Friday, October 30, 2009

mtvU College Radio Finalists Announced

We're now down to 5 finalists in mtvU's contest for the "College Radio Woodie" award. I've been following the ins and outs of the nomination process since it began back in August and am actually kind of intrigued to see which stations got the most votes. It's interesting to note than none of these stations were even in the Top 20 list last year for the Woodies. In that respect, it's kind of cool to see that things are getting mixed up a bit and that the winner this year will be a station that wasn't previously recognized.

One can vote among these 5 finalists through November 9th. The winner will be announced online on November 18th and will be celebrated in a ceremony to air on MTV on December 4th. Here are the finalists:

Coyote Radio (California State University, San Bernardino, CA)
KUPS (University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA)
KCOU (University of Missouri)
WCRD (Ball State University, Muncie, IN)
WPTS (University of Pittsburgh, PA)

CMJ Music Marathon 2009 Recap Part Two: Subway Sounds, RXP's Listening Session, Margaret Cho, Care Bears on Fire, and Gothy Dark Sounds at Fontana's

"Radio in this country is pretty close to dying."
-overheard during CMJ

"Terrestrial radio...I think is still around, although I'm not sure."
-Jason Herskowitz

"College radio is so important. I had so many great years there."
-Matt Pinfield

Throughout my week at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, I kept my ears open for talk about radio and its future. I overheard both positive and negative proclamations about radio, saw some interesting sessions about radio in all of its forms, and reaffirmed my commitment to college radio during College Day. I've already discussed some of the stations who had a physical presence at CMJ and in the next few posts I will go into detail about the variety of panels and shows that I hit during the festival.

The opening day of panels was on Tuesday, October 20th. Most sessions were geared towards musicians, with topics ranging from "But How Will I Get Paid?" to "Music and Advertising." Others focused on the state of urban music, the lost art of the album cover, and New York's "Music under New York" program that brings music to the subways.

Music Under New York
The session about music in the subway system, "Music Under New York: Stories from an Underground Culture" was fascinating. A number of musicians spoke about their experiences playing for commuters and relayed some heartwarming tales about encounters with folks who were touched by the sounds. They pointed out how "magical" a place the subway system is and that passersby are "not obligated to listen to you... and they do." They also told stories about how beautiful it is to be playing music in a place where there are rats and pickpockets. As I heard them speak about their experiences I was reminded of radio, another place where people are often delighted by unexpected sounds.

CDs awaiting Critical Ears

RXP Music Listening Session
The first radio-oriented session that I attended was the RXP Music Listening Session, which featured a panel full of DJs from New York commercial rock radio station WRXP, as well as Matt Pollack from Monotone Records.

RXP DJ Matt Pinfield began the session talking about the unfortunate state of most commercial radio stations today, where one "lose[s] the element of passion [because] DJs are told not to get emotional about the music or show passion [because] radio companies think things have to be dumbed down."

Throughout the panel it became clear that RXP likes to set itself apart from that typical commercial radio model, as it allows DJs more freedom to program shows and express joy about the music they are presenting.

Everyone on the panel was asked what they look for in a new artist or a song when considering it for airplay. RXP's Music Director Brian Phillips features new material on the station's half hour "10 o'clock News" segment every weekday night. He said that he listens for songs that have a "wow factor," that he would want to listen to for a second and third time.

RXP's Program Director and morning show host Leslie Fram pointed out that, "you have to have trained radio ears" and she added that she listens for hooks and originality, saying, "It's about the things that will make people react."

Matt Pinfield also mentioned RXP's interest in local bands, saying that they felt a responsibility to "support local music." Leslie added that they listen to everything that is sent to them. In that spirit, the remainder of the session was devoted to listening to music from artists who dropped their CDs into a mail tub that was in the aisle.

Matt Pinfield, Matt Pollack, and Brian Phillips Listening to CDs from the Tub

The panelists pulled 10 different CDs from the tub and played bits of each CD for the audience. I was impressed that the radio and label folks were very supportive of the musicians in the room, offering both positive feedback and suggestions about labels that might be interested.

Comments about the music included: "accessible enough," "multi-format," "off-center," "Rocky Horror dynamic," "ambient trance thing," "balanced," "a little J. Mascis," to "great potential." The final two artists played during the session (Frontier Brothers and Overnight) actually got airplay later in the week on WRXP.

College Radio Mixer
My first scheduling bummer of CMJ happened on Tuesday night when I got to the College Radio Mixer too late and was turned away. It was set to begin at 5pm and apparently those not in line by that time were told that the event was over capacity. Uh oh.... Part of the problem was that one of the most buzzed about shows that night (a New Zealand showcase featuring Bang Bang Eche and Die! Die! Die!) was happening later in the same venue.

Media Meet-n-Greet
Luckily I had a media badge, so I headed over to the media mixer at the LimeWire space instead. I was treated to food, drinks (rosemary vodka!), and DJ sets by Jon Spencer and Margaret Cho. I got serious junior high school dance flash backs as Margaret Cho directed the spinning of classics like "Another One Bites the Dust," then slammed the crowd back into 2009 with selections from the likes of Lady Gaga. On a screen at the event there was a stream of photos from live shows from past CMJs. It was interesting to see images of some of the heavyweights who'd performed and some of bands who subsequently have made it big.

Care Bears on Fire at Bowery Ballroom, NYC
October 20, 2009

Care Bears on Fire
The next scheduling snafu of the day was missing pretty much the entire set by Care Bears on Fire at the Bowery Ballroom. I thought they went on at 8pm, but they promptly began closer to 7pm. When I arrived around 7:30, I got there just in time to see one song by these young ladies. I'm nostalgic for the whole 1990s riot grrrl scene, so was particularly looking forward to seeing these teen girl musicians. Oh well. The song I heard was fun and rocking, but I'd like to hear more. The next few bands at Bowery Ballroom didn't do much for me, so I hightailed it over to Fontana's for a change of pace.

Cruel Black Dove at Fontana's, NYC
October 20, 2009

Fontana's Show: Telltale, Cruel Black Dove, Dead Leaf Echo
As I descended into the cozy and dark basement space I instantly felt more comfortable than I had in the larger, emptier Bowery Ballroom. Telltale was mesmerizing with Joy Division-inspired sounds and an almost surf-style guitar. Cruel Black Dove featured 2 ladies in front and 2 dudes in back on synthesizer and drums. The Siouxsie-ish music was accentuated by one gal's dancer-like moves and the tone was also set by some running visuals in the background. Finally, I was treated to a set by Dead Leaf Echo. I was pleasantly reminded of Cocteau Twins, yet with both male and female vocals. It was beautifully hazy. All three bands worked to create an entrancing scene that hit the right dour notes for me. What a great way to begin CMJ!

Previous Posts about the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon:

Radio's Presence at CMJ
Radio is Alive and Well at the CMJ Music Marathon (for Radio Survivor)
CMJ 2009 Band Name Trends Revealed

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CMJ Music Marathon Recap Part One: Radio's Presence at CMJ

I had so much fun in New York City last week for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. It's hard to believe that CMJ has been hosting their annual conference/music festival for 29 years and there are no signs of it slowing down. Hundreds of bands played in New York last week, with shows taking place at venues throughout New York City and Brooklyn.

Daytime panels focused on various aspects of the music business, with many aimed at helping musicians get ahead. A number of events were radio-specific, including several panels, the day-long college-radio oriented "College Day," and a college radio mixer.

WNYU booth in Exhibitor's Loft at CMJ

This year a number of college radio stations had some sort of presence at CMJ. Host station WNYU (New York University) had a table in the CMJ "Exhibitor's Loft" and various DJs played music from their laptops representative of their radio shows.

Engineering of Live Performance for CHUO at WNYU's Studios

WNYU also hosted various live bands over the air during CMJ, including Batrider and Loren Connors. Additionally, they opened up the WNYU studios to visiting college radio stations so that they could host live daytime performances for their respective audiences.

Participating stations included RLC-WVPH FM (Rutgers University/Piscataway High School, New Jersey), 95bFM (University of Auckland, New Zealand), CHUO (University of Ottawa, Canada), KDHX (community radio in St. Louis) and KSLU (St. Louis University), and KUOM (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). Some stations did live remote broadcasts, whereas others recorded artist performances at WNYU to air in the future. 95bFM even brought in films crews from MTV to document their live set featuring Bang Bang Eche.

Choir of Young Believers being Documented for KEXP/Radio New York
at the Cutting Room Studios

Seattle station KEXP (University of Washington) and their partner station Radio New York broadcast some of their regular shows from New York this week, including live daytime performances at the Cutting Room by bands like The Temper Trap, The xx, and the Choir of Young Believers.

WLIU-BK Broadcasting Live from CMJ Exhibitor's Loft

The Backbone network also facilitated live radio broadcasts from the CMJ "Exhibitor's Loft" by some of stations who are part of the IBS Student Radio Network. When I stopped by, the WLIU-BK radio station was broadcasting a live music performance over the Internet using microphones and laptops.

East Village Radio table at the CMJ Artist Lounge

East Village Radio was an "official Internet radio partner" at CMJ this year. They had a booth in the Artist Lounge (open only to musicians and press), broadcast various CMJ showcases live, and hosted musicians over their airwaves. Internet-only station Breakthru Radio also had a presence, hosting a music showcase as well as events during College Day. Some of their DJs also documented CMJ on their blogs.

Break Thru Radio T-shirt

The "official" commercial station at CMJ was WRXP. Several WRXP DJs and staff were on a panel, they had a table in the "Exhibitor's Loft" and I spotted the RXP van outside of NYU's Kimmel Center (where the conference was being held). I'll talk a lot more about WRXP in a separate post, as I had the opportunity to visit the station on Friday!

WRXP Van outside NYU's Kimmel Center

Even stations that didn't have anything in particular planned for CMJ did some renegade marketing. As I walked through the city one day, I spotted stickers for Los Angeles college radio station KXLU (Loyola Marymount University) plastered in a number of places, including on a Village Voice newspaper rack.

KXLU Getting Exposure in New York City

I'm really pleased that radio had such a broad presence at CMJ this year and hope that the festival brought more attention to the participating stations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CMJ 2009 Band Name Trends Revealed

I'm in New York City for the annual CMJ Music Marathon this week. With all of the panels, music performances, parties, films, and events going on, it's hard to decide what to do amid all of these choices. One of the first things that I did today was scan through the extensive list of participating artists in an attempt to figure out who was worth my attention. As I did this, I noticed some interesting trends in band names. Whereas a few years back it seemed that all of the hot bands had "wolf" in their name; 2009 is all about letters, family, death, and the color black.

Here are the top band name trends this year at CMJ:

One of the most buzzed about shows this week includes a performance by The xx, so it should come as no surprise that one of the biggest band name trends this year revolves around letters of the alphabet. Letter bands this year at CMJ include:


In a Family Way...
A bunch of bands also played around with generational themes, including:

Frat Dad (perhaps my favorite band name this year)
Mother of Three
Family of the Year
We're Pregnant

Death is always a favorite for musicians. Here are some death-themed names at CMJ this year:

Dead Heart Bloom
Dead Leaf Echo
Dead Sexy Inc.
Dead Stars
Deadbeat Darling
Die! Die! Die!
Kill Kill Kill
Kill Krinkle Club
We Should be Dead

Along those same dark lines, black is another popular word showing up in band names:

Black & White Years
Black Cherry
Black Diamond Bay
Black Holes
The Black Hollies
Black Swan Green
Black Tie Party
the black watch
Black Whales
Cruel Black Dove
Small Black
Soft Black

We are....
Most surprising to me was the number of band names beginning with the phrase "We are..." I wonder why?

We are Country Mice
We are Enfant Terrible
We are the World
We are Wolves

Stay tuned. In the coming days I'll be posting recaps of various panels and performances that I attended at CMJ this year.

Monday, October 19, 2009

KFJC Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Open House

Over the weekend I got to participate in an amazing event at my beloved station KFJC. In honor of the station's 50th anniversary, there was an Open House on Saturday, October 17th up at the Foothill College station in Los Altos Hills, California.

Highlights for me were meeting so many alumni DJs, including the original station manager Bob Ballou. He was the architect of KFJC and is an amazing source of information about the radio scene back in 1959 when KFJC first went on the air over FM. Bob will be on the air again tomorrow night at 8pm, celebrating 50 years to the hour since he first launched the station on October 20, 1959.

There was also a running program of video and film clips playing at the station. It was pretty mind-boggling to see the old TV news coverage of KFJC's famous Louie Louie marathon in 1983. Seemingly every San Francisco TV station did a story about the marathon, including shots of the station and interviews with musicians and station staff. A short film about KFJC from 1979 was also on display, as well as another documentary featuring a very young Spliff Skankin' (who still does the reggae show at KFJC on Sundays).

Also on display at the Open House were some vintage KFJC program guides and magazines ("Waves"). Many of the alums brought in some rare artifacts, including T-shirts from the 1970s, old newspaper clippings, handwritten playlists, and dot matrix printouts of old "adds" lists.

Old copy of "Waves"...sooooo 80s!

For the past few months KFJC has been bringing back DJs from the past and during the Open House I was really excited to host old friend and former KFJC Music Director "Gray Shades" from the late 1980s. He put together an incredible three hours of music. I was super impressed that he dove into some of the current releases that KFJC has recently added and seamlessly blent them into his mix of new and old sounds. You can listen to that show for the next two weeks in the KFJC Broadcast Archives.

Now's a great time to listen to KFJC, as more alumni DJs are coming up this week, including:

Monday October 19, 2009: 7-10pm Pacific
The Glovin Show - DJ from the early to mid-1980s
DJ Dave Glovin along with Nikki Teen and Elvis Pretzel

Tuesday, October 20, 2009: 7-10pm Pacific
Official 50th anniversary of KFJC at 8pm, when Station Manager Bob Ballou signs KFJC on again, re-creating that epic moment 50 years ago.

Saturday October 24, 2009: 3-6pm Pacific
Mr. Phil - DJ from 1986-1992

Monday October 26: 7-10pm Pacific
Daryl Licht - DJ from 1991-1993

WOUB Radio Turns 60

It's a big year in radio history, with many college-based stations celebrating significant anniversaries. This week WOUB marked 60 years on FM (it actually began transmitting as a carrier current station in 1942 under the call letters WOUI) at Ohio University. According to an article on the WOUB website, the station was the first college radio station in Ohio to broadcast over FM in 1949.

WOUB, which has undergone a number of format changes over the years (from country to classical/jazz to news/talk), is now part of a larger WOUB "Network" and can be heard all over Ohio.

These days, WOUB-FM is a public radio station that emphasizes talk programming along with some specialty music shows. Their sister station WOUB-AM plays a mixture of music (including blocks focused on adult album alternative, "college alternative rock," hip hop and soul, and an "eclectic" mix on Saturdays with "Radio Free Athens"), talk, and syndicated public radio programming.

According to the piece on WOUB's website, the station's anniversary celebration was held during homecoming weekend on October 16th and 17th:

"Former staff and students gathered to celebrate the anniversary with a reception and tour of the station on Friday evening, which featured photos and memorabilia from throughout WOUB Radio's history.

...Alumni participated in activities on Saturday, which included a float in the homecoming parade, a tailgate party and recognition during the OU football game."

That's awesome. I can't imagine anything cooler than a college radio float during homecoming!

Even though WOUB provides some educational opportunities for students, these days it seems to have much more in common with public radio than with its college radio roots. For those who want more of a classic college radio experience, Ohio University also has an online station called ACRN (All Campus Radio Network) "The Rock Lobster." It's run entirely by students and airs "college rock" and specialty music programming.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy 50th Anniversary to KFJC!

Design for new KFJC artist T-shirt

It's a really fun time to be a DJ at KFJC as we're celebrating our 50th anniversary. It's hard to believe that the FM station began in 1959 and all sorts of fun things are taking place to mark the occasion. The station officially turns 50 next week, as it was October 20, 1959 at 8pm when KFJC signed on the air for the very first time. Bob Ballou, the original Station Manager will be back at KFJC to sign on again on October 20, 2009 at 8pm (you can catch an archived interview with him on the station's website).

Bob Ballou will also be on hand at a celebratory Open House event at KFJC this Saturday, October 17th from 1 to 6pm at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Current and former KFJC staff members will be milling about the station and listeners will get the opportunity to tour the station.

New KFJC Girlie Shirt Designed by Elizabeth McGrath

KFJC also continues to bring back DJs from the past. This Saturday, October 17th will include an appearance by 1980s DJ Grey Shades on the air from noon to 3pm.

The anniversary happens to fall during KFJC's annual fundraiser, so there are some 50th anniversary-themed thank you gifts available as well. Several of the new items feature designs and logos that were submitted during the station's recent art contest.

I'm most excited about our first-ever double LP compilation. In the course of digging up archival materials in advance of the anniversary, station staff have found some audio gems recorded at the station or at events previously aired over the KFJC airwaves. The double LP compilation includes some tracks by Iggy Pop and TSOL from the 1980s, Melt-Banana from 1995 and Windy and Carl from 1998 (among many others).

Hopefully I'll see some of you up at the KFJC Open House this Saturday!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

mtvU College Radio Woodie Award Update

I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only person who's been scrutinizing the nomination process for mtvU's College Radio Woodie Awards this year.

Today I checked back on their website just to verify the deadlines for the various rounds within "Round 2" of their complex voting schema and noticed that the rules page had recently been changed (it's now dated October 2nd).

Previously they had planned to have 5 rounds of voting within Round 2. Last year they broke those rounds down by region, so that in the final 5th round one was voting for a winner from regional finalists from the West, Midwest, Northeast and South. This year, however, the regional aspect of the competition was hard to get a handle on from the very beginning; as finalists haven't been evenly dispersed across the regions.

For this year, round 2 has recently been simplified, with the current round of voting (September 29th to October 26th) determining the final nominees out of the 25 stations still vying for the award and the last round (October 26th to November 9th) electing a winning station. This change in the rules seems like a good move to me, especially since I never felt like the 2009 competition was an even playing field when examined regionally.

However, changing the rules mid-way through is another red flag on a long, strange path to the College Radio Woodie Award ceremony on November 18th. I still don't know how many nominees will be announced on October 26th and it's also unclear how many times one is allowed to vote. As you read through various station testimonials, it's seems like many believe that people can vote as often as they'd like.

Again I'm left with the feeling that this contest is a disorganized mess and that the final results should be viewed with skepticism.

Ultimately, though, I suppose these college radio awards are better than no college radio awards at all. At least mtvU is acknowledging and applauding college radio stations all over the country. For that I can't complain. It's also comforting to see the displays of college radio pride all over the Woodies comment board, as folks from various stations post their passionate testimonials. And that is really what it's all about: supporting the stations that we love.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

KTUH Celebrates 40 Years of Student-Run Radio in Hawaii

Congratulations to KTUH on the occasion of their 40th anniversary. According to an article in the Honolulu Star Bulletin, the station purports to be the only 24/7 student-run radio station in the nation. I'm not sure how they came up with this claim (especially since I'm also at a 24/7 college radio station that is run by registered students), but I applaud them for continuing a long tradition of radio at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

The article also explains KTUH's devotion to challenging music:

"'It's not our intention to provide comfortable, familiar music,' [general director Nick] Yee said. 'We're trying to push you to try new music, and as a deejay, that's sometimes a daunting task.

'We cannot stress enough the importance of the station,' Yee said. 'It's wonderful that we have the ability to take students and community members off the street and, after a month and a half of training, give them a mic and empower them with the courage of playing their own kind of music and the ability to think for themselves.'"

As part of their 40th anniversary celebration, KTUH is sponsoring a concert series on campus and will also be screening a documentary about the station called "KTUH, A History in Progress..." Additionally, they are working to collect stories from the station's past; so if you a station alum, take a look at their 40th anniversary page.

Monday, October 5, 2009

College Radio Tidbits: Radio K from CMJ, The Quarry's Chance for HD

A few college radio tidbits to start the week:

Radio K to Broadcast Live at CMJ

According to a blurb on CMJ, six different college radio stations will get the opportunity to broadcast live from the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City in a few weeks. Radio K's stint will take place from WNYU on Friday, October 23rd from 1 to 3pm.

Student Radio Future at Mt. Hood Community College

Recent changes at Mt. Hood Community College have led to the departure of one radio station and perhaps to the re-emergence of another. Earlier this year the control of campus-based jazz station KMHD was turned over to Oregon Public Broadcasting (although the school still maintains the license). As part of that deal, an HD channel was promised for the the student radio station on campus.

According to a piece in the student newspaper The Advocate,

"Though the jazz radio station KMHD has left the campus, MHCC will still have a campus radio station, according to J.D. Kiggins, radio and audio production instructor. Essentially formed from the broadcasting program’s station The Quarry, the station will broadcast on KMHD’s auxiliary station on the High Definition (HD) frequency, 89.1 and, according to Kiggins, will serve as a 'full
fledged college station' for MHCC."

Back in May, 2008 I wrote about the re-branding of their Internet-only student station The Quarry, which seemingly will be the model for the new HD station.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Radio K Goes FM

Yesterday was a big day for Radio K (KUOM) at University of Minnesota. After more than 80 years of broadcasting from University of Minnesota (under various call signs), the station has finally ventured onto FM. In recent years they've been on AM and online, with terrestrial broadcasts ceasing when the sun went down.

As of October 1st, they will be broadcasting 24/7, utilizing three different FM channels reaching various parts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. They will still broadcast online and over AM.

A piece on City Pages points out:

"It's a big leap for the college radio station, who has gradually grown over the years from a daytime AM station to one that would move to the FM dial after the sun went down to allow continuous broadcasting.

'This is a huge milestone for us because we've always been a daytime-only AM station and have been waiting to get a full-time FM signal since Radio K formed,' says programmer Amy Daml."

It's impressive to me that radio is still such a strong force at University of Minnesota after all of these years. Radio experiments began on campus in 1912, an experimental radio license was granted in 1920, and a radio broadcast license was issued in 1922.

According to Radio K's website:

"The University received the first radio broadcasting license in the state of Minnesota on January 13, 1922 for the call sign WLB. The station is the 10th oldest station still on the air, beating out WHA at the University of Wisconsin Madison by a few hours. That also makes Radio K the oldest licensed non-commercial broadcast station in the country."

So I guess they are yet another contender for the "oldest college radio station" title.

To see a bit more about the history of college radio in Minnesota, take a look at my profile of the Carleton College radio station KRLX.