Monday, October 18, 2010

College Radio Goings-On at the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon

The annual CMJ Music Marathon is in New York City this week, with all of the affiliated panels, shows, films, and for the first time a separate gaming seminar. I won't be in attendance this year (but if you want to see highlights of the 2009 and 2008 festivals, take a look at my extensive recaps), but am excited to see that college radio is still a vital part of the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon.

On Radio Survivor I outlined some of the college radio stations who have been nominated for College Radio Awards. If you're attending CMJ, make sure to cast your vote for your favorite stations. Winners will be announced at CMJ's College Day, taking place this Thursday, October 21st. Other college radio events include a College Radio Mixer on Tuesday, October 19 from 4-6pm and mentor sessions for college radio DJs on Friday, October 22.

I'm also pleased to see that a few college radio stations, KXSC (University of Southern California), KVRX (University of Texas, Austin), and CHUO (University of Ottawa), have teamed up to co-present an unofficial (and free) CMJ showcase "Manifest Airwaves" on Friday, October 22 from noon to 7pm at Bruar Falls in Brooklyn.

I spoke with a few of the organizers about Manifest Airwaves in order to learn more about this awesome college radio collaboration. According to CHUO's Music Director Joni Sadler, she was initially contacted by KXSC's Maura Klosterman over the summer. She said, "It initially started out as the idea to just throw a show/party for bands from our areas, and it grew from there when other stations got involved as well."

Each station is helping to book bands, promote the event, and they are all sharing in the costs. KVRX is also planning to film the event. According to KVRX Promotions Director Brittany Campbell, "We plan on filming most of the performances for our YouTube page which has other KVRX performances, interviews, and DJ trivia." Brittany mentioned that KVRX will also be setting up a photo shoot at the event for attendees.

According to Joni and Brittany, all of the stations have benefited from this collaboration. Joni said, "We have a diverse little group of stations working together for this, so that's made for some good brainstorming and diversity with the artists involved." Brittany added, "I think it's a great opportunity for future shows, events and long-lasting relationships for student radio stations. We have to stick together."

Since the participating stations are in California, Texas and Ottawa, Canada, much of the organizing has happened over email. A few staff members have met in person previously, which, according to Joni, "I've met Maura [KXSC] and Nichole from KVRX in person. Our stations definitely have some similarities, and having met them face-to-face before made it easy to know that we'd work well together on this kind of project."

The participating stations aren't necessarily bringing big crews to CMJ, with Joni being the sole CHUO attendee. Joni explained that she pays her own way and that, "From what I know, CHUO has never officially 'sent' anyone to CMJ. It's always awesome to get to hang with friends from all over the US and Canada that you only get to see once a year, and it's a great opportunity to share ideas with people from other campus and community stations. I find the panel discussions valuable, but even casual discussions of how different stations function has been helpful for me in the past. Plus, the WFMU record fair is going on during CMJ - and that ALWAYS totally rules." Brittany said that 3 folks from KVRX would be in attendance and said, "We are looking forward to the big city, east coast music, meeting all walks of life, and being able to stay at a bar till 4am. I am personally not looking forward to the cold... it's 86 in Austin and 54 in NYC."

Sounds like a great time! Sorry to miss all of the festivities, but I am hoping to get the full report from those of you who attend.

Friday, October 1, 2010

College Radio (Good) News Round-Up: From New Transmitters to a College Radio Hall of Fame

The Scenery at WZBC at Boston College
Photo: Jennifer Waits

With all of the gloom and doom surrounding college radio stations getting sold off or being told they can't broadcast terrestrially, I was happy to see that there's actually been some good news in the college radio world this week. Here are a bunch of stories about stations launching, reinventing themselves, or simply welcoming in the new school year.

Georgetown University station WGBT's Storied Past and Impending Renaissance
On Radio Survivor I wrote about some highlights from a great piece about WGBT. Be sure to delve into the fascinating history of the station, which includes battles with the Georgetown administration over their radical on-air content in the 1970s.

Wellesley's WZLY Profiled in The Wellesley News
Apparently Wellesley College was the home of the first all-female college radio station when it launched in 1942 as WBS. According to a piece in the Wellesley News, "Broadcasting seven days a week at 91.5 FM, WZLY has been supplying students with music and entertainment since 1942. WZLY focuses on allowing members to broadcast their own two-hour radio show every week, making it a unique experience from other organizations on campus. The system allows for DJs to experience an environment as close as one could find to a professional radio system."

Bristol Community College Launches Online-Only Radio Station
Although they also have dreams of someday having a terrestrial radio station, for the moment Bristol Community College in Massachusetts is happy to be streaming online as BristolCC Radio.

Syracuse University Station WERW Holds Launch Week Events and Party
Celebrating a new school year of broadcasts, Syracuse University station WERW held special events this week leading up to a launch party tonight. The station broadcasts at 1570 AM in Central New York and online.

Northern Michigan University station Radio X to Boost its Broadcast Power with New Transmitter
Radio X (aka WUPX) at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan just got FCC approval for a new transmitter so that the station can up its power from 360 to 1700 watts. Cool news for a relatively new FM station (they started out as an AM station in 1970, then went cable-only, and got their FM license in 1993).

Hofstra University Station WRHU Hosts its 2nd Hall of Fame
WRHU at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York prides itself on its radio broadcasting program, with many alumni going on to careers in radio. They recently inducted 5 more members into the station's Hall of Fame. Still an extremely popular activity on campus, WRHU's current staff is 184 people, with 47 students in DJ training (culled from 327 applications). According to an article in the Hofstra Chronicle:

"WRHU general manager Bruce Avery encouraged others [applicants] by informing them that radio is far from diminishing, and that the industry and the interest in radio continue to grow. 'I had a goal ever since I came here, to reunite the past with the present and the future,' said Avery. "At a time where they say radio is dying, radio is evolving- it's thriving and it's passionate.'"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vanderbilt Student Radio Station WRVU May Lose Its FM Signal

Oh man. The bad news about college radio just keeps coming. Today I got word that Vanderbilt University radio station WRVU may be in danger of losing its 10,000 watt FM terrestrial signal. This is even more disappointing to me personally since WRVU was the most recent stop on my Spinning Indie 50 State Tour of college radio stations

In a statement on its website, Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) announced:

"In response to changing student habits and evolving economic challenges, Vanderbilt Student Communications Inc. is exploring the migration of radio station WRVU to exclusively online programming and the sale of its broadcast license. If the license were to be sold, the proceeds would be used to create an endowment to support innovative student media experiences, facilities and operations at Vanderbilt in perpetuity...'Our surveys indicate that each year fewer Vanderbilt students are listening to over-the-air radio,' [Vanderbilt Student Communications Board Chair Mark] Wollaeger said."

The owner of WRVU is the non-profit Vanderbilt Student Communications, which oversees all student media at Vanderbilt, including several publications, the yearbook, TV and radio stations, and the student newspaper. They haven't made any decisions yet and are actively seeking out comments about the proposed sale. You can use their electronic comment form online or send snail mail letters to the Board.

I'm saddened to see the same language being used by the VSC board as we've seen in the rhetoric being used by those in favor of selling off the Rice University radio station KTRU. In both instances they claim that online listenership is the wave of the future and that terrestrial radio is increasingly irrelevant. This argument is short-sighted in that it ignores the many community members and students who listen to the station over FM. In the quote above from the VSC Board Chair, there's a fixation on WRVU's student listeners, who are said to be less and less likely to listen terrestrially. I would imagine that the WRVU audience is much broader than the community of Vanderbilt students and that many of those listeners would be dismayed to have their station go online-only.

However, in VSC's list of Frequency Asked Questions, it's clear that student involvement at the station is also a big concern. Here's an excerpt from their FAQs:

Why is VSC exploring this sale?

Data indicates that fewer Vanderbilt students are listening to broadcast radio, and on average there has been declining interest among students in recent years to volunteer as DJs. Student staffs with other VSC traditional media outlets have been among the most innovative and progressive nationally in transitioning to new media models. VSC's responsibility to students obliges it to explore how WRVU could be transformed to secure opportunities well into the future.

From my interview with WRVU's Station Manager a few months back, it was clear that there has been concern about student involvement at the station and that was part of the reason why they enacted new rules that limited the number of non-student DJs at WRVU.

If they do sell off their 10,000 watt FM signal (wow...I bet they are salivating over how much they can get for that from eager buyers in the public and religious radio realm), proceeds will be used for all student media groups at Vanderbilt.

I'd encourage you to write in to the Board to explain why you think terrestrial radio is still important and relevant for college radio. This case is a bit different in that the VSC Board of Directors contains some Vanderbilt students and the students actually maintain the majority voting interest on the board. VSC points on on their website that, "This exploration process was authorized by students."

Since this news just came out, there isn't much in the way of an organized campaign in place by WRVU staff or listeners beyond a post on their website and a Save WRVU Facebook page. Hopefully they will learn from the experiences of other beleagered college radio stations who have put up the good fight to keep broadcasting the way they want.

Here are some recent examples:

Save KTRU (Still fighting the proposed sale of the Rice University station's FM signal to a public radio station-owning university)

The Resistance against the sale of 89.1 WNAZ (Facebook group protesting the proposed sale of the Trevecca Nazarene University student radio station)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rice University Angers KTRU with Plans to Sell off FM License

Yesterday was another sad day for college radio, with the news that Rice University plans to sell of the FM license and tower for their 50,000 watt radio station KTRU. The 40+ year old station will continue on, but will be downsized to an Internet-only station after being over the FM airwaves since the early 1970s. The suitor, University of Houston, has offered to pay 9.5 million dollars and is enthusiastic about the new opportunities that they will have to spread public radio programming over the 2 FM signals that they will now own. Currently operating KUHF, by adding KTRU's spot on the dial they will be able to segment their news, talk, NPR, and classical programming across the two stations.

Radio industry business-types seem to be in favor of this purchase; but for those who cherish locally-produced radio, this is a huge blow for the Houston airwaves. By losing its student radio station (even though it will continue on as an Internet-only station), Rice is giving up a valuable asset for both students and the community of Houston.

Supporters of KTRU are fighting back, having quickly set up the Save KTRU website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and online petition in order to gather support and inform the administration about the importance of FM for KTRU.

To understand a bit more of how this decision came about and to learn what other college radio advocates can do to help save KTRU, I spoke with KTRU's Student Manager Kelsey Yule (Rice '12) by email. In our conversation, she confirmed my belief that the announcement of the sale happened during summer vacation at Rice, which has made it even more difficult for students to organize and voice their discontent. This means that it is vital for all supporters of college radio to speak out and reflect on why it's an institution worth saving.

Spinning Indie: Could you tell me how you found out about the university's plans to sell the FM signal?

KTRU Student Manager Kelsey Yule: I found out a during an informal meeting about ten minutes before the Houston Chronicle's article outlining the deal was published online. Apparently, the station was put on the market over a year ago by the administration without student or community input or even notification. 

Spinning Indie: Does it seem like there's any chance they will change their mind?

Kelsey: This is a good deal for KUHF, assuming that they really need two FM signals (the last classical radio station in Houston, KRTS, failed).  In my opinion, Rice has not been supportive of KTRU over the last couple of decades.  The only real hope here is to make KUHF think the deal is bad PR or to make Rice fear a pain in their wallets. Please angry donors, let these two institutions know how you feel. 

Spinning Indie: Were you at KTRU in 2000 when the station was shut down? Just curious for some background on that and how that compares with the situation right now.

Kelsey: No, I wasn't.  I'm hearing a lot from people who were though.  Both instances were about the administration asserting power over students.  The big difference is that it feels as though the 2000 incident was about gaining some ground and making a point, and now it’s about 9.5 million dollars and shoving things under the rug.

Spinning Indie: Is Rice is session for the year yet?

Kelsey: No. Fittingly, the deal is being made public at the exact time when students are least able to react.  Most students aren't in Houston yet.  Others are ensconced in the responsibilities of Orientation Week. It makes student djs of KTRU look uninterested because we’ve had one day to react to all of this and get our thoughts together, while many of us are hundreds of miles away from the action and scrambling to get into town. Administrators on the other hand are sitting calmly in their offices reading over their cold and calculated statements.

Spinning Indie: When is the sale anticipated to go through and how will this affect the day-to-day operations of the station?

Kelsey: No one has been keen to talk to me about the details of the sale timeline. I suspect it's just some paperwork to be done.  Then, there will be a thirty day period for comments.  For now, we're trying to do business as usual, but better.  Once, all of our FCC rights and such change hands, we'll definitely be online and there are other options to explore.

Spinning Indie: Do you have any idea what percentage of listeners tune in over FM vs. the Internet?

Kelsey: These are really difficult questions.  I honestly know very little about our Internet listenership, except that it is difficult to gauge.  As far as over the FM, we haven't had a detailed Arbitron report in a number of years.  The most recent information that we have with confidence is that we had more than the minimum reporting standard of 24,000 listeners per week on average in 2009.  How much more is unknown.

Spinning Indie: What percentage of DJs are students, community members, etc.?

Kelsey: As of spring 2010, we have 112 active djs, 52 of those were community members.  The other 60 djs are students, alumni, faculty and staff.

Spinning Indie: I've read talk about the amount of automated programming that runs on KTRU. Can you set the record straight about how much of the weekly scheduled is automated programming vs. live DJs?

Kelsey: During the summer, automated programming makes up about half of what goes on air  (47% for 8/9-8/15).  When the students come back for the year, automated programming comprises easily less than 20% of the time.  This is another great reason for the administration to make its claims during the summer.

Spinning Indie: What can people do to help keep the station on FM?

Kelsey: You can find out what to do by visiting and our shiny one day old website,

Spinning Indie: Anything else you want to add?

Kelsey: To all those listeners out there who are devastated to hear that their morning commute or their work day won't have the same KTRU spirit, please support us in our efforts to convince these administrations that trading a cultural institution for a few million dollars isn’t something that Houston will take lightly.

Good luck to Kelsey and everyone at KTRU. And, I second her suggestion that fans of college and independent radio let their voices be heard before it's too late.

Room-Share Opportunity During CMJ Music Marathon

CMJ College Radio Awards Ceremony 2009

The first time that I attended the CMJ Music Marathon I traveled by train from Philadelphia to New York City with several of my friends and college radio cohorts. We all crammed into a hotel room at the Roosevelt Hotel where the conference was being held, with several unlucky folks having to sleep on the floor or on cots in order to save money. The next year I went solo, as nobody from my station was interested in going. With no money to spend on an expensive hotel room for myself, I ended up asking a high school friend's sister if I could crash on the floor in her shared apartment in Soho.

I'm sure that many people are in the same situation and have dreams of attending CMJ, but are scared off by the high prices of hotel rooms in New York City (where $300 a night is a "special" deal).

So, as a public service to some college radio folks who are itching to go the CMJ Music Marathon, here's a room-share opportunity for those of you who are interested in minimizing your travel costs. Even if this deal doesn't work out for you, feel free to post your own offers to share accomodations in the comments section of this post:

CMJ Room Share Opportunity:

Osprey Radio, the University of North Florida student run radio station is trying to attend the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC this October. We need your help! If anyone is interested in potentially sharing a hotel room to help us cut down on costs, please contact us at if you are interested. Feel free to check us out at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Radio Station Field Trip 24 - Radio Valencia in San Francisco

Entrance to Chez Poulet, home of Radio Valencia in San Francisco

Yesterday, brand new community radio station Radio Valencia began broadcasting online from their studio in San Francisco. I've been following their behind-the-scenes story for a few months now and checked out their digs back in June before things were up and running. On Tuesday I made a return trip to Radio Valencia to see the progress that they'd made and was excited to be on the premises when they had their first successful test of their webstream. Several of us ran back and forth between the studio and an adjacent kitchen (where a laptop tuned to the station's webstream URL was located) so that we could see if the music and voices from the studio were being transmitted to the web. We were all jubilant when voice and music finally came through and in that moment the inherent magic of radio could not be disputed.

TradeMark Gunderson and John Hell 
First live webcast of Radio Valencia on August 10, 2010

After Tuesday's successful testing of the webstream, live DJs began swarming into the studio yesterday afternoon.  The inaugural live broadcast started at 5pm with DJ Dirty Needles. Ronnie James Coltrane followed at 8pm (with a mix of jazz and metal) and the night of live DJs ended with DJ Fiasco and Karen Carpenter from 10pm to midnight. Tonight there will be live shows starting at 8pm and tomorrow live programming begins at noon and continues mostly uninterrupted until midnight.

The first component of an community arts project dreamed up by San Francisco artist/performer/activist and former mayoral candidate Chicken John, Radio Valencia is located in Chicken John's Mission District warehouse (dubbed Chez Poulet). It's ultimately expected to be a broader-scale community resource and there are hopes that it will become a full-fledged non-profit arts entity.

Radio Valencia Studio

Chicken John approached some of his friends from the underground arts scene in San Francisco to see if they'd be interested in creating a new community radio station in his warehouse space. The crew that ultimately got Radio Valencia up and running all cut their teeth in creative DIY movements like Burning Man and have also graced the airwaves at college radio stations, pirate operations, and at various LPFM stations operated during the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

One of the lead co-conspirators (and my tour guide) is John Hell, who was initially approached by Chicken John with the idea of building a station. John Hell, who was also instrumental in getting FCCFREE Radio off the ground last year, jumped at the idea and Radio Valencia was on its way. I debriefed a bit with John Hell today as he was basking in the glow of the station's successful launch less than 24 hours ago. John Hell said,

"I'm pretty frickin' excited. It was getting to the point a few days ago, after taking over three months putting this together, that I felt like a chef that enjoys making the meals, but isn't so hungry when the meal is ready; excited his meal would be enjoyed by the dinner guests. But when I was there in the studio, yesterday, I felt really excited. Beyond words. It's got to be how Dr. Frankenstein felt. Really. I just hope this monster only crushes corporate competition."

In the coming weeks Radio Valencia will be adding more shows (24 weekly shows are scheduled so far), making tweaks to their set-up (a turntable is already out for repairs), and is planning an official launch party in the style of a baby shower (after Burning Man, of course).

Nakamichi Cassette Deck (with pitch control!) at Radio Valencia

I was impressed (as were a few DJs who stopped by) that the small studio is already outfitted with turntables, CD players, a cassette deck, studio monitors, a computer, and a modest library of donated CDs, LPs and cassettes. Of course DJs will also be able to hook up laptops and other devices to the board, but it was awesome to see that Radio Valencia is encouraging DJs to use physical music as well. John Hell said that he's hoping that the library will grow with donations from DJs, record labels and bands. He acknowledged, "Most shows will have to bring their own music," but is hoping that many DJs will utilize non-digital music. According to John, "There was no way I was  going to have a radio station without turntables and cassettes. I love vinyl! Everyone is totally in agreement with that, I'm hoping. I'm guessing. I'm assuming. What's a radio station without record players? What? I can't believe anyone would even consider such a sin."

DJs at Radio Valencia will have the option of doing their shows live from the station or from a remote location. The hope is that they will also be able to air shows and live events from the adjacent warehouse space as well.

Cassette and Vinyl Library at Radio Valencia

When there is no live DJ, automated programming kicks in. TradeMark Gunderson of the band Evolution Control Committee hand-selected all of the music and customized the automation system. As he worked in the studio on Tuesday, dusting playa dust from Burning Man's past off of cables, he told me that he has 24,000 pieces of music, 4 promos, and 1 station ID loaded into automation. He organized the music by genre, including (but not limited to) electronica, dub, weird/outsider, and soundtracks. The system is set up to play 2 pieces in a row of the same genre, making for a more natural-sounding music mix for listeners.

View of the Street from Radio Valencia Studio

As a big "consumer" and "manipulator" of music, TradeMark said that the material he included in the station's automation gives a sense of the type of material that he collects for his craft. It's truly a fascinating mixture of music. While tuning in to Radio Valencia I heard Japanese psychedelic band Acid Mothers Temple, rock from Billy Childish, edgy electronic sounds, international music, a strange promo for the movie Dr. Jeckle & Sister Hyde, and a really weird song hyping the merits of Ernst and Young. TradeMark G will be doing his own show on Radio Valencia on Tuesday nights from 8 to 10pm and will be broadcasting it remotely from his home studio so that he can have access to his massive library of physical music as well.

Congratulations to Radio Valencia on the launch of their station. Now if I only had time to spare, I might be tempted to join in the fun. If you have the urge to help out at the station, drop a note to to find out about how to become a DJ.

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 - RXP 101.9 FM in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 20- WGBK at Glenbrook South High School
Radio Station Field Trip 21 - KPDO in Pescadero, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 22 - KZYX in Philo, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 23 - San Francisco's Pirate Cat Radio
Radio Station Field Trip 10.5 - KSCU's New Digs at Santa Clara University (2010)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Princeton Review's 2011 List of "Most Popular" College Radio Stations

I'm always getting asked for lists of the best college radio stations, my favorite college radio stations, and radio stations that excel in specific areas like musical diversity, risk-taking or public affairs. Unfortunately most of the college radio rankings that are out there are based on questionable methodologies. For the past few years I've been documenting one such college radio survey from the Princeton Review. Released this week, their listing of "Most Popular College Radio Stations" (registration required) is based on responses on surveys of college students who are asked "How Popular Is the Radio Station" on campus.

So...when you see stations celebrating the fact that they have the "best" radio station according to Princeton Review, just remember that this listing has more to do with the awareness of the existence of radio stations on the campuses that are included in Princeton Review. In fact, it doesn't even ask about specific radio stations, so schools with multiple radio stations will have to battle it out to decide which station is "most popular." Additionally, this 2011 survey only covers 373 colleges, surveying approximately 122,000 students, so stations located at schools not surveyed by Princeton Review will never be in the rankings.

Over the past few years, the list of "Most Popular College Radio Stations" has remained fairly consistent, with many of the same stations simply moving up or down the list. This year two schools dropped off the list (Bates College and Skidmore College), making room for two new stations at Siena College and Sacred Heart University. Neither of the these schools has been on the list for at least the past 3 years. To see how this year's list compares, here are the listings from 2010, 2009, and 2008.

Princeton Review's
Most Popular College Radio Stations-2011 Edition

(note: I've added station names as the Princeton Review only lists school names)

1. DePauw University (WGRE 91.5 FM, Greencastle, Indiana)
2. Ithaca College (WICB 91.7 FM and VIC Radio, Ithaca, New York)
3. Emerson College (WERS 88.9FM and WECB, Boston, Massachusetts)
4. St. Bonaventure University (WSBU-88.3 FM, St. Bonaventure, New York)
5. Brown University (BSR 88.1 FM and WBRU 95.5 FM, Providence, RI)
6. Stanford University (KZSU 90.1 FM, Stanford, CA)
7. Knox College (WVKC 90.7 FM, Galesburg, Illinois)
8. Howard University (WHUR 96.3 FM & WHBC 830 AM, Washington D.C.)
9. University of Puget Sound (KUPS 90.1 FM Tacoma, Washington)
10. Carleton College (KRLX 88.1 FM, Northfield, Minnesota)
11. Guilford College (WQFS 90.9 FM, Greensboro, North Carolina)
12. Alfred University (WALF 89.7 FM, Alfred, New York)
13. Siena College (WVCR 88.3 FM, Loudonville, NY) (New to list this year)
14. Swarthmore College (WSRN 91.5 FM, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania)
15. Reed College (KRRC 97.9 FM, Portland, Oregon)
16. Seton Hall University (WSOU 89.5 FM, South Orange, New Jersey)
17. Whitman College (KWCW 90.5 FM, Walla Walla, Washington)
18. Sacred Heart University (WHRT and public radio station WSHU-FM, Fairfield, Connecticut) (New to list this year)
19. Westminster College (WWNW 88.9 FM, New Wilmington, PA)
20. Manhattanville College (WMVL 88.1 FM, Purchase, New York)

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Campus and Community Radio Policy in Canada

Last week the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission issued a revised policy for campus and community radio stations. One big change is that they have decided to no longer have separate regulatory policies for campus and community radio. Additionally, in the past distinctions were made between various types of community radio stations and between campus stations. These sub-categories (type A and type B for community radio and campus instructional and campus-community for college radio) are also being eliminated:

"The Commission will not licence campus instructional stations in the future and will instead licence all such stations as campus stations in accordance with this policy. All campus radio stations provide training to volunteers. The Commission notes the specific role that stations currently licensed as campus instructional play in training broadcasters who will work for commercial radio stations. The Commission encourages these stations to pursue this goal within the new campus station framework, or through alternative means of broadcasting (e.g. the Internet, closed circuit or carrier current). At their next licence renewal, existing campus instructional stations will have the opportunity to request conditions of licence specific to their circumstances within the campus radio licensing structure."

Other tidbits from this policy include the fact that the Commission doesn't license elementary and high school-based AM and FM radio stations. The policy did state, however, that community radio stations could be housed on their campuses. In their determination they stated:

"The Commission is not convinced that a station associated with a high school or elementary school could provide consistent high quality programming as required under the Act, especially in the summer months when school is not in session. The Commission further notes that the number of frequencies available for radio stations is limited in many markets. The Commission therefore considers that broadcasting by high school or elementary school students would be more appropriate using the Internet."

An interesting part of Canadian broadcast policy is that it requires a certain percentage of "spoken word" programming every week. In the past, campus radio stations were asked to devote 25% of their weekly broadcast hours to spoken word programming. The new policy acknowledges the challenges that stations faced meeting that requirement and has reduced it to 15% of weekly broadcast hours for both campus and community radio stations. Additionally, this spoken word programming must be locally produced.

One of the most confusing aspects of the Canadian policy to me is that they place minimum requirements on the percentages of various categories of music that are played on campus and community radio stations. In order to promote diverse sounds and showcase Canadian artists, stations are required to adhere to a number of genre-based minimums. Categories explained in the policy include popular music ("category 2"), specialty music ("category 3"), pop/rock/dance ("sub-category 21") and experimental music ("sub-category 36").

I'd be curious to hear how radio stations in Canada keep track of all of the genres and sub-genres and ensure that they are meeting the minimum requirements. This is a very different system from the United States, in which radio stations are given much more control over the music that is played over their airwaves. As we've seen in the U.S., commercial stations in particular have been increasingly shortening their playlists and radio has become less and less diverse. To some extent college stations have also followed this model, using it as an assumed pathway to more listeners and a more standardized sound.

If you work in Canadian campus radio, I'd love to hear more from you about the CRTC's policies and if you think they make for better, more diverse stations.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Radio Station Field Trip 10.5 - KSCU's New Digs at Santa Clara University

KSCU's New Location in Benson Hall
All photos by J. Waits

Earlier this summer when I heard that KSCU at Santa Clara University was unloading thousands of records because of a station move, I was concerned about what that meant for the decades-old station. I knew that the former station location wasn't ideal, but any time there's talk of selling off records, I get worried. So, in the interest of getting the real scoop, I stopped by one of their record sales and made a plan to visit the new station.

Back when I visited KSCU for the first time in February, 2009, they were housed in a dorm basement, in an off-the-beaten path location which they had called home for around 25 years. During that visit there was some discussion about how the station's location may have been one of the reasons why they had difficulty attracting student DJs, so I wasn't necessarily surprised to hear that the station was moving.

KSCU DJ Innalect Cueing up Vinyl on His Own Gear

On June 17th, I headed over to see KSCU's new studios and to chat with outgoing General Manager (and incoming Program Director) Sam Duarte and outgoing Music Director (and incoming General Manager) Lauren Duffy. In our conversation they shared details about the move and explained why it was necessarily to purge so much music.

Although the idea of the move had been floating around for at least 5 years, Sam told me that the decision to move came only 2 months before KSCU departed its old location in the basement of Swig Hall. The move took place in early March and the station was off the air for a little over a month during the transition. The station's former home is in the center of a construction zone, with its basement digs being gutted in order to make way for a rumored rec room.

When they realized that the new radio station location would be smaller, it became clear to KSCU management that they needed to clear out a lot of the music, as there wouldn't be room for it. Sam told me that ultimately they probably got rid of about half of the music library (they took 5,000 CDs and 6,000 pieces of vinyl to a local store and offered them to customers for 25 cents a piece).

Sam said that initially it was "really hard to see that as beneficial," but that after carefully looking through the record library they found out that "there was a lot of stuff that we really needed to get rid of." The Music Director and specialty music directors all went through the library to determine what should be purged from various genres. Some of the criteria that they employed included retaining local music and asking themselves, "would this actually get played today?" Collectively, the staff going through the music had diverse music backgrounds, deep music knowledge, and several had been Music Directors in the past.

KSCU General Manager Lauren Duffy in front of a Portion of the KSCU Record Library

Lauren told me that at first the staff seemed "frustrated and disheartened" by the process, but that ultimately everyone seemed to understand the reasoning behind it. Sam said that she was "really surprised" that people weren't angrier and added that "a lot of them saw the benefits of it." Part of this was likely due to the fact that the KSCU managers were open about the process and held meetings in which DJs had the opportunity to look through CDs and vinyl in order to decide if they wanted to take anything. Lauren said that it was really important that the purge was a "group effort" and said that they made sure it was "open to all of the DJs."

As they went through the library they ultimately found a lot of items that perhaps should have been taken out of the library years ago (or should never have been added). Sam said that typically the library was supposed to have been gone through every 5 years, but that at KSCU it had been 20 years since anyone had filtered through the collection. In addition to music that didn't stand the test of time, they also got rid of CDs that skipped and singles (in cases where the station already owned the album).

 KSCU Music Sale in May 2010

I attended one of the KSCU "garage sales" back in May and although it was chilling to see piles and piles of music with radio station reviews affixed to the packaging up for sale, once I dug into some of the stacks I relaxed a bit. Many of the CDs were from mainstream acts and quite a few of the releases actually had negative reviews written on them. I did pick up a few potential gems for myself (Tarnation, Ramsted, Julee Cruise and Flossie & the Unicorns) and suggested to a station manager that a few other CDs that I spotted be retained for the station.

Sam pointed out that only about 50% of the DJs actually use the KSCU record library, with many bringing in their own music and laptops full of digital files. However, she emphasized that the DJs who do use the library often dig deep, playing both vinyl and sub-genres.

Beyond the music library, DJs are also increasingly turning to You Tube, often playing videos over the air because, as Lauren pointed out, "It's easier to find video on You Tube" than to find a track on an album or CD. Lauren quickly added that she still prefers playing CDs, especially since material at the station always includes a profanity guide. Sam concurred and pointed out that the sound quality of You Tube videos is inferior and said, "computers will always fail." She said that she thinks that DJs should know how to play CDs and that they also need to be trained to check for swears on any material that they play over the radio.

Local '80s Vinyl in KSCU's Studio Library 
(Note the scrawled reference to rival college radio station KFJC!)

KSCU does add digital music and Sam said that it's particularly important when people at the station are itching to play brand new material that hasn't arrived at the station on CD yet. Sam said, "You wanna get bands out there."

Part of the goal of KSCU is to expose listeners to new music and DJs are supposed to play 5 new adds (called "clocks" at KSCU) each hour. Sam said that if DJs are just bringing in their own music to play, then they are "bound to have the same show from week to week" and said that that isn't "helping your listeners."

Sam and Lauren told me that they are really excited about the station's new location for a number of reasons. First of all, they are in the basement of The Benson Center on campus (in the former Housing Office for Santa Clara University), adjacent to the offices of other student organizations and the campus bookstore. Upstairs from the station is the main eating area for campus dorm-dwellers, so there's a lot of foot traffic in and out of the building.

The KSCU Studio (formerly a Law Library study area) has a large window facing a hallway, so people walking by can actually see DJs doing their shows. Sam said that this makes the station seem "way more friendly" for both DJs and prospective DJs. Lauren said that when she was a new DJ it was an "adventure" trying to get into the old station and that often she had to sneak in because access was so regulated. Being in the Student Center, KSCU is a lot more visible to students and this new location may be part of the reason why they received more applications from potential managers for Fall 2010.

 Mailboxes Retained from Old Station Add a Bit of Funk to the New KSCU

The large office for all of the station managers is also a plus to them because it makes for a more collaborative environment. Lauren said, "it provides a sense of community" and is a "bigger space for music meetings." When I asked them what they missed about the old location, Sam said, "The Studio door" and "the posters" and Lauren mentioned all of the "stickers...the history." They actually hung onto the old sticker-covered Studio door and are hoping to use it at the new station, perhaps crafting it into a table.

Old KSCU Studio Door, February 2009

KSCU's Music Library is now housed in a hallway outside of the station offices (jazz and blues) and in the Studio itself. The collection contains CDs, vinyl LPs, and 7" vinyl and includes separate libraries for blues, jazz, soundtracks, compilations, and reggae. The main CD library includes rock, electronic, hip hop, blues, and heavy metal.

KSCU's New Couch

One downside of the new station location is that they have to abide by the operating hours of the Benson Center. During the summer, they can be in the studio from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and from 9am to 6pm on weekends. This means that KSCU can't have live DJs at night and can't physically be in the building for meetings during those hours. In the fall those hours get extended, so they will be able to be in the building until 1 or 2am. So, for late night programming they will be either be using automation (which they did during overnight shifts in the past), KSCU-crafted compilation CDs containing legal IDs, or pre-recorded shows.

Vinyl at KSCU

When I stopped by on a Thursday afternoon, DJ Innalect was in the studio doing his very first show at KSCU. I would have never guessed that he was a brand new DJ, as he seemed quite at home on the air. I was also pleased to see his comfort with vinyl, as he pulled music from several crates of LPs that he brought with him. Hopefully he (and his fellow DJs) will continue to dive deep into the KSCU record library, as it is still an amazing resource for the station.

Thanks so much to Lauren and Sam for touring me around the new KSCU. I hope the new location does them well!

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 - RXP 101.9 FM in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 20- WGBK at Glenbrook South High School
Radio Station Field Trip 21 - KPDO in Pescadero, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 22 - KZYX in Philo, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 23 - San Francisco's Pirate Cat Radio 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Radio Station Field Trip 23 - San Francisco's Pirate Cat Radio

Pirate Cat Radio in San Francisco
All photos:  J. Waits

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning I headed out to San Francisco's Mission District to finally visit Pirate Cat Radio. The online-only community radio station began as a pirate station way back when station founder Daniel Roberts was a 14-year-old living in suburban Los Gatos. Eventually he took his operation to San Francisco, where until recently he has been broadcasting over the FM airwaves at 87.9 FM. Last year, however, after yet another notice from the FCC (this time, a fine for $10,000), Pirate Cat opted to focus on being an Internet-only station. According to Daniel, he hasn't actually broken the law in at least 7 years, as he has not been responsible for transmitting the station over FM (although his fans might be).

The Pirate Cat Radio website explains this history further, stating:

"Pirate Cat Radio from time to time has been downloaded from the web and transmitted over the air as an extra-legal (unlicensed) service in Los Angeles, in Vancouver B.C., in Berlin, and in San Francisco using 87.9 fm and possibly other frequencies.

The Federal Communications Commission is charged with promoting 'the larger and more effective use of radio in the public interest.' Pirate Cat Radio believes that the FCC has failed in that mission by not creating a practical means for local and neighborhood program services like ours to gain access to the air.

We have sought licensing in the past and been ignored or turned down. The FCC appears to have no path of access to air, except for parties having millions of dollars to invest. This is wrong. We do not try to regulate the use and re-use of our program service, and are not able to do so. Pirate Cat Radio will continue to look for ways to obtain legal broadcast authorizations for our service."

One thing that sets Pirate Cat Radio apart (especially when it was truly a pirate station) from most radio stations is that it operates in public, inside of a cafe run by Pirate Cat Radio DJs. Customers can purchase vegan treats, donuts, and caffeinated drinks from the modest cafe.

When I arrived at Pirate Cat Radio on the morning of June 5, I couldn't resist sampling their signature beverage: The Maple Bacon Cafe Latte. This drink ended up with a cameo on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations TV show (he called the drink "delightful" and "evil and good"), so it's actually been helping to lure customers into the cafe. The guy who made me my $5 latte was a former college radio DJ-turned Pirate Cat Radio punk show intern. He told me that just that week he'd done his first on-air interview at the station and was looking forward to getting more involved.

After getting my caffeine fix, I met up with Pirate Cat's Music Director Katherine (aka DJ Canary Turd). It turns out that Katherine and I both had a shared DJ history at KSPC at Pomona College, which once again reminds me of just how small the college radio world is. She's been at Pirate Cat for nearly 3 years and actually joined the station after noticing the cafe.

Pirate Cat Radio Studio, with View of Pirate Cat Radio Cafe

As Music Director, her role is to provide music options for DJs; although she is the first to admit that most DJs aren't investigating the music that she adds. She told me that they used to require DJs to play a certain percentage of new music, but that it was a challenge to get people to actually do it. In the past, Pirate Cat also asked every DJ to donate an album a month to the station. Music could have been solicited from labels, purchased, or been handed down from an individual's own collection. These days Katherine handles all of the music being added.

Katherine is mostly adding digital music, although she maintains a shelf of "hard copy" CDs in the studio for both new and local music. They don't intend to build a physical music library at the station and instead opt to just digitize any CDs that they want to retain the music from for future use by DJs. She said that it was a "hard choice" to go completely digital, but said, "we just don't have the space for a library," adding, "we're not an archive."

New and Local CD Library at Pirate Cat Radio

Although Pirate Cat has turntables in their studio, Katherine said that aren't in the best location for DJs. Stashed behind the mixing board, they are "out of the way" and frequently get broken. Despite these problems, there are some DJs who play all vinyl and there were a handful of vinyl records on the studio shelves. Katherine said that it's rare for the station to get sent any vinyl from record labels or bands.

Katherine adds a wide range of material to the station's library and it's up to DJs to decide what to play on their shows, as there aren't any format rules at Pirate Cat. Some of the current shows on the air include an all-Spanish language music program, a Greek blues show, a comedy program, news, and shows that play a mix of music from ska to reggae to electronic to punk. The one requirement placed on DJs is that they are supposed to do interviews on their programs or have live guests. Katherine said that by airing interviews, it "really connects the station with the community."

Pretty Swank for a Radio Station Couch!

Often there are live events at the station/cafe, including the Mission Underground Film Festival, various station benefits, and live music. Katherine agreed that, "people mostly come to try the latte..." Some locals are regulars at the cafe, including firefighters from a nearby station. She said that the neighborhood has been changing a lot recently, with a new art gallery and restaurants cropping up nearby.

Although DJs at Pirate Cat have a lot of freedom over the air, they do still have to abide by a number of station rules. Everyone has to volunteer for a station department, known at Pirate Cat as "ministries." Ministries include departments like Music, Public Service Announcements, PR and Marketing, News, and Interviews (to name a few). DJs are required to donate around 2 hours worth of work to the station every week and interns have to work in the cafe. In addition to that, there are station dues (which can be swapped for hours spent working in the cafe) and mandatory monthly staff meetings.

Pirate Cat Radio Doesn't Have the Band-Sticker-Covered Cabinet that Most Stations Have,
But Look at Their Trash Can!

During my visit I was surprised to see Pirate Cat founder Daniel Roberts hanging out at the station. Just a month before he had launched KPDO in Pescadero and I knew that he was just getting that station off the ground. He told me that he's been splitting his time between the two stations and said that he'd actually been at Pirate Cat four days that week. There are days when he'll spend a part of the day at each station, no small feat given the fact that it's more than an hour's drive between Pescadero and San Francisco.

Daniel said that he was pleased with how things were going at KPDO and when we spoke he had nearly 30 DJs working towards getting shows. As with Pirate Cat, he plans to have monthly staff meetings. One difference, however, is that KPDO DJs are asked to contribute 8 volunteer hours a week to the station. He said that there is so much that has to get accomplished there, that he has to delegate the work. One of his goals was to get the schedule filled with local DJs by the end of summer. At the time we spoke he was rebroadcasting Pirate Cat Radio programs on KPDO when there wasn't a scheduled DJ.

 Daniel Roberts and Pirate Cat Radio DJ La Pirata Margarita

As I wrapped up my visit, Katherine, Daniel and I looped back to a discussion about music and talked about the challenges of being a Music Director and trying to convince DJs to expand their musical horizons. Daniel said that at KPDO he's having the same struggles, made even more difficult since the station hasn't built up a library of music. While we spoke he began hauling the modest collection of the rarely-played vinyl out of Pirate Cat's studio, with the intention of bringing it down to KPDO.

In the weeks since my visit, Pirate Cat Radio has gotten a new coat of paint and a jazzed up menu (coconut curry mocha, anyone?) and KPDO has been fundraising (they want to boost the station's broadcast power and range) and connecting with the community through a summer film festival. I'm glad to see the passion for radio at Pirate Cat and to have witnessed the birth of KPDO. Thanks again to the DJs and staff of Pirate Cat Radio for taking the time to show me around their San Francisco digs.

View of 21st Street from Pirate Cat Radio Studio

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
Radio Station Field Trip 20 - WGBK at Glenbrook South High School, Illinois 
Radio Station Field Trip 21 - KPDO in Pescadero, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 22 - KZYX in Philo, California

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Goodbye to FCC's Indecency Policy?

What Words CAN you Say on the Radio and Did that Change Today?

There was huge news today about the future of the FCC's indecency policy. The United States Court of Appeals Struck down the policy in a decision that may have a huge impact on broadcasters. On Radio Survivor I went into greater detail about this news, but for now, radio stations would be wise to wait and see before opening up the floodgates of swear words and raunchy material.

The good news, as I see it, is that the appeals court found that the FCC's vague descriptions of indecency have proven to be a threat to First Amendment rights and have had the potential to harm both artists and broadcasters. I recommend reading the entire decision, as it gives a lot of background into how the indecency rules have evolved and provides specific examples of recent rulings that are now called into question.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ypulse Mashup 2010 Recap: Day One- Radio's Role in HIV Prevention, MTV's Digital Bill of Rights, Metal, and Mobile

Ypulse Mashup 2010

Although my main focus these days is on the worlds of radio and music, I've always had a strong affinity for teen culture. I did my college thesis on adolescent diaries, worked at an ad agency tracking youth trends on accounts like Levi's, spent most of grad school writing about youth-oriented TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real World, and Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and even worked for a dot com that helped teenagers to shop online without a credit card.

When I ran across Ypulse back in 2004 I thought that I had found a youth culture soul mate in its author, Anastasia Goodstein. She'd spent many years writing about young people and devoted her blog to chronicling the goings on in youth media and technology.

For the past three years Ypulse has hosted Mashup events, in which youth enthusiasts come together to learn about the latest in youth technology and media. These events draw marketers from both non-profit and for-profit companies, educators, journalists, and youth experts.

This year's event took place on May 24th and May 25th in San Francisco at the Hotel Nikko. As I did last year, I will focus my Spinning Indie coverage on the music and radio-related tidbits that I gleaned.

Youth, Health & Social Media Marketing Session: Radio is Still Relevant, But Mobile is Huge

A really cool theme throughout the entire conference was the importance of social causes and giving back. The first session that I attended featured several panelists talking about how their organizations reach out to youth in order to address various health-related issues.

Tina Hoff from the Kaiser Family Foundation shared some factoids (PDF) from their 2010 study, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds." It's an awesome study that reveals how much the media landscape has changed in the past decade. In terms of music and audio, she pointed out that according to their study, 76% of youth own an iPod/mp3 player, 66% own cell phones, and 29% own laptops.

Young people spend more than 2 and a half hours each day listening to music/audio, with 23% of that listening time through radio and 23% through computers. Twenty-nine percent of the time young people are choosing to listen to music through an iPod, 12% of the time listening is through a cell phone, and 12% of listening is via CDs. She also mentioned that in a typical day, young people are spending 17 minutes listening to music via their cell phone. Although her presentation just scratched the surface of the study, earlier this year I took a close look at the report and pulled out all of the radio and music-themed findings.

Trina DasGupta shared the case study "Mobile Matters: Youth Empowerment and HIV Prevention in South Africa" (PDF). She spoke about the project loveLife and how it's working to educate youth in South Africa about HIV prevention. And, interestingly, loveLife is making a significant use of both traditional radio and mobile to reach young people. In South Africa, the Internet is not the best way to communicate information, with only 10% of the country having Internet access.

Radio is still a significant form of communication and loveLife not only utilizes public service announcements, but also airs weekly programs on 11 stations and has an entire program called "Radio Ys" in which young people are getting trained in radio production and are hosting radio shows related to HIV Prevention. At the same time, loveLife has created a mobile social network since 75% of South African youth own mobile phones. It's a fascinating approach, using both new and traditional media.

MTV also shared some of the projects (PDF) that they are doing in order to advance social causes. Jason Rzebka talked about their latest project, A Thin Line, in which they are helping to raise awareness of digital abuse, as well as "It's Your (Sex) Life's" GYT (Get Yourself Tested) campaign and mtvU's attempt to address mental health issues (and erase the stigma of mental illness) on campus with "Half of Us."

In each campaign they've provided opportunities for MTV viewers to create content, submit stories, or write lyrics in response to various questions or challenges. One of the latest projects is an app called "Over the Line," which Jason described as a "digital morality meter." Through the app, people can submit and rate stories related to digital abuse, judging whether certain behaviors are over the line or not (for example, demanding access to a boyfriend's emails or texts). The day of the conference, MTV also launched a "A THIN LINE's Digital Bill of Rights", inviting youth to craft their own rules about how they want to be treated online (or via mobile devices), from protecting one's privacy to being safe from bullying.

As is always the case with MTV, social causes are incorporated within their programming, from "The Real World" to "16 and Pregnant" and music and musicians are often the message-bearers. (By the way, later in the day Jason also did a separate presentation (PDF) focused exclusively on the "A Thin Line" campaign).

Action Sports and Music: Vans Warped Tour as Rite of Passage

Next I dashed into a session about action sports because there was a presentation about the Vans Warped Tour, dealing with the intersections between music and sports. Kathleen Gasperini from Label Networks talked about how influential music and musicians are to young people. She said that the Vans Warped Tour (coming up in a few weeks) has become a "quintessential rite of passage for North American youth culture" and that music helps to forge connections between kids across both gender and ethnicity. She also talked a bit about music subcultures, from NuRave and Synth Punk to Metal. My favorite quote of the day came from her, when she said that metal never really went away, "it just went to Europe for awhile."

Radio, Music and Global Youth

I missed the session about Global Youth, but Ypulse has kindly posted many of the presentations on their website. One thing that caught my eye in the presentation about youth culture in China, was a slide on the "vintage trend" featuring a picture of a young person holding a boombox and sitting next to a dial telephone. I wonder what that means for terrestrial radio?

Ypulse's Dan Coates shared some figures about U.S. youth from Ypulse's research division. According to Dan, 17 to 26-year-old non-college students listen to radio (overall) an average of 7 hours a week compared with 4 hours a week for college students in the same age group. Non-college students listen to traditional radio an average of 5.1 hours a week (vs. 2.6 hours for college students), listen to online radio 1.3 hours a week (vs. 1.1 hours for college students), and listen to satellite radio 1 hour a week (vs. 0.45 hours for college students).

Archeological Dig of Student Backpacks: Condoms, Tampons, and Flash Drives

I love it when researchers do projects in which they delve into the lives of people in real-world settings. It's just WAY more interesting to talk to teenagers in their bedrooms, on shopping trips, or at their schools than to chat with them inside a sterile focus group facility. For the next presentation, Dan Coates presented findings from an audit of the contents of the backpacks (PDF) of more than one thousand high school and college students in the United States. He pointed out that for young people, a backpack is a "library, a workplace, a financial center, a medicine cabinet, a cosmetic counter, a communications hub, a safe deposit box, and a stash."

It was fascinating to hear about the range of items found in backpacks, from underwear to a "beat up apple," a "marginal banana," and a crucifix/knife. As you might guess, young people carry a lot of technology in their backpacks, including items to facilitate listening to music, such as MP3 players (57% of girls, 52% of boys) and headphones (42% girls, 41% boys).

Genevieve Bell at the Ypulse Mashup

Genevieve Bell's Keynote Presentation: An Anthropologist's Take on Product Innovation

In the afternoon we heard a keynote presentation from anthropologist Genevieve Bell. As the Director of the User Experience Group at Intel's Digital Home Group, she is fixated on "consumer-centric product innovation" and global research. I was very interested in her comments about "stubborn devices" like television, as many future tech-oriented folks seem to discount their ongoing relevance. She said that home TV viewing in the United States has actually gone up in the past 10 years to 4 to 6 hours a day on average, even though that viewing may be in the background while using other devices like laptops. She added that the fastest growing group of TV watchers is young people (aka millenials), with their viewing increasing by 18% in the past 6 years. [I'm super curious to know what Genevieve would say about radio, as it seems to be another stubborn device, being used by most, despite popular perceptions to the contrary]

Genevieve also argued that there may be a backlash against the "always on, always connected" lifestyle of mobile devices and social networks. She is seeing evidence of people turning off their phones in order to manage their relationship to mobile and has found that some people are turning away from online social networks.  She said that when a technology ceases to be "new" or "sexy," then people may end up using it less.

In terms of privacy fears, Genevieve argued that people now assume that all of their information is already out there and are in fact more afraid of certain pieces of information damaging their image or reputation. She said that people are afraid of others knowing "what we're really watching on television," because that could make them look uncool.

I was happy to see that Genevieve also emphasized that, "a globally located world doesn't end localness" and that there is "no single arc of technology adoption." In terms of radio, I've found that to be true, in that its power lies in its localness and in the fact that how it is used around the world can vary tremendously, depending on the other available forms of communication technology and media.

DJs from The DJ Project

Happy Hour with the DJ Project: Digital Turntables

The first day of the Mashup ended with a reception that featured young DJs from The DJ Project "spinning" music for the attendees. I was fascinated to see that the slabs of vinyl being manipulated and scratched on the 2 turntables were seemingly "blank" DJ records that were used to interact with digital music files on a computer. I chatted a bit with the DJs about this and they commented that it's a lot easier than lugging around a bunch of vinyl. It's the perfect reflection of the seemingly contradictory trends of music's digital future and the renewed interest in vinyl records.

It was awesome to see The DJ Project at Ypulse, as it's an amazing youth empowerment program in San Francisco that uses "music to engage young adults" and provides classes in audio production, DJing, and break dancing.