field Trip 8 - Stanford's KZSU
Field Trip 9 - University of San Francisco's KUSF
Field Trip 10 - Santa Clara University Station KSCU
Field Trip 11 - UC Berkeley's KALX
Field Trip 12 - KSJS at San Jose State University
Field Trip 13 - WBAR at Barnard College
Field Trip 14 - KFJC at Foothill College
Field Trip 15 - UC Santa Cruz Station KZSC
Field Trip 16 - Haverford College Station WHRC
Field Trip 17 - FCCFree Radio in San Francisco
Field Trip 18 - Flirt FM in Galway, Ireland
Field Trip 19 - RXP 101.9 FM in New York City
Field Trip 20- WGBK at Glenbrook South High School 


Field Trip 21 - KPDO in Pescadero, California 
Field Trip 22 - KZYX in Philo, California 
Field Trip 23 - San Francisco's Pirate Cat Radio 
Field Trip 10.5 - KSCU's New Digs at Santa Clara University (2010)
Field Trip 24 - Radio Valencia in San Francisco (2010)
Field Trip 25 - WZBC at Boston College 
Field Trip 26 - KSFS at San Francisco State University


Field Trip 27 - KEAR and Family Radio in Oakland, CA 


Field Trip 28 - Belfield FM at University College Dublin, Ireland
Field Trip 29 - Trinity FM at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Field Trip 30 - KCNL, KSJO and KLOK in San Jose, CA
Field Trip 31 - WLUW at Loyola University Chicago, IL
Field Trip 32 - WPGU at University of Illinois, Champaign 
Field Trip 33 - WEFT in Champaign, Illinois 
Field Trip 34 - WRFU in Urbana, Illinois
Field Trip 35 - Radio DePaul, Chicago, IL
Field Trip 36 - WIBN in Oxford, Indiana
Field Trip 37 - KCSF at City College of San Francisco
Field Trip 38 - WRAS at Georgia State in Atlanta
Field Trip 39 - SCAD Atlanta Radio
Field Trip 40 - WREK at Georgia Tech 
Field Trip 41 - WMRE at Emory University 


Field Trip 42 - WZRD at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago 
Field Trip 43 - KLC at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR 
Field Trip 44 - KRRC at Reed College, Portland, OR
Field Trip 45 - KALW in San Francisco
Field Trip 46 - Urban Knights Radio at Academy of Art, SF, CA 
Field Trip 47 - KPSU at Portland State University, OR
Field Trip 48 - KDUP at University of Portland, OR
Field Trip 49 - KJCC at San Jose City College, San Jose, CA 
Field Trip 50 - KSMC at St. Mary's College, Moraga, CA 
Field Trip 51 - KCEA at Menlo-Atherton High School, Atherton, CA


Field Trip 52 - WXVU at Villanova University, Villanova, PA
Field Trip 53 - KPOO in San Francisco, CA
Field Trip 54 - Mutiny Radio in San Francisco, CA
Field Trip 55 - in San Francisco, CA
Field Trip 24.5 - Radio Valencia's New Location in SF (2014) 
Field Trip 56 - WSRN at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Field Trip 57 - WMBR at MIT, Cambridge, MA
Field Trip 58 - WHRB at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 
Field Trip 59 - WTBU at Boston University, Boston, MA
Field Trip 60 - WMFO at Tufts University, Medford, MA
Field Trip 61 - WRBB at Northeastern University, Boston, MA 
Field Trip 62 - WHHS at Haverford High School, Havertown, PA 
Field Trip 63 - Radio 1851 at St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA
Field Trip 64 - WQHS at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Field Trip 16.5 - WHRC at Haverford College, Haverford, PA 
Field Trip 65 - WRGW at George Washington U, Washington, D.C. 
Field Trip 66 - WMUC at University of Maryland, College Park, MD 
Field Trip 67 - NPR in Washington, D.C. 
Field Trip 68 - WLOY at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, MD 
Field Trip 69 - WLTL at Lyons Township High School, La Grange, IL 
Field Trip 70 - KEXP in Seattle, WA
Field Trip 71 - Rainy Dawg Radio at U of Washington, Seattle, WA
Field Trip 73 - UWave at University of Washington, Bothell, WA 
Field Trip 74 - Hollow Earth Radio in Seattle, WA 
Field Trip 75 - KXSU at Seattle University, Seattle, WA
Field Trip 76 - The Tower at SF Art Institute, San Francisco, CA


Field Trip 72 - KUSF-in-Exile/San Francisco Community Radio
Field Trip 77 - WRFL at University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Field Trip 78 - KCSB at UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 
Field Trip 79 - RBMA Radio in San Francisco (pop-up station)
Field Trip 80 - WRVG-LP at Georgetown College, Georgetown, KY
Field Trip 81 - WONC at North Central College, Naperville, IL
Field Trip 82 - 9th Floor Radio at Laney College, Oakland, CA
Field Trip 83 - ARTxFM in Louisville, KY
Field Trip 84 - KBCP at Bellarmine College Prep, San Jose, CA
Field Trip 85 - Bellarmine Radio at Bellarmine U, Louisville, KY
Field Trip 86 - WHBC at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Field Trip 87 - WGMU at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Field Trip 88 - KWVA at University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 
Field Trip 89 - KAOS at Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
Field Trip 90 - WVAU at American University, Washington, D.C.
Field Trip 91 - Radio K at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 
Field Trip 92 - KRLX at Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Field Trip 93 - KBOO in Portland, OR
Field Trip 94 - in Portland, OR
Field Trip 95 - WMCN at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
Field Trip 96 - KSPC at Pomona College, Claremont, CA
Field Trip 97 - KBPS at Benson Polytechnic H.S., Portland, OR
Field Trip 9.5 - at University of San Francisco


Field Trip 98 - WBCR at Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY  
Field Trip 99 - WHCS at Hunter College, New York, NY
Field Trip 100 - WPRB at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 
Field Trip 101 - WCUA at Catholic University, Washington, D.C.
Field Trip 102 - WGTB at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
Field Trip 103 - WOWD-LP Takoma Radio in Takoma Park, MD
Field Trip 104 - WERA-LP Radio Arlington in Arlington, VA 
Field Trip 105 - CHIRP Radio in Chicago, IL 
Field Trip 106 - Met Radio at Metropolitan State U of Denver, CO
Field Trip 107 - KOMF-LP Open Media Foundation in Denver, CO 
Field Trip 108 - The SOCC Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO 
Field Trip 109 - KCSU at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Field Trip 110 - KVCU Radio 1190 University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Field Trip 111 - KUCI at University of California, Irvine, CA
Field Trip 112 - KBPK at Fullerton College, Fullerton, CA
Field Trip 113 - KEPC Pikes Peak CC, Colorado Springs, CO
Field Trip 114 - WCAS Radio at Metropolitan State Univ., Denver, CO
Field Trip 115 - KXUA at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
Field Trip 116 - KHDX at Hendrix College, Conway, AR
Field Trip 117 - KCHUNG Radio in Los Angeles, CA
Field Trip 118 - KPSQ-LP in Fayetteville, AR
Field Trip 119 - KUOZ-LP at University of the Ozarks, Clarksville, AR
Field Trip 120 - KABF in Little Rock, AR 
Field Trip 121 - KUHS-LP in Hot Springs, AR
Field Trip 122 - WYBF at Cabrini University in Radnor, PA
Field Trip 130 - WNUW-LP at Neumann University, Aston, PA
Field Trip 134 - WHIP at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Field Trip 135 - WKDU at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Field Trip 138 - WPPM-LP at PhillyCAM in Philadelphia, PA

Field Trip 123 - WVCW at Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond, VA
Field Trip 124 - WRIR-LP in Richmond, VA
Field Trip 125 - WMWC, U of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA
Field Trip 126 - WXJM, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Field Trip 127 - WCWM, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Field Trip 128 - WHCL, Lehman College, Bronx, NY
Field Trip 129 - WTJU, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Field Trip 131 - WUVA, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Field Trip 132 - WXTJ-LP, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Field Trip 133 - WDCE at University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
Field Trip 136 - KLMU, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA
Field Trip 137 - KXLU, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA
Field Trip 139 - WFUV, Fordham University, Bronx, NY
Field Trip 140 - KLLG-LP in Willits, CA
Field Trip 141 - WKCR at Columbia University in New York, NY
Field Trip 142 - WIIT, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL
Field Trip 143 - WHPK at University of Chicago, Chicago, IL   


Field Trip 144 - KVCB-LP at Vacaville Christian Schools, Vacaville, CA
Field Trip 145 - Wave Farm and WGXC in Acra, NY
Field Trip 146 - WGXC Hudson in Hudson, NY
Field Trip 147 - KAKX-FM at Mendocino High School, Mendocino, CA
Field Trip 148 - WVKR-FM at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Field Trip 149 - KDVS-FM at UC Davis in Davis, CA
Field Trip 150 - KSFL-LP Portland Radio Project in Portland, OR 

Stick around to see who's next...

Spinning Indie 50 State Tour Project

The goal of the Spinning Indie 50 State Tour is to highlight college radio stations in every corner of the United States. Since so much attention gets focused on a small number of high-profile radio stations; I wanted to make the effort to expose people to stations that might be a bit below the radar.

By virtue of this tour's "virtual" nature, I will be able to interview stations in every state by conducting email and phone interviews.

Since this series began in October 2008, the following stations have been featured stops on my virtual tour of college radio around the country:

1. Arkansas station KXUA (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville)
2. Wisconsin station WSUM (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
3. Kansas station KJHK (University of Kansas, Lawrence)
4. Louisiana station WTUL (Tulane University, New Orleans)
5. Alaska station KSUA (University of Alaska, Fairbanks)
6. North Dakota station KNDS (North Dakota State University, Fargo)
7. Nevada station Wolf Pack Radio (University of Nevada, Reno)
8. West Virginia station WHSC (Shepherd University, Shepherdstown)
9. Kentucky station WRFL (University of Kentucky, Lexington)
10. Minnesota station KRLX (Carleton College, Northfield)
11. Montana station KBGA (University of Montana, Missoula)
12. California station KSCR (University of Southern California, Los Angeles)
13. Nebraska station KRNU (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
14. Idaho station KUOI (University of Idaho, Moscow)
15. Tennessee station WRVU (Vanderbilt University, Nashville)
16. South Carolina station WSBF (Clemson University, Clemson)
17. Virginia station WTJU (University of Virginia, Charlottesville)

Stick around to see who might be next....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

WRXP's "The Vinyl Experience" Show

"Vinyl Experience" Host Paul Cavalconte Browsing Record Bins at Rough Trade in London
Photo courtesy Paul Cavalconte

When I visited commercial radio station WRXP in New York City back in October, one of the things that impressed me was word that they were starting up a vinyl-only show on Sundays. The show premiered in late October and has aired 6 episodes so far on Sunday mornings.

Thanks to much to the host of "The Vinyl Experience," Paul Cavalconte, for taking the time to chat with me over email about this unique radio show. Although I was disappointed to learn that he wasn't actually hauling his vinyl to the radio station for the weekly show; it made sense when I found out that this is more a matter of fulfilling the specific goals that he has set out for the program. Since it's only an hour a week, he's crafted it more like a magazine; with features designed to help instill a love of vinyl. One might call Paul the "vinyl evangelist," as he's working to both educate people about vinyl and encourage vinyl listening.

To learn more about the show (airing from 9 to 10am Sundays in New York City and on the WRXP webstream) and take a look at playlists, see Paul's blog on the 'RXP website.

As I talked with Paul he shared with me his college radio past, his love for vinyl, the intricacies of putting together his show, and his hope that through the show he'll be able to encourage more people to pick up and listen to vinyl records.

On to the interview:

Spinning Indie: How did the Vinyl Experience Radio Show come to exist on RXP.

Paul Cavalconte: It began as my web page. Leslie Fram, who is also our Program Director, challenged me to come up with the on-air equivalent. Originally I thought it would be a feature, one vinyl-only song, but she said "you need to do a whole show on this." When I set about putting the demo together, I realized that this show needed to be carefully planned and produced so as to convey what I have learned and wish to share. So winging it as a live free-form hour of spinning turntables doesn't cut it--as much fun as that can be, meeting the goals I have set for myself is more fun!

Spinning Indie: Tell me about the first show. What did you play and how did people react?

Paul: I have had wonderful response so far, and you can check out playlists on my Vinyl Experience web page at, and also "The Vinyl Experience Radio Show" on Facebook. The first song on the first show was Pearl Jam "Spin The Black Circle."

I like to begin each show with a song about records or "the vinyl experience," such as Squeeze's "If I Didn't Love You," Ryan Adams' "Majick," The Kinks' "Juke Box Music," Todd Snider's "Vinyl Records." I have debuted new single-only tracks by Arctic Monkeys, David Gray, local artists like Locksley and Black Gold. I've done focus pieces on classic stuff such as the alternate mixes on the mono late Beatles albums; the back story and ongoing influence of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," tied in with the reissue of the original British album. Sometimes I'll throw historic stuff in, such as audio on commemorative records released for the Apollo 11 Moon landing, JFK's assassination, etc.

Vinyl Records Propped in the Window of the 'RXP Music Director's Office

Spinning Indie: Are you mainly playing music from your own collection? Does RXP have a vinyl library?

Paul: We are building a library of new releases and some catalog stuff, and I certainly draw on my own collection for much of each weekly show. Eventually, I would like to see RXP put vinyl into active on-air duty, or to use the vinyl aspect in imaging the presentation of library classics, but we'll need a setup for that, because.....

Spinning Indie: How many turntables does RXP have?

Paul: None! I am not playing records live on-air and I don't intend to! There are a few practical reasons. First off, all broadcasting is now entirely digitally transmitted, from the console to studio-transmitter link, to on-air audio processing and finally the transmission itself..... so the analog texture one experiences listening to records on a home Hi Fi system cannot be exactly recreated --that's why I like to say "DO try this at home.

That said, I do feel that some psychoacoustic aspects of the analog listening experience do translate--better midrange definition, better bass pitch, more palpable imaging. Vinyl dubbed to digital sounds like vinyl, but with the glassiness of digital superimposed over it; master tape commercially cut to CD sounds like something very different.

Interestingly, digital recordings mastered to vinyl sound digital--as vinyl is a very faithful and transparent medium, despite the signal-to-noise improvements in digital. I also do believe that the "substrate awareness" factor of a palpable medium--stylus drag through the groove and the occasional pop and tick--adds to the analog psychoacoustic effect, and this does translate to digital as well.

I dub all analog sources from my own audiophile home system, and edit and assemble the show using Adobe Audition on my computer, set for the highest possible resolution manageable. It is very sensitive and responsive. If the tubes in my preamp and my vintage Neumann microphone are not sufficiently warmed up, I can hear it on the recording! I can certainly hear the differences in cartridges I use, and I believe that astute listeners can pick up on this, but it is not specifically what I'm aiming for!

Most importantly, I want the show to evoke the vinyl listening experience and encourage people to seek it out in their own lives. I want to detail the culture of records and how albums are a body of pop literature. I want young listeners to build the kind of relationship that I enjoy with records and through that, a better understanding of music. So it goes way beyond audio geek-dom, which is a very minor consideration, even though I have a lot to say about it!

Paul's Gear
Photo Courtesy Paul Cavalconte

Spinning Indie: Why do you think that vinyl has a future?

Paul: We will always need "hard media", and vinyl--along with CDs--are that. Both older and new generations are enamored of vinyl--for one, nostalgia, for the other, discovery. I do believe that the sonic advantages of analog will win fans over, but that must be properly presented. The quality of vinyl playback equipment has improved greatly over the affordable commercial stuff out in the market back when vinyl was the only game in town!

Spinning Indie: What do you love about vinyl?

Paul: Vinyl is sensual. It has a feel, look, even smell (the sweetly musty book-smell that libraries have) and most certainly a sound. That sound is truer to life for me, despite the many disadvantages of vinyl playback...but anyone can learn to hear through those small distortions and deeper in to the music than squeaky-clean but one-dimensional digital will ever allow.

More of Paul's Gear Used to Craft the "Vinyl Experience" Show
Photo courtesy Paul Cavalconte

Spinning Indie: Are you aware of any other commercial stations with vinyl-only shows?

Paul: Quite a few stations (mostly AAA and Oldies) do vinyl segments featuring one or two special songs, or a "Turntable Thursday" type all-day feature...some track entire albums for effect. "The Vinyl Experience" is (as far as I know) the only longform American broadcast radio show about the culture, story and sound of vinyl records. It surely is the only one addressing technical aspects, offering Vinyl News and "Turntable Tips." It is an on-air magazine, more so that a feature, and that's my concept!

Spinning Indie: Do you have a college radio past? If so, at what station?

Paul: I sure do! I went to Fordham in The Bronx, New York and I owe my career to WFUV. When I was there (1979-83) students had much more air time and power. It is public radio now, with some student involvement, but mostly a paid professional staff.

Spinning Indie: Anything else?

Paul: I am always looking for new music and --sticking with the concept of the show--if it is on vinyl, I will consider playing it. The show right now is rooted in library and major label releases, but I would love to break a little Indie music too.

I'm also soliciting listener participation through our "Virgin Vinyl" feature, where you tell us about your "first time" --with a record, that is! I'll also ask visiting artists what LP was their first, or changed their lives. I'm planning personal appearances through Record Store Day, and naturally, sponsorship of the show by vinyl-related purveyors who might not have considered radio as an advertising option before.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spinning Indie 50 State Tour: Stop 12- California's KSCR

Welcome back to the Spinning Indie 50 State Tour, in which I investigate stations from all over the United States.

This virtual tour of radio stations has so far included stops in 11 states, including Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, West Virginia, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Montana.

As you can see by the list, for the most part I've been taking my Spinning Indie 50 State Tour to smaller towns outside of the media glare of big cities and the coasts. But, since I'm attempting to virtually travel to all 50 states, it was only a matter of time before I made it to a big coastal city. As a Californian, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of selecting one station from this massive state to profile for the "tour," but was intrigued by the tale of the University of Southern California (USC) station KSCR, so decided to take the trek a bit closer to home.

When I was at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City this October, I got to also meet a bunch of folks from KSCR (you can read their take on the CMJ fest on their blog); so was even more excited to feature the station.

KSCR "Family Band" at CMJ Artist Lounge, October 2009

KSCR is a student-run radio station in Los Angeles that began as a carrier current station at USC in 1975 and eventually had stints on cable and on FM. By 1998 they were webcasting, which continues today along with an AM broadcast over 1560 AM in Los Angeles. The station is devoted to independent music, billing itself as "revolutionary radio."

Thanks so much to KSCR's Public Relations Director Kat B., Music Director Emilie Brailey, and General Manager Zak Wolf for taking the time to fill me in about their station. On to the interview:

Spinning Indie: I understand that KSCR will celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2010. Can you tell me a little bit about the station's history?

Zak Wolf, General Manager: KSCR can trace its roots back to 1946 when USC decided that a radio station would provide the University and its students with an unprecedented media format for that period in history. By the mid-1970s, however, that radio station, KUSC, had switched to an all-classical format and students were only permitted to be interns.

In 1975, 13 dedicated and diverse undergrads decided to start their own radio station. Since then, the face of KSCR changed frequently. We've had all sorts of formats and many different means of broadcasting, from AM 530, to a public access cable TV channel to a pirated FM signal at 104.7.

In 1998 the FCC began to crack down on unauthorized radio signals. While driving up the I-110 en-route to shut down a Silverlake radio station that happened to use the same frequency as KSCR, the FCC happened caught us broadcasting on the 104.7 stream and shut it down. KSCR thus adopted a webcasting signal, one of the first stations to do so, and switched to 1560 AM.

Since then, we've struggled to get funding both externally via sponsorships and PSAs, and internally from the University Student Government. This hasn't stopped us from being a strong radio presence among the USC student body and the Los Angeles area. We broadcast 24 hrs a day at 160 kbps stream and locally at 1560 am, dedicated at least 12 hours each day to live DJs, Newscasters or Sports talk shows.

Every Friday we bring a band in to play a set live over the air and we hold an interview afterwards. We continue to release our annual publication "Bandwidth" and we put on some of the best free concerts around. We plan to build on KSCR's history of amazing in-studio performances and concert performances, which include (in reverse order of appearance): Tom
Brosseau, Crystal Antlers, Mika Miko, Happy Hollows, Avi Buffalo, Daedelus, Busdriver, Gangi, Army Navy, The Dodos, Thee Oh Sees, Abe Vigoda, No Age, Mirah, Ghostland Observatory, My Chemical Romance, Minus the Bear, and (in the early nineties) No Doubt, Biggie Smalls, Gang Starr, DJ Shadow, J5, WuTang Clan, Mos Def & Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, and Common.

On October 17th we look[ed] to build on this list with our first show of the fall semester featuring Nosaj Thing, Rainbow Arabia, and Ras G.

Spinning Indie: How will you celebrate the station's anniversary? What do you guys do to preserve the station's history?

Zak Wolf: In 2010 KSCR will commemorate its 35 year anniversary with the move to the new Campus Center. This will be a turning point for KSCR, as the station will have state of the art equipment and a central location on campus, exponentially raising awareness of KSCR among the student body.

We've established an Alumni association called KSCRfriends, who have pledged to raise $1 million for KSCR. They hold monthly conference calls, accept donations year round and meet annually every homecoming to reinvigorate the efforts and meet the fresh faces of the KSCR staff, which, as KSCR is completely student run, change significantly each year.

Every so often KSCR will update its DJ manual and its online wiki or "documentation project" with the new history of the station. There will be a new update before the move to the campus center.

KSCR was up for the 2009 mtvU College Radio Woodie
Image courtesy KSCR Facebook Page

Spinning Indie: You're on AM and online right now, but KSCR used to be carrier current and low power FM. How powerful is your over-the-air signal (how far away can it be heard) and do you think many of your listeners are tuning in via AM radio?

Kat B., Public Relations Director: I’ll be frank here — our AM signal sucks. It's supposed to cover all of campus, but it doesn't. We’re working on reclaiming our FM presence, though. (Fingers crossed.)

Zak Wolf: KSCR's bread and butter is our online stream, but our AM broadcast reaches approximately 1 mile around campus. KSCR 1560 AM goes out via a 10 watt signal, which, if turned up, would be vulnerable to FCC restrictions and licensing. Right now, because we are located at an educational institution and do not broadcast outside our range, we do not need an FCC license.

My guess is that very few listen through the radio waves in comparison to our online broadcast simply due to issues of fidelity and range. We hope to garner enough listeners and support from our student body and the USC administration to apply for an FM signal; however, in Los Angeles this is an expensive and exhausting task, currently beyond the capabilities of an all-volunteer undergraduate staff with a relatively small bank account.

Spinning Indie: You must be thrilled about your new studio space in the campus center (coming in 2010). How did all of that come about?

Zak: We are supremely excited. Student Activities and Campus Affairs, with the help of our alumni network, previous KSCR staffs, and the amazing Brandon Operchuck, our faculty adviser and director of performance venues at USC, have joined forces and funds to build us our new facility. Michael L. Jackson, Vice President of Student Affairs, has been a strong supporter of KSCR as well, and has helped with the inclusion of KSCR in this amazing new Campus Center. We fall under the umbrella of a much larger project, and we're enjoying the shade.

Kat: It’s really hard for me to be excited about the new studio since this is my last year at USC! I’m so jealous of all the underclassmen involved with KSCR; they really don’t know what’s coming to them. The space is going to be absolutely amazing. I’ll have to visit — a lot.

2009-2010 KSCR Staff Photo
Courtesy KSCR

Spinning Indie: I know that various alums have helped to set up a group (Friends of KSCR) charged with raising funds in order to ensure the station's future. I'm not sure I've heard of similar efforts at college radio stations. Why do you think station alums are so passionate about preserving KSCR?

Zak: KSCR is unique because it was started as 100% student-run and has remained that way. USC initially didn't want to give students their own station, but the efforts of the original 13 set the bar for the next 35 years of KSCR staffers.

Everyone at KSCR has the opportunity to become part of a family. We're all volunteering our time to make something that we believe has the potential to truly be great. We feed off each others' excitement daily. Our motivation is entirely our own. Our facilities are entirely our own. It's a feeling of belonging and commitment so above and beyond any cynical critique or monetary consideration that no one ever wants to leave.

Every member of KSCR puts so much of their time, efforts and self into the station that the rewards are ineffably satisfying. Plus, our programming is totally original, our music is amazing and unique, we put on the best events, and we give students unprecedented opportunities and experiences in broadcast journalism, music industry, and even leadership. Who wouldn't want to see a place like that continue?

Spinning Indie: Can you tell me about your online music database. Is it primarily for DJs to use?

Zak: Our online database essentially keeps track of all the music that KSCR has. It's used by DJs to create playlists and log their tracks. The logging of songs played is mandatory as we report our charts to CMJ and are required to keep track of every song we play on the air. It also allows us to send song information to the front page of our website and through the m3u stream. Our music department uses reviews, recommended tracks and RIYLs to expose DJs to music they might not have encountered before, and in that sense it’s a very informative tool.

Emilie Brailey, Music Director: The online music database is open to everyone. I think it was started in order to feed the robot but now it’s a handy back up system in case albums go missing (like the fucker who stole the Shins… you can’t keep us down mother fucker, you can’t keep us down!)

Spinning Indie: What is the revolutionary robot?

Emilie: The revolutionary robot is our mascot. He’s a big friendly dancing machine! In reality, the robot is our iTunes, it’s what makes KSCR a 24 hr programming station. When there isn’t a show, the iTunes is playing, stocked with music that only staff or select DJs have added that is of KSCR quality.

Zak: The revolutionary robot is the KSCR mascot. It got its name from our slogan "Revolutionary Radio," meant to highlight our unique programming and alternative music. We have a robot costume we like to bring out at promotional events, and we use robot imagery on a lot of our promotional materials.

"Revolutionary Robot" also references a program that we are looking to re-instate on our new server, which was called "the robot" and operated like a high-tech iTunes shuffle and sent track information to the front page mimicking a DJ's logged tracks. Now, we have our music department hand pick a huge amount of cohesive music for our "Studio A" iTunes, which we place on party shuffle. We then use KungTunes to send that information out over our stream. The new robot that we're looking to program on our recently purchased server will hopefully be able to do the same as the old with maybe a few more updates.

Flyer from Recent KSCR event
Image courtesy KSCR Facebook Page

Spinning Indie: Are most students aware of KSCR? Do you have to be a student to be a DJ? What role does it play on campus?

Zak: We're always looking to raise the profile of KSCR amongst our students. We flyer, and table often, in addition to giving out our information at USC's orientation sessions and constant online promotion.

Only USC students can be a DJ. We provide a service you really can't get anywhere on our off campus. Anyone can have their own show, anyone can listen. It's awesome.

Kat: KSCR’s presence at USC has increased tremendously since I started here in the fall of 2006. Now, when we have informational meetings for our station interns, the room is often packed to the brim with students eager to become a part of the station. I think our increased visibility has a lot to do with our recent focus on effective marketing and promotion; we recently got a Twitter account, redid our other social networking sites and are currently in the process of redesigning the KSCR website — all very significant methods that can increase awareness of a campus radio station.

We recently changed our constitution so that USC alumni — mainly alumni of KSCR — could come back and have a timeslot for a show. It’s been really awesome to see some familiar faces back in the studio. Otherwise, the rest of our DJs are USC students, and we’d really like to keep it that way.

While USC has its own Concert Committee to bring live shows to campus, KSCR has really filled the niche in bringing independent music to USC; our concerts — and the music we play — really don't cater to the majority of students who will camp out on the quad to see someone like the Fray perform. That being said, we’ve had the opportunity to expose many students to the wide variety of artists in the local independent scenes.

We did our first outdoor music festival on campus this past spring and has bands such as Mika Miko, Crystal Antlers, Avi Buffalo and the Happy Hollows perform — it was a huge success. We’ve also brought No Age into the studio for interviews, had KSCR alum Daedelus do a benefit show for the station and we’re working on sponsoring our first off-campus show for the end of the year. If there’s something we’re really good at, it’s live events.

Julianna Barwick live at KSCR
Photo Courtesy KSCR Facebook Page

Spinning Indie: I know that Los Angeles is a huge market with lots of college radio stations. How does KSCR play a role in the broader community and music scene surrounding the campus?

Zak: KSCR is all about its content. Our DJs are dedicated to their shows. Our sports department is relentless about theirs and the USC games. We make sure we have the best non-top 40, independent music around. We distribute our magazine all around LA. We have a whole section of our "New Wall" of CDs devoted to LA artists and bands. Our Live Show brings in a different local act each week to play in Studio B over the airwaves. And, of course, our free concerts on the USC campus bring in the best local talent for USC students and anyone in Los Angeles who wants to attend.

Emilie: Up until now KSCR has not been huge outside of USC, but I think that it has been blossoming in the last few years. I think every year the staff becomes more and more aware of the potential and our fan base has really grown. I know of many people all around the monstrous LA area who are not only familiar with KSCR now, but also come to shows we put on. I’m not sure about other college radio stations and we don’t seem to be competing with them yet (if we are I am unaware).

Spinning Indie: What's the overall music philosophy of the station?

Emilie: Music philosophy: this is college radio. “College Radio” has almost become a genre in itself. My philosophy is that KSCR should have only the best; no-crap policy. Although we give some bands a chance that may not have had one otherwise, we really stick to what we think is the best quality.

Zak: We love any genre of music, except we won't play top 40 artists. Our goal is to provide music that you won't hear on mainstream radio especially since KCRW is NPR most of the time, KXLU doesn't have the strongest of signals and Indie 103.1 is all but dead.

KSCR is original programming 100% of the time. We spin mostly indie/alternative, but we also have parts of our library devoted to electronica, hip hop, jazz, world music, punk and loud rock.

Photo courtesy KSCR Facebook Page

Spinning Indie: Are there any specific rules about the music that gets added to your station? Are DJs required to play anything in particular? Is there anything they aren't allowed to play?

Emilie: There are indeed some rules to adding. KSCR is truly college radio, so we do not add nor are DJs supposed to play anything that is Top 40 or overtly popular. Sometimes DJs play older popular music (Beatles, Bob Marley) and we still add stuff that’s considered pretty popular (the new Neil Young album, for example) but for the most part it’s an indie sound on all levels.

Nothing of bad sound quality, obviously, is added, and nothing that sounds too pop (even it’s an obscure band) is added too often.

Of course, the new stuff added is usually a blanket style, but the intricacies change depending on the music director. I’m really into indie singer songwriter mystical spacey shit (Bon Iver makes me jazz in my pants) so I add a lot more of those kind of bands than a music director who is more into other styles.

As stated, DJs are not allowed to play popular music/Top 40. With that said, our DJs are really free to play mostly whatever they want. They usually become a college radio DJ because they are into college radio music, so there aren’t many issues. They are required to play four new adds per hour (I add on average 7-15 albums a week) while supplementing their show with one
‘other’ genre per hour (a genre they don’t normally play). This allows new music to always be on the airwaves and keeps all shows pretty eclectic.

Zak: ...we encourage DJs to use our music library and database, and to play music that isn't popular now and was never popular before. In other words, if you're a KSCR DJ and you want to play the Beatles, play a B-side from the white album or an obscure version of one of their hits.

Kat: Absolutely not! The great thing about KSCR is that it brings together so many students with the broadest of music tastes; we add and play just about everything from your general college indie rock to world music to metal to jazz. If it sounds good and we like it, chances are it’ll get added. (Having cool cover art doesn’t hurt, either!)

There’s just one rule — and I think we may have upset some interns at our most recent KSCR information meeting by saying this — but KSCR’s primary goal is to function as an alternative to the slush of Los Angeles FM radio, and as such, we try not to play anything you’d find on a Top 40 station.

We try to encourage DJs to go for the deep cuts, the unreleased material, the tiny little band trying to make it big...

Spinning Indie: Do you add and play vinyl? mp3s? cassettes?

Emilie: We play vinyl, mp3s, CDs, any kind of aux you can muster (computer, iPod, iPod-esque creatures), but so far no cassettes that I know of and adds are mostly in the form of physical CD.

[But in my opinion it’s okay. I may be desecrating generations and skinny jean wearing hipsters, but cassettes were short lived and unnecessary. The sound quality is not like that of other mediums. So go KSCR for not having them!]

Zak: We have an old closet of hip hop and electronica vinyl, and we occasionally get vinyl submissions, but KSCR is a mostly CD based radio station. We do, however, encourage DJs to bring their own vinyl. We have a turntable in our main studio and two turntables with a mixer that is hooked up to our board in what we call "studio b." MP3s are usually burned to disc and we can play cassette, but we don't have it in our library.

Kat: I remember there used to be a cassette player when I first started at KSCR! I wonder where that went…

Most of our database is made up of CDs, but DJs often bring in their iPods or their own vinyl to play over the air, too. I think, before I graduate this spring, I need to do an all-vinyl show; I’m long overdue.

Spinnining Indie: Is there anything else you want to share about KSCR or college radio in general?

Zak: College radio knows what's up. Listen to us online at!

Kat: Independent radio rules! I’ve met some wonderful people during my time at KSCR and made some lifelong friends in the process. I’m truly going to miss the station when I graduate this year.