Sunday, May 24, 2009

Inside Scoop on KAUR's Decision to Drop FM

Thank goodness for passionate bloggers. A piece in the Madville Times just turned me on to a lengthy investigation into the recent decision by Augustana College to drop their college radio station's FM signal (which has a broadcast range of 60 miles!).

On Rant-a-Bit, Scott Hudson wrote an extensive article this week called "Augie's Bonehead Decision Regarding KAUR" that goes into detail about why the college in South Dakota is giving up on FM at KAUR. He writes:

"I can’t help but be disappointed, though, as the station ranks right up with Budget Tapes and Records and Ernie November as my main sources to discover new music in the 80’s and 90’s. Sure, I undoubtedly would have eventually discovered the Clash, R.E.M., Replacements, Cure, Joy Division, Lloyd Cole, Young Fresh Fellows, Camper Van Beethoven, and tons of other bands, but it was quite a treat to share these discoveries with listeners in my 18-year tenure as DJ and music director (84-85). It wasn’t just the music that made that old studio in Old Main (and later in one of the dorms) so special. It was the people. Over the years I met so many great people, many of whom I’m still in contact today (including the beautiful and talented Goddess)."

In his article, he includes portions of an interview with KAUR's General Manager, outlining the rationale given by the Dean of Augustana College for dropping FM. According to the interview, the main reasons that the school gave for dropping FM were:

1. Lack of student awareness/listeners (based on a student survey) and the feeling that more would listen if the station were online
2. Low student participation in station
3. Lack of radio curriculum at the school
4. The school's interest in using the space being taken up by the station
5. Fears about potential FCC violations and huge fines
6. Outside interest in the station by religious groups and public radio groups (Minnesota Public Radio and the Catholic Diocese have already shown interest)

Without even seeing this interview, I'd guessed that the school must have had financial motivations for this move. In fact, I'm sure that the lure of easy money is the main reason for shutting down FM.

As in similar instances at other stations, there is no consideration given for the broader impact that the station has on the community at large. My guess is that this loss of an independent FM station in South Dakota will have a huge impact on the local airwaves. Many college stations have low student involvement and low student listenership. Many are not housed within a specific radio curriculum. But, as this article points out, what students learn in college radio is much more expansive than just learning to be a professional DJ. As KAUR GM Tom Prochazka states in his interview with Scott Hudson:

"The educational value we do place on the station’s use is that of experience: student staff get to experience real-life managerial skills in dealing with student DJs, with DJs from the Sioux Falls community, with the administration, with the FCC, with community requests, and with community complaints...KAUR focuses on the education of the student DJs who learn how to operate a show, how to read live copy on the air, and how to better communicate when there is no script or prepared speech.

This is a part of the college’s 'liberal arts' education and tradition that will be lost without KAUR at Augustana; students may learn how to memorize a speech for class but will no longer have the chance to ad-lib live copy when moving from a concert promotion to a legal i.d. to the discussion topic at hand.

You can stay on top of the latest news with the situation at KAUR on their website. Questions and letters of support can be sent to (ATTN: OPINION in subject) or to KAUR FM, 2001 S Summit Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57197.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Radio Panel Full of Gloom and Doom

An article today in Daily Sound recaps a "future of music" panel discussion at the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast. Former record execs and a guy from Pandora proclaimed the radio industry dead.

The quote that's really hard to swallow was from the chief technical officer of Pandora:

"'I can’t come up with a good reason why we’re still broadcasting from (antenna) towers,' said Tom Conrad, chief technical officer for Pandora, which is an online service that allows users to put the name of their favorite musician into a search and come up with many high-quality recordings.

'Radio is slowly going bye-bye,' said panelist David Cremin, managing director of venture capital fund DFJ Frontier. Cremin, Conrad and others spoke to a crowd of about 75 listeners Wednesday night at the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast at the Cabrillo Arts Center in Santa Barbara."

After reporting some news this week about the Augustana College radio station KAUR dropping their FM signal and going online-only, I did start to wonder if this would be a growing trend. As colleges look to get some fast cash during turbulent economic times, they may be tempted to sell off FM signals to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, these frequencies are more often than not bought up by non-local religious groups or public radio groups. You can see the unfortunate results of this on the left end of the dial in certain parts of the country, where the local radio presence is pretty much non-existent.

I do think there's a great reason to maintain AM and FM stations. Independent, non-commercial radio is still exciting and is the place where I learn about new music. I like hearing bizarre musical segues, strange sounds, and live DJs. I would much rather hear a curated hour of college radio than a DJ-less computer-selected mix of music on Pandora or an iPod on shuffle. I realize that Pandora can be great for music discovery, but it really can't be compared to hearing an intelligent DJ's personal selections.

Free, local, non-commercial radio still rules in my book. I don't think we should give up on AM and FM just yet.

College Radio Tidbits: College Radio with a Filter, 30 Years of Jazz, WUVT Powers Down to Power Up, WESU Alum Love

A few college radio tidbits to share:

Paste Magazine: "College Radio with a Filter"
I'm always interested to see how college radio is described in pop culture and there was a pretty interesting reference to it in a POPSENSE piece about Paste magazine. Abby Johnston writes about the "7 Reasons to Save Paste Magazine," and name checks college radio in her number one reason, saying:

1. It’s Like College Radio…With a Filter!

One of the easiest places for music lovers to turn for a fresh, new music is university radio stations. But, speaking from experience as a college deejay, sometimes we have sticks so far up our asses that we have trouble admitting that no, we don’t like that African tribal music with the 20 minute bongo solos, even if we played it for the sake of obscurity. Paste does an excellent job of ferreting out artists that get too hard to access, while neatly sidestepping most of the artists readers would already know. Their mission is not to bring you something to jabber about to your culture savvy friends, but rather something you actually enjoy. Note: You can usually name drop the bands and still remain ahead of the culture curve. Bonus!
What's so wrong with 20 minute bongo solos, anyway?

Saddleback College Jazz Station Celebrates 3o Years of Jazz
KSBR is celebrating 30 years as a jazz station with a concert in Southern California this weekend according to an article in The Orange County Register. Although the station specializes in contemporary jazz, they also have weekend specialty shows in other genres (hip hop, reggae, folk, roots, Latin, etc.).

WUVT Transition While Awaiting More Power
The radio station at Virginia Tech, WUVT-FM, is working on a power increase, but in the meantime has had to move their antennas due to construction on its home building. According to an article on WSLS 10's website,

"The station previously broadcast from the top of Lee Hall, an on-campus residence hall. The building is now undergoing renovations and the radio station was forced to close the location where it was transmitting. WUVT is now unable to broadcast on top of Lee Hall or its unfinished Price Mountain site during this time. Temporarily, the station will be broadcasting on top of Squires Student Center at significantly reduced power. This period of reduced power is expected to last up to four weeks."

NPR Producer and WESU Alum Shares Love for College Radio

A Hartford Courant article about NPR producer Doug Berman reveals his college radio roots at Wesleyan's college radio station WESU. According to the piece,

"In his college days, he served as program director and all-around studio rat at WESU, the campus station...

Mr. Radio Mover Shaker hasn't forgotten his roots. He donates to WESU. He gives advice to radio aspirants (then steers them to film, he cracks).

In this e-mail interview, Berman has one teeny tiny request to the university powers that be: Give the radio station a proper home. WESU was supposed to have been housed in the new student center but was relegated to the outskirts of campus.

'I hope they'll correct that some day,' Berman says. 'In fact, I'll volunteer to help carry the albums back up the hill when the day comes.'"

By the way, WESU celebrates 70 years on the air this year and they claim to be one of the oldest college radio stations.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

WMSC's Alumni Takeover Programming Profiled in CMJ

I've been thinking a lot about college radio history lately. My own station, KFJC, turns 50 this year and there's been a lot of work behind the scenes to help document the history of the station and track down alums. Additionally, my own college reunion is happening next week and I've been diving into the very lengthy (80 years+) history of their station WHRC. I'm collecting stories from alums who were involved with radio there over the years, including one former staff member from the 1940s.

With this in mind, it's interesting to read about WMSC's (Montclair State in New Jersey) "Alumni Takeover" programming in their recent profile on the CMJ Staff Blog. According to the piece around 50 alums were expected to participate in the event, which took place May 7 to 13th. General Manager Diamond Dave Plotkin explains:

"Alumni week is an event taking place at WMSC where alumni of the station ranging from the 60’s to 3 years ago take over our programming and go on the air just like they did when they had shows using the same content they did back in the day."

Does your station do anything special to help foster relationships with alumni DJs?

College Radio in Sin City: BEA Conference Report by Kyle Barnett

Vegas at Night
Photo by Alex Koch

One of my frustrations as a blogger is that I can't be everywhere that I want to be. Recently, I've missed a bunch of college radio and indie music-related conferences that I'm sure would have been both fun and full of fodder for Spinning Indie.

So, I'm grateful to my friend Kyle Barnett for being my eyes and ears at last month's Broadcast Education Association (BEA) conference in Las Vegas. Kyle and I met in Bowling Green, Ohio back in the late 1990s when we were both grad students and college radio DJs at WBGU. I'm always drawn to people who are not only music fans, but also enjoy theorizing about it, so we were fast friends. And now, Kyle's got one of the coolest jobs in the world. Not only is he a bona fide academic, but he's also the faculty advisor of the college radio station, Bellarmine Radio, at Bellarmine University in Kentucky.

Thanks to Kyle and his crew for sharing their tales from Sin City!

Bellarmine Radio Folks Alex and Nick and NAB
Photo by Kyle Barnett

BEA Conference Report
by Kyle Barnett

I arrived in Las Vegas from Louisville for the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) conference in late April, with two undergraduates from Bellarmine University, where I teach media studies classes and serve faculty advisor of Bellarmine Radio. With me was Nick Mattingly, the station’s incoming station manager and Alex Koch, program director. I had wanted to attend BEA for a few years; in part to expose my students to what else is happening in college radio, and in part to find out what those stations were doing on the Internet. Like many newer campus stations, Bellarmine Radio is an Internet-only operation, for now (more on that later). We started from the premise that college courses should introduce you to new ideas and that college radio should do the same. You start reading different books at college, why shouldn’t you start listening to different songs? We headed to BEA in hopes of hearing from others about their experiences with college radio, particularly those also on the Internet.

Photo by Alex Koch

The BEA conference is part of a series of events tied to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual convention, itself a flurry of activity, with panels and exhibitors from the around the world. For the first few days, the “NAB show” overlaps with the BEA conference. The choice of the word “show” is no accident. The event is designed to dazzle. Exhibitors entice attendees with the latest this-or-that, from radio automation software to ultra high definition television to 3D images and sounds. Students from James Madison University created this video while at the conference.

Photo by Alex Koch

The Broadcast Education Association conference, the academic wing of an otherwise big-money industry event, seems modest in comparison. Though most know Las Vegas as Sin City, it is also Conference City. Each year, Las Vegas is at or near the top of the list for cities with the greatest convention business. However, it doesn’t follow that conferences in Las Vegas are necessarily robust or vibrant. The problem at BEA – and countless other conferences, I’m sure – is that the call of the Vegas strip is too great for most people to stay put. We too hit the casinos; don’t get me wrong. But for too many the week’s recipe was: Go to your panel, give your paper, and forget the conference.

Photo by Kyle Barnett

Despite this, BEA did have its stalwarts – and interesting presentations. “The Benefits and Potential of Internet Radio” panel led to an interesting discussion, centered on varying opinions about whether web radio should retain or jettison a sense of localism (my answer is a resounding yes, which is why I find satellite radio’s lack of place so bothersome). For some on the panel they found a perceived “death of localism” as freeing, while I enjoy experiencing “local” radio from near and far, via the web. For me, localism still defines radio, even in the digital age).

Harrah's Mens Room
Photo by Kyle Barnett

At the “Convergence on a Dime: Student Media Migration to the Web” panel, there was also a lot of talk about using the Internet to promote radio stations and to aggregate content between student media forms (radio, television, print). Like many Internet college radio stations, we’ve experienced the strange fact that we have listeners from St. Louis to Shanghai but are still largely unknown in the city of Louisville. The web can potentially solve that, but we also left the conference aware that we’re just one needle in an ever-expanding haystack.

Surprisingly, there was little discussion of musical content, genres, or formats. Most of those presenting at BEA were faculty advisors, whom seemed more teaching technological skills and encouraging professionalization. I’m sure a college radio conference (preferably one where students were better represented in the conversation) would have had much more discussion on music. The topic of format rarely came up, though there were some interesting exceptions. We learned that Belmont University’s cable radio station, The Voice, only features musical content from its music students (!). What was perhaps most troubling was that when format was considered, it was often in the service of appealing to alumni, whose dollars are more important to universities than ever, in an era of dwindling federal funding and tighter purse strings.

Bellarmine Radio Folks in Las Vegas
Photo by Kyle Barnett

As for my students, they came away from BEA energized and feeling good about what we were doing. Since arriving at Bellarmine in 2006, the students and I dismantled a classic rock format inherited from my predecessor, partnered with a low-power FM station that carried our signal, and is now investigating the possibilities of our signal being carried via HD Radio – a move that other college radio stations are considering with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

We came away feeling ahead of the curve in terms of college radio on the web. On the other hand, we had a vague sense of concern, too – over growing pressures to “professionalize” college radio, to take it out of the hands of students, reducing radio to an exercise in job training or public relations. The people who understand the importance of college radio, its larger educative and democratic promise, know how much more it can be. After our trip to BEA, we left with a stronger sense that we in college radio will need to work harder at protecting what we’ve created.

Thanks Kyle for a great report!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Performance Rights Act and College Radio

Last week the Performance Rights Act (HR 848) passed in the House Judiciary Committee: step one before heading to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Future of Music Coalition writes about their support for this act, which will link royalty fees to radio performances, arguing that it's important for musicians to be fairly compensated royalties for their work.

Yet, at the same time, many broadcasters (big and small) are concerned about this legislation. In response to this bill, there was a "Save Black Radio" rally in Detroit. According to an article from the Detroit News:

"The committee approved by voice vote a 'manager's amendment' by Chairman John Conyers, D-Detroit, to try to address critics -- including Radio One Inc. -- who contend the bill threatens the survival of minority and women-owned stations during rocky economic times...

About 200 marchers joined local radio hosts Mildred Gaddis and Reggie Reg outside of Conyer's office in Detroit, chanting, 'No to the bill on the hill,' and, 'Save black radio,' as supporters honked as they passed. Branding the new fee a 'tax,' many critics argued it could destroy small broadcasters, including minority and women-owned stations that provide valuable diversity on the airwaves."

Additionally, as this article in the Paradise Post points out, small independent radio stations and college radio stations may find it challenging to pay the proposed annual fees, currently set at $1,000 for college radio stations (strangely, this is more than the $500 fee for broadcasters with less than $100,000 in revenue).

At the same time, an opposing resolution, "The Local Radio Freedom Act," is gathering support in Congress. According to an article on Radio Ink,

"The Local Radio Freedom Act reads, 'Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.'"

As College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) has argued, not only are the fees of concern to small broadcasters and college radio stations, but the related record keeping requirements could also be more labor-intensive than many student stations can handle. CBI is working to try to stop this bill with a letter writing campaign among other strategies.

So, definitely monitor the developments around the Performance Rights Act and the Local Freedom Act and if you have a strong opinion, then let your voice be heard with your representatives.

CMJ Merging with Metropolitan Talent

I just heard the news that CMJ is merging with Metropolitan Talent. I'm not quite sure what this all means, but this article on the Billboard website features an interview with John Scher, one of the co-CEOs of Metropolitan Talent. Basically, it sounds like this new company will make it easier for both groups to market to college radio and college students. According to the piece:

"By joining forces, Metropolitan Talent and CMJ will create live and Internet initiatives primarily aimed at the college music market. The companies will work closely with individual college radio stations, focusing on artist development and the discovery of new music. Additionally, they will work together to create stand-alone events modeled after the established CMJ Music Marathon...

Scher says CMJ's potential in college markets is ripe for expansion. 'They have a direct relationship with over 600 college radio stations, and in having that relationship they're also an approved vendor at every single campus,' he tells"

Well, if you didn't realize that CMJ was in the business of marketing music to college radio stations, it's hard to ignore that reality now. The article continues:

"...College markets are a key place to re-establish an artist development environment that Scher believes has been stymied by consolidation at radio, record labels and the concert industry. 'Having a more direct relationship with college radio you're going to get a good sense of the artists that are starting to bubble under and we are a company that produces concerts, tours, manages artists, has an independent record company, having that relationship directly with those stations and people and young, active entrepreneurs while they're in college will help us get more involved in artist development and bringing those artists to the forefront,' he says."

Will this merger change your opinion of CMJ or is this just an extension of what they are already doing? I am curious to see how they end up expanding the CMJ Music Marathon concept. If it serves to connect college radio people on a smaller scale, that's a pretty cool idea. Perhaps they'll do regional conferences and music showcases? We shall see.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

College Radio Tidbits: Brown Lecture Series, KAUR Drops FM, College Radio in Pittsburgh, High School Radio, Holistic Fundraiser, and Public Radio Bday

I'm just catching up on the news, so here are a number of college radio-related stories from the past week.

Brown Student Radio's "Brown Block" Airing Campus Lectures and Events

According to this blurb on the Brown University website, the student/community radio station BSR will be airing a number of campus lectures, symposiums and panels on their "Brown Block" public affairs program. Does your student station feature campus events like this?

KAUR Dropping Its FM Signal to Go Online-Only

It bums me out when college radio stations lose their terrestrial signals. Even though the argument is often made that students don't listen to the "radio" anymore, there's something very very sad about losing a station's over the air signal. KAUR at Augustana College will be dropping its FM signal this summer and converting to an online-only station according to this piece on It's unclear how this decision was made and what will happen to the FM frequency, but one can only imagine that this might be a financial step by the college. This isn't great news for independent radio in South Dakota.

College Radio in Pittsburgh Gets Nod

In a piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the demise of urban commercial radio station WAMO (recently sold to a religious group), Tony Norman writes:

"...No one listens to WAMO to catch the latest in edgy or interesting music. It isn't there -- and hasn't been for a long time.

If you're an old-school soul music fan, there's nothing better than WYEP-FM 91.3's "The Soul Show" every Saturday afternoon. If hip-hop and its various iterations is your thing, local college radio has always been more adventurous than WAMO. The signals for WRCT (Carnegie Mellon) and WPTS (University of Pittsburgh) may be difficult to pick up outside the East End, but you can listen to both on the Internet."

Profile of GM of High School Radio Station

I think it's incredible that high school radio exists on some campuses and I had no idea about the breadth of programming that some of these stations provide. According to this profile of the student general manager of high school station WHFH at Homewood-Flossmoor High School near Chicago, the station not only airs music programming, but also documentaries, news, sports talk and panel discussions. WHFH has been around since 1965 and is a 1500 watt FM station.

"Festival of Enlightenment" Fundraiser for WHFR

Henry Ford Community College Station WHFR is hosting a holistic festival as a fundraising event on May 30th. The mention on Press and Guide, states, "More than 60 percent of WHFR's operating money comes from donations raised by fund-raisers such as the Festival of Enlightenment..." In addition to this event, they are also doing an electronic music benefit show on May 22nd. It's interesting to see the range of fundraising events spearheaded by college radio stations. How does your station fundraise?

Jefferson Public Radio Turns 40

Well, this public radio "empire" in Oregon known as Jefferson Public Radio is no longer student-run, but it began as such at Southern Oregon College in 1969 as KSOR.

According to an article on,

"Jefferson Public Radio this week celebrates 40 years of growth, from a student-run radio station with a 10-watt transmitter to a public broadcasting empire serving a million listeners over 70,000 square miles. Born in 1969 as KSOR in the basement of then-Southern Oregon College, today JPR broadcasts classical and jazz music, National Public Radio news and national programs...from Eugene to Redding, Calif., from Lakeview to the Oregon Coast."

Monday, May 18, 2009

College Radio Tidbits: College Radio as Summer Gig, Public Radio Station Going Local at Night

A few items related to college radio in the news:

Wall Street Journal teen columnist and College radio

It gives me great joy that the father/son column in the Wall Street Journal has had a number of college radio mentions recently, including this week's blurb about the teen considering doing some college radio volunteer work this summer before he begins college. Right on. I say do it!

Classical Station to Air Local Programs instead of Public Radio at Night

In a nice turn of events, Davidson College public radio station WDAV has opted to drop some syndicated public radio programming in order to air locally-produced shows. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, with this change in programming, the classical radio station will now air:

"...140 hours of locally originated programming weekly, or 80 percent of its schedule. That will represent an increase of 60 percent over last year."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Radio Station Field Trip 15 - UC Santa Cruz Station KZSC

Not only did I get to attend an amazing college radio conference this past weekend, but I also got to check out the digs of University of California, Santa Cruz station KZSC-FM. Thanks to everyone on the KZSC staff for allowing me to hang out at the UC Radio Network (UCRN) conference and for talking to me about the station. The conference began with tours of the station, so it was a great opportunity for me to see the inner workings of the place.

Student radio began at UC Santa Cruz in 1967 with the dorm-basement station KRUZ. In 1974 that station became KZSC and started broadcasting on FM at 10 watts. They moved to their current "cabin" location in 1980 and after a series of power increases are now broadcasting at 20,000 watts. Webcasting began at the station in 2003. To learn more about the history of the station and see a cool collection of press clippings, pictures, program guides, and sticker, see the Archives page of their website.

DJ oy-dog on the air at KZSC

The staff of KZSC is made up of both students and community volunteers. During my tour, I was told that they have a 70/30 goal, striving for 70% students on staff and 30% community members. Every week the station hosts tours for prospective volunteers. After volunteering for a total of 20 hours during one quarter, one is eligible for the DJ training class "Introduction to Radio." According to Station Manager Kristen Mattern,

"The class meets twice a week for about eight weeks, and teaches the students the history of radio, FCC regulations, interviewing techniques, field recording and audio production and editing. During this time the students also complete an on-air mentorship with a seasoned KZSC DJ. When students pass the class they can apply for a show."

Throughout the station you can see collage-style posters created by "Intro to Radio" students in response to one of the class assignments which asks them to research and do a presentation on an artist, style of music, or another radio topic. I spotted posters about Hair Metal, Funk, Jazz, Celtic Music, and Nazi Radio Propaganda. In order to get a show (and keep a show), staff members must do 20 hours of work per quarter, which is logged in a binder and signed off on by governing board members. Those on the governing board don't have to log their hours and I was told that they tend to do much more than the required 20 hours.

Shows at KZSC are awarded by a Program Review Committee every academic quarter. According to Kristen,

"The Program Review Committee compiles the schedule for KZSC. It is comprised of three students and two community members. Every one on the PRC serves a one year term. Staff members submit a program proposal to the PRC with three show ideas. The PRC gets together on one evening, reads all of the proposals and makes a bright and shiny new schedule."

The station airs a range of programming, including music, public affairs, and sports. I was told that part of their mission is to play under-represented music. Music shows encompass a wide range of genres, such as rock (classic, indie, loud and punk), jazz, country, hip hop, blues, reggae, world, show tunes, funk/soul, electronic, folk, and women's music. I found it interesting that they had a number of world music shows, including "Musical Jews," which I caught on my drive down to the station.

The "world" section of the music library is divided by region, something I hadn't seen at a college radio station before (seems super cool, but a lot of work!). In terms of public affairs programs, there are a number of talk shows, "Closet Free Radio" (the longest running queer public affairs shows on radio) plus the nightly airing of KPFA's news program at 6pm.

Kristen told me that there are some long-time shows and DJs at KZSC and acknowleged that having community DJs helps maintain some consistency at the station, saying,

"Some of our programmers have been around for over 20 years. Heaven's Bar and Grill, Bushwackers, Unfiltered Camels and Golden Road are all shows that have been around for a long time. Having community member programmers allows KZSC to carry on a consistent tone for the station. This is important because just as we have long time programmers we also have some very long time listeners."

KZSC DJs don't have too many rules that they have to follow beyond the standard FCC stuff. According to Kristen,

"KZSC DJ's have a lot of freedom when planning their shows. The PRC asks that programmers read public service announcements and KZSC promotions every half hour. KZSC also has limits on amplified sound from live on-air performances. Amplified sound requires pre approval from the PRC. Besides that there are very few rules and regulation that we require our programmers to follow."

Additionally, DJs are asked to play at least 5 "new adds" during their shows. Music Director Scott Karoly told me that the station doesn't get much vinyl anymore, but when they do, he'll add it. He told me that he tends to add music that he really likes. Unlike many stations, new releases must be previewed at the station in their "Processing Room." In the closet-sized room, DJs can listen and review music before it gets added to the library.

Processing Room at KZSC

According to Scott,

"Everyone who processes checks for obscenities and reviews the individual album that they pick out, but I'll add my own reviews to things (and other DJs do as they play them). Things get added to CDs all the time; people are passionate about certain things and make it known. At least I do. I'll also copy down the FCC warnings from promoters when I get their CDs just to make sure things get on there. Reviews are varied, people either have a lot to say or not enough. I'll try and get some essential things on there. RIYLs, connections to other bands, certain song highlights seem to help DJs get an idea."

KZSC's Music Processing Room

KZSC seems like a pretty tech-savvy station. They're on Twitter and Facebook, and allow chats via AIM. Additionally, they use Spinitron for their online playlists and you can search through each DJ's playlists on the KZSC website from the Program Schedule. Additionally, the station just started up a blog, where you can read the latest charts of tops spins, see DJ profiles, and find out about upcoming events. I was also impressed to see that in their on-air studio they had a CD burner, which allows DJs to record their shows (up to 70 minutes) in real time from the board. Additionally, one can use the production studio to archive one's show.

When I asked about live music at KZSC, I was told that the station doesn't really have dedicated space for live in-studio performances and additionally that amplified noise requires special permission. Scott told me, "We love to host live music at KZSC but our setup isn't so welcoming. We do acoustic/semi-full band things right in the air studio. Basically anything that doesn't require a full drum set is good. Small amps. That kind of thing."

In terms of the sense of community at KZSC, there are monthly meetings for the entire staff during the academic year. Station leaders also have the ability to send out all-staff emails if something important comes up. Scott told me how much he appreciates his station colleagues and the college radio experience, saying,

"KZSC is a really nice place. It became my home during college and I feel like it can be the same for other people younger than me, which is why when I graduate, I'm going to let it be that way for others and get out. It's a place where you can sticker and poster the walls as you please, and definitely expand your horizons. I hate using a phrase like that, but it's true. I wouldn't have found out about many a thing without it."

I also asked Scott about the broader college radio community and if he listened to other stations. He said,

"Outside of UCRN [University of California Radio Network] stations, I've got a boatload of respect for WFMU (but who doesn't). They play the coolest stuff and have Yo La Tengo in their pocket. What could be cooler than that. No band will ever be as cool as Yo La Tengo."

Thanks to Scott and Kristen for taking the time to answer my questions about KZSC and also thanks to everyone at the station for so graciously hosting the UCRN conference. It was a treat visiting the station.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2009

CBI Seeking Feedback from College Radio Stations about Proposed Webcasting Rules

College Broadcasters Inc. is hoping to get college and high school radio stations to answer its survey about webcasting by this Saturday. They are particularly interested in hearing from stations who do not webcast. According to the CBI survey:

"College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI) needs to gather information from educational (college and high school) radio/web stations in order to respond to a proposal to increase the burden of recordkeeping and reporting from educational stations. It is vital that all stations respond to this survey, even if your station is not currently webcasting"

From this page, you can get more background on this issue and see links to CBI comments and various radio and station responses to proposed changes to record-keeping requirements for Internet broadcasters. Written comments in response to these proposed changes are due by May 26, 2009 and CBI is working to help facilitate responses.

College Radio DJ Doing Crazy On-Air Marathon to Get a Job

It's pretty unbelievable, but there's a college radio DJ who has been on the air since LAST Friday morning. He's taking calls on an 800 number, doing interviews with press, and in a little bit he'll be getting his hair cut while on air.

An article in The Tennessean talks about college radio DJ Sherman Murdock's mission to get a job in radio after he graduates. In an attempt to call attention to his job search, he's doing a radio marathon on campus radio station WTST-AM (carrier current) at Tennessee State. I just tuned in to the webcast on Thursday and he is STILL on the air after nearly a week, sounding pretty energetic. I wonder how much longer he'll be broadcasting? Will he stop for anything other than a job? He just said, "I'm not leaving...I gotta find me a job" You can see press about his marathon and see some videos of him on the air on his website.

Best of luck. I applaud the effort.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

College Radio Tidbits: Vinyl's Downside, Morning Show at WUNH, Classical and Old Time Radio

A few recent college radio-related items:

Downside of Vinyl?
There's an interesting perspective on vinyl records on Ypulse this week. The article, written by college student Michael Hayball, makes the argument that much of the new vinyl being marketed these days is too expensive for the typical college-aged record buyer. Yet, he also understands the allure of vinyl, saying:

"The appeal of the vinyl versions comes with what's included with the record. The obvious bonus to owning a vinyl version is the album art. I considered buying Viva La Vida on vinyl just to have the Eugène Delacroix painting on its cover hanging on my wall. Also, most records now come with either a copy of the cd or a code to download the album digitally, so that's also a big bonus to buy the vinyl copy."

DJs at WUNH Working on Potential Morning Show
A crew of DJs at University of New Hampshire, Durham station WUNH have been testing out a concept for a morning show, complete with multiple DJs, news, sports, weather, traffic, and indie music (including a countdown). "The Morning Hangover" may debut next year, dependent on approval by station management. According to an article in student newspaper The New Hampshire,

"One of the show's main goals is to generate a larger audience for the station, especially among the UNH student body. The Morning Hangover could serve as a bridge between the listeners of independent college radio, and the students at UNH who generally gravitate more toward mainstream radio.

The show will have elements of normal morning radio shows, but will largely be based on UNH interest, and the promotion of the station's independent music catalog."

I'm curious if many other college radio stations have structured morning shows. Let me know if you know of others. And, by the way, to see a bit of WUNH, there's a great video posted on their blog that gives a quick tour of the studio and record libraries (lots of vinyl!) during a live gig by Mason Proper.

New College Radio Station Focused on Classical at Dixie State
Dixie State College in Utah has just launched a new college radio station KXDS, which will focus on classical music according to an article in Mainstreet Business Journal.

DJ to Retire after 39 Years on the Air Doing Old-Time Radio Show
An article in the Chicago Daily Herald profiles public radio DJ Chuck Schaden, who will be stepping away from the mic after 39 years of doing an old time radio show called "Those Were the Days." He's currently heard on public/college radio station WDCB-FM from College of DuPage in Illinois.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

University of California Radio Network Conference at KZSC

KZSC in Santa Cruz, California

Over the past few months I've been hearing bits and pieces about the network of University of California radio stations (aka UCRN) and their twice-yearly conference. Any attempt to bring college radio stations together for bonding and idea-sharing is commendable and the super-organized efforts of the colleges in the UC system is even more impressive. So, I feel really lucky to have been able to attend the most recent UCRN conference on Saturday, May 2nd.

According to KALX General Manager Sandra Wasson, the UC Radio Network has been around in various forms since the 1960s. She told me that initially stations may have shared some programming (thus "network" in the name) across member stations. The current iteration of UCRN has been active since 1980 and according to Sandra serves as "...a state-wide organization for radio stations at the University of California. It provides an opportunity to exchange ideas and resources among members. It provides connections and support for professional staff and conferences for volunteers to meet, learn and see each other's operations."

Hosted by UC Santa Cruz station KZSC, this semester's conference was an all-day affair, bringing together college radio staff and DJs from UC radio stations from all over California. Not every station in the network was able to attend, but I spotted folks from KZSC, KUCI (UC Irvine), KALX (UC Berkeley), KDVS (UC Davis), KCSB (UC Santa Barbara), and (UCLA) were in attendance. Other UC stations include Bobcat Radio at UC Merced (still in its early stages), KUCR (UC Riverside), and KSDT (UC San Diego). Although not a UC station, KSPC (Pomona College) is also a part of UCRN as an associate member.

The conference took place on the wooded campus of UC Santa Cruz, with sessions happening at the cabin-like KZSC and in nearby classrooms. The eight sessions (some concurrent) included workshops on voicing and production, "Venue Promotions and Interviewing Techniques," "Student News and Public Affairs Programming," "Volunteer Outreach and Retention," "History of Heavy Metal," "Queer Media Advocacy," and a Music Director round table.

Highlights for me included chatting with people from the various stations in attendance, touring KZSC, and witnessing a lesson on head banging. I learned that KUCI has tons of vinyl and even has a Punk Rock Director and that KDVS even offers special training sessions for DJs on how to handle vinyl records (great idea). In fact, I chatted with a bunch of DJs from KDVS and found out about their upcoming all-day (and all ages) music festival "Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom VII" (with tons of bands including Wooden Shjips, Thee Oh Sees, Strip Mall Seizures, Meth Teeth, etc.). Here's a quick recap of the conference. I'll be doing a separate post about my tour of KZSC.

KCSB Music Director Modeling KCSB T-shirt

Voicing Workshop

After breakfast and a tour of KZSC, attendees had the option of attending one of two workshops (voicing or production) related to radio. The station manager's speech pathologist mom, Ann Mattern, actually led the voice workshop and did a great job of offering tips to DJs about voicing. Her main suggestions related to using one's voice included reminders to: 1) warm it up, 2) take care of it and 3) train it. She said that as a DJ you want to be understood over the air and that your voice should be easy to listen to. She also made the point that people often talk too fast (125 to 150 words a minute), when in fact we typically can't process rapid-fire speech (more than 125 words a minute). Ann recommended various vocal and breathing exercises (tongue twisters, practicing reading passages using different emotions, diaphragmatic breathing) and encouraged everyone to listen to their voices in order to improve one's radio persona.

Mingling at KZSC during UCRN Conference

Music Director Roundtable

After some pizza and cake for lunch, I sat in on the Music Director Roundtable. KZSC Music Director Scott Karoly led the discussion, which touched on a number of music director-related topics. He asked the group how they deal with various issues, including reviewing music in a timely manner, dealing with promoters, working with DJs with varying tastes in music, and the physical to digital music transition.

During the roundtable people from a number of stations chimed in about their frustrations, most notably getting DJs to play non-mainstream material, encouraging more help from volunteers, missing/stolen music, and careless DJs who damage material or leave it unfiled. We talked a bit about how to motivate DJs and Scott mentioned that at KZSC the Program Review Committee recognizes stellar DJs with the honor of "Programmer of the Month."

KZSC Music Director Scott Karoly

From my perspective, building a strong community of station staff and DJs can go a long way in terms of helping to address common frustrations. Someone from KZSC said that they have done some community-bonding, like potlucks. KDVS has a listserv to facilitate staff communication, hosts dance parties, puts on house shows, and, according to one DJ has a laid-back vibe, which encourages DJs to hang out at the station. Others suggested doing listening parties and mix-tape exchanges to help create a sense of community. I mentioned that at my station, KFJC, we have weekly staff meetings during which we do all of our music reviews out loud. Personally, I think that having frequent meetings of the entire staff encourages stronger connections across DJs.

One of the most interesting parts of this session was a discussion about categorizing music that doesn't easily fit into one genre. If a station is reporting to CMJ, for example, they are forced to choose a genre chart for certain material (for example, RPM vs. hip hop). Additionally, if one's record library is divided by genre, then additional decisions need to be made about where to file something. Someone pointed out that often the genre libraries can be places for music to "die" in a radio station. One Music Director said that for this reason, new releases that have folk elements are filed in rock (rather than "folk") so that they won't be overlooked. Some stations get around this entirely by filing everything A to Z, with no genre distinctions.

History of Heavy Metal

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn more about heavy metal and the final session of the day did not disappoint. KZSC Loud Rock Coordinator and DJ Kelly Romanolo led an entertaining walk down Heavy Metal's memory lane. Using Powerpoint, You Tube videos, and heavy metal sound clips, she had the most lively presentation of the day. Her goal was to show the diversity of metal, from the early days of blues-inspired heavy rockers, to new wave British metal, to thrash metal, and death metal.

One of the Pupils During Headbanging Lesson

Adding to the excitement, she gave a lesson in head-banging as well as led a re-enactment of the Ozzy Osbourne eating the head off a bat incident (using pink marshmallow peeps!). One thing that struck me was her point about some of the more recent metal bands taking the dark lyrics/imagery more seriously than their predecessors (who were more tongue-in-cheek with the devil references, etc.). This seems quite similar to the trajectory of punk music, where in some cases punk became even more hardcore and hardened than in its earlier iterations.

Thanks to everyone at KZSC for your hospitality and for allowing me to join in the fun of the UCRN conference. It was such fun to spend the day with a bunch of college radio people and hopefully I'll get to see some of you on one of my future college radio station tours.