Saturday, February 19, 2011

Save KUSF Live Remote Broadcast Brings Together 15 College and Community Radio Stations from across the United States

Amoeba Music on Haight Street in San Francisco on a Cold February Day
(Photo: J. Waits)

One month ago college radio station KUSF was taken off of its terrestrial signal at 90.3 FM after the administration of University of San Francisco signed paperwork to cede control of the station to Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN). Although the sale needs to still be approved by the FCC, in the meantime, CPRN is airing broadcasts from formerly classical radio station KDFC on KUSF's frequency of 90.3 FM.

As I've extensively documented on Radio Survivor, supporters of KUSF have been fighting the sale ever since it was announced. They have solicited support from politicians, the faculty of USF, and from like-minded radio stations from all over the country.

WFMU Microphone at Amoeba
(Photo: J. Waits)

Yesterday the independent radio community came together to spread the word about the plight of KUSF by taking to the terrestrial airwaves. Orchestrated by DJ Billy Jam, of well-respected New Jersey community radio station WFMU, the Save KUSF live broadcast from Amoeba Music in San Francisco on Friday, February 18 featured six KUSF DJs "in exile" on stage spinning (yes, there was a ton of vinyl trekked in for the event) music from noon to 3pm Pacific time. WFMU did a live broadcast over both the airwaves and over their Internet stream and invited other stations to piggy back on the broadcast by sending out the Internet stream over their respective FM signals.

The "Honor Roll" of Participating Stations (not listed are KXSC and, who also broadcast the event)
(Photo: J. Waits)

Ultimately, 15 stations ended up broadcasting the Save KUSF event, including WFMU (91.1 FM in New Jersey), Stanford University station KZSU (90.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area), Loyola Marymount station KXLU (88.9 FM in Los Angeles), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill station WXYC (89.3 FM in Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Foothill College station KFJC (89.7 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area), Georgia Tech station WREK (91.1 FM in Atlanta), Cazenovia College station WITC (88.9 FM in Cazenovia, NY), University of California at Davis station KDVS 90.3 (90.3 FM in Davis, CA), University of Texas, Austin station KVRX (which broadcast over their webstream), University of California at Berkeley station KALX (90.7 FM in Berkeley, CA), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor station WCBN (88.3 FM in Ann Arbor, MI), community radio station KRFP (Radio Free Moscow at 92.5 FM in Moscow, Idaho), Santa Clara University station KSCU (103.3 FM in Santa Clara, CA), University of Southern California's online-only student radio station KXSC (Los Angeles, CA), and even (which is for the most part separate from the efforts of Save KUSF and still in the process of being conceptualized. It's currently airing a mix of student and cultural shows from the old KUSF studios at University of San Francisco).

DJ Schmeejay, whose show turned to static when the KUSF transmitter was shut down January 18, begins the Live Remote
(Photo: J. Waits)

As DJs and KUSF fans mingled at Amoeba Music on Friday, it was easy to sense both the inspiration and the optimism that everyone was drawing from the event and from the outpouring of support from radio stations from all over the country. It was clear that the fight for independent radio in San Francisco resonated across the United States, as other stations stood in solidarity while giving over their airwaves to the KUSF DJs who had been silenced one month prior.

DJ Carolyn at Amoeba Music
(Photo: J. Waits)

When I started Spinning Indie back in 2008 one of my goals was to try to bring more attention to college radio. Not only was I attempting to get people to listen to college radio, but I was also hoping to expose college radio DJs to other stations that they might not have been aware of. When I've gone to college radio conferences hosted by CMJ, IBS, and the University of California Radio Network (UCRN) I've loved the opportunity to swap stories with DJs from other stations and I've witnessed how hungry other station volunteers have been for building those cross-station connections. When touring stations in my own neck of the woods I've talked to people about bringing back the long-gone Bay Area college radio picnics and have heard rumors about casual sports competitions between stations.

So, for me, yesterday was a dream come true, witnessing the cross-country radio love. A few of us noted that in times of crisis it's incredible to see how people will come together, even stations who might normally feel tinges of competition. Particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was an unprecedented display of radio activism, as KUSF DJs could be heard emanating from 4 different college radio stations up and down the radio dial (KFJC at 89.7 FM, KZSU at 90.1 FM, KALX at 90.7 FM, and KSCU at 103.3FM).

At the same time, it was almost mind-boggling to think about the fact that people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Moscow, Idaho were tuning in; perhaps hearing about KUSF for the very first time.

DJ Irwin Cues Up a Record at Amoeba Music
(Photo: J. Waits)

Beyond the community love that I was feeling all day, it was also a great relief to just hear KUSF DJs back on the air again spinning music. For me and for many other people, radio is inextricably linked to musical exploration and to sharing sounds with listeners. Yesterday it was nice to take a break from all of the protests, conversation, and writing in order to get back to music and get back to radio. As I listened to beautiful sets of music by all six KUSF DJs on stage, I was again reminded of why I still care so deeply about the power and art of human DJ's who are musical curators. My ears were tantalized by Rudy Vallee, Yoko Ono, Chin Chin, Felt, Can, Omar Souleyman, Alice Coltrane, Grace Jones, Sylvester, and Dead Moon.

It still remains to be seen what will happen to KUSF, but as a college radio DJ and fan I am really proud to see that they are fighting hard for the future of independent radio and are spreading the word about their plight far and wide.

If you want to relive yesterday's event, there's video documentation on the Yowie website, there is an archived MP3 of the broadcast on WFMU's website, individual MP3s for each DJ's set can be found on the KUSF Archives webite, and the complete playlist (as well as listener comments) are on Billy Jam's page at WFMU. To learn more about Save KUSF's efforts, take a look at their website (where they are also actively seeking donations).

You can read my reaction to the KUSF shut down here on Spinning Indie, as well as my article chronicling my KUSF field trip two years ago. And, I'm really proud to say that many of the stations that participated in today's multi-station simulcast have been stops on either my Spinning Indie 50 State Tour (KXSC, which used to be called KSCR) or have been places I've visited for my radio station field trip series (WFMU, KZSU, KUSF, KSCU, KALX, and KFJC). For more on the bigger picture of college radio station sell-offs, see my December 2009 piece “Cash-strapped Schools Turn Their Backs on College Radio.

Save KUSF Merch Table
(Photo: J. Waits)