Tuesday, March 9, 2010

College Broadcasters Inc. Convention Coming to NYC

It is now officially college radio/music conference season. The IBS Conference just concluded in New York City on Sunday and on the heels of that, College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) is prepping for their spring convention this weekend (March 14th to 16th at the Marriott Marquis in NYC). Held along with the folks from College Media Advisers (CMA), the event will feature sessions about radio, television, journalism, and careers in media. As I did with the recent IBS Conference, I will have some guest bloggers on the scene at the CBI Convention, reporting back on the goings on. Additionally, I'll be hosting a live Twitter feed of CBI Convention-themed tweets (#CBINY).

Over the years I've been particularly impressed by CBI's work in both advocating for college radio and educating stations about legislation that has an impact on student stations. They offer a free email list for college radio staff that's open to anyone in college radio, regardless of whether or not one is a member of CBI. Not limited to just radio, CBI's focus is a bit broader than that of some of their fellow college media organizations (such as IBS).

In order to learn about the ins and outs of CBI, hear what's in store for their upcoming convention, and find out their predictions for the future of college radio, I chatted by email with the President of CBI, Warren Kozireski (he's also General Manager of WBSU at College at Brockport) and Will Robedee, Executive Director of CBI (he's also the General Manager of KTRU 91.7 FM and Staff Adviser for RTV-5 at Rice University).

Spinning Indie: When did CBI begin and what was the initial motivation for starting it up?

Warren Kozireski, President of CBI: The organization was conceived in late 1998. The idea came mainly from a previous student media organization who ceased operating. Several people thought the concept of one umbrella group supporting student television, radio, internet and more made too much sense.

Spinning Indie: Can you explain the main focus of CBI and what sets it apart from other college radio organizations (IBS, CMJ, BEA, etc.)?

Warren: The main difference is that CBI supports all electronic student media, which has become even more important in today's converging media marketplace. Our conference sessions are about every aspect of student media from engineering to on-air to public relations to music to management to news to public affairs to public file to streaming legalities, etc.

Will Robedee, Executive Director of CBI: CBI focuses on electronic student media. We hold two conventions per year. The Spring NY convention is done with College Media Advisers (primarily print) and the Fall Convention is done with CMA and ACP [Associated Collegiate Press] - again, ACP is primarily print oriented. We find that combining our conventions to be very beneficial to all involved.

Starting in 2002, CBI also coordinates the annual Student Media Awards in 23 different categories. This competition rewards the great work being done in student stations around the country and also provides the students with a great resume line.

Spinning Indie: How many college radio stations are members of CBI? Do you have members in other categories (community radio? high school radio? elementary school radio? etc?)

Warren: Again, unlike other student media groups we are not just radio. Our membership has consistently been around 340 member stations and associate members.

NYC View from Commercial Radio Station WRXP's Studios

Spinning Indie: Tell me a bit about what you have in store for 2010 year's Spring Convention in New York. Is there a specific focus?

Will: A list of sessions is available on the CBI web site. Since we do two conventions each year, each has a very different goal. At the NY convention, we focus on bringing in talent from the number one market. This year we have representatives from WFAN, WCBS-AM, Bloomberg Radio, NY Times multimedia, Fresh 102.7, NBC-TV, CBS-TV, etc., etc., etc. We don't forget
about important stations issues, such as streaming or advising, but the focus is to highlight what is happening in NYC and how those people got started. Many of them started at college stations.

Spinning Indie: Your Spring Convention is one week after IBS's National Conference. Is there a lot of crossover between members/attendees and is it challenging to have your conferences so close together?

Will: There is some cross-over, but not a lot as the focus of the two conventions are very different. For instance, the IBS President, Norm Prusslin has been doing sessions with us for a number of years, this year included.

CBI joined CMA in putting on the NY Spring conference about 10 years ago. They handle the venue, timing and many other logistics and we handle the broadcast/electronic media session programming. The proximity of the CBI/CMA convention to the other convention made us think about what made sense when programming for NY. As explained above, our focus is on bringing in the local talent to talk about trends, emerging trends, careers, internships, and life in media in general and how these people made it to the number one market. It made no sense to offer a convention that had a similar flavor to another conference held within a week or two of this one and the venue (NYC) made it easy for us to focus on the talent and media in the market.

Image from 2009 Fall Convention Brochure

Spinning Indie: Who typically attends the conventions that you host in NYC? Is it mostly stations from the Northeast or do you have attendees from all over the country? How many people/stations are you expecting?

Warren: While many come from the Northeast, we see quite a few coming from the South, Midwest and from the West. Many of the students (and some of their advisers) have never been to New York City before so it becomes a destination for both the benefit of the conference and the lure of NYC.

Will: For CBI, this is a relatively small conference, but filled with big names and the lure of NYC. We are working on tours of some great facilities and will announce them later this week.

Our biggest event is the Fall National Student Media Convention. That will be held this year in Louisville. At that event, we hold ~100 sessions and events that are focused on electronic student media operations covering everything from recruitment of volunteers, station management issues, promotions, putting on concerts, how to make local band compilation CDs,
engineering, etc.

This is really a nuts and bolts convention that has broad appeal to students at school based electronic media outlets. The fall convention is also attractive in that it is far less expensive because of the venue. Hotel rooms, for instance are much less expensive in Louisville than NYC. Because of these factors, we draw a much larger crowd which leads to another benefit, networking. Many students and advisers find that they learn their most valuable lessons from the peers that they meet at these events.

Spinning Indie: Anything different about this year's conference?

Will: I think we have raised the bar concerning the quality of speakers.

Studio at KSJS-FM, San Jose State

Spinning Indie: Are you optimistic about college radio's future? Why or why not?

Warren: I am very optimistic with student media's future. If you look at today's job openings, many are looking for audio and video editing experience with writing and web development--all skills many students are already doing every day in our operations. That makes today's students very marketable in the job search.

We will have adjustments to make, and we have already made many, but I can see a near future where all of our student media on one campus is under one roof.

One news department writing for the newspaper (and their website), broadcasting on radio and television and supplementing the various websites with audio, video, blogs, podcasts and more. One sales department selling all student media; one production department making pieces for radio, TV and the web; etc.

Will: While I agree that there is much to be optimistic about, I do see some problems and some growing pains as well as tremendous opportunities.

As Koz mentions, many students arrive on campus today without a radio, with perhaps the exception of a clock radio/alarm. A far cry from my student days when many students set up their stereo before anything else when they arrived on campus! That is a hurdle, but I see the outcome a little differently than Koz because his program at SUNY Brockport has a career/training focus, while I am with KTRU at Rice University where the station has no aspirations of training the next big media personality.

I see student media as the testing and launching grounds of new media. If you remember WXYC and WREK both lay claims to be the first streaming radio station. Students often times have a better grasp of technology than older folks. It is likely that some of the real innovations in popular media are going to come from students working at student electronic media outlets.

Also note that the advent of streaming audio has made it very easy and cost effective to start new initiatives. In the past, a new student station would either need to find and fund a license and frequency or be limited to other methods of transmission that weren't always popular, widely available or suffered from technical problems. Today, a student station can literally be started with a donated computer. Keeping such stations alive over a few years takes work, organization and an ability to demonstrate a need for continued funding as the station grows.

CBI aims to help existing and fledgling stations through its free email lists, web site and conventions as well as free phone support via our toll free number 877-ASK-CBI1.

There are many challenges and opportunities ahead for college stations, whether they are indie oriented or career oriented. The keys to survival are continuity, reasonable requirements for accessing new technology, building support for the media outlet. CBI helps stations with each of those goals through its many direct to station benefits and through efforts to keep webcasting rates and terms (including recordkeeping) reasonable and filing comments on issues before the FCC and the US Congress.

Spinning Indie: What are some of the challenges faced by college radio today?

Warren: College media's main issue is commercial media's main issue--adjusting to the media habits of younger demographics to remain viable. Students don't bring a radio to campus with them, so your webstream is the only way they can hear your station. They also are watching more and more television on their computers, so is the student television station providing video streaming of their programming? Funding is an issue for most to help make the above and more happen.

That and marketing to students that media is still a viable career and well worth their time and effort.

Spinning Indie: Is there anything else about CBI that you'd like to share?

Warren: Our e-mail listserv's are free and not restricted to members-only. We decided this from day one as a support for student media and everyone involved.

Also our various legal fights regarding streaming issues have been done for the (hopeful) benefit of all student media and not just our members. We feel it's the right thing to do and the membership has agreed to help fund the effort(s).

Will: CBI is member and volunteer driven. Our members provide advice to each other through a free flow of dialogue on the email lists. The board members are CBI members. We are also fact driven when it comes to legal issues. For instance, we don't just provide stations with advice concerning issues, we provide them with the background concerning the issues so they are free to make appropriate choices for their operations. We believe students and advisers need to know the issues and the choices available so they can make an educated decision. These are, when all is said and done, school based student media outlets. Whether their programming is esoteric, indie, world, eclectic or mainstream, is unimportant. What is important is that CBI serves these stations.

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