Thursday, November 29, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 38 - WRAS at Georgia State University

(Entrance to WRAS. All photos by Jennifer Waits)

Last month I journeyed to Atlanta, Georgia in order to attend the College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) conference. In addition to mingling with college radio DJs and learning the latest broadcasting news, I was eager to visit as many college radio stations as I could. First on my list was WRAS 88.5 FM at Georgia State University in Atlanta. I walked over to the station from my hotel on the morning of Thursday, October 25 and met up with WRAS General Manager Anastasia Zimitravich. She toured me around the station and gave me some insight into the inner workings of WRAS.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 37 - KCSF at City College of San Francisco

KCSF at City College of San Francisco (Photo: J. Waits)

I pride myself on my vast knowledge of college radio and thought that I was particularly schooled in all of the local college radio options in my home town of San Francisco. I even went so far as to proclaim that there were only two college radio stations in the city of San Francisco (KUSF and KSFS). Well, a few weeks ago I found out that I was wrong.

Broadcasting at City College of San Francisco (Photo: J. Waits)

An email came through my inbox that mentioned KCSF at City College of San Francisco. Instantly intrigued, I quickly got in touch with the station's Program Director Matias Godinez in order to arrange a visit. On September 14, I walked over to City College in order to learn more about this mysterious online radio station. Godinez acknowledged that the station is growing, but that "most people have never heard of us."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 36 - WIBN in Oxford, Indiana

WIBN sign (Photo: J. Waits)

During the family vacation portion of my trip to the midwest this summer, we took a drive from Chicago to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Along the way back to Chicago on the afternoon of Thursday, August 2, we traversed through small towns off the main highway.

Ode to Dan Patch on Oxford, Indiana water tower (Photo: J. Waits)

In the town of Oxford, Indiana, I was mesmerized by the mysterious "Dan Patch 1:55" sign atop a roof. As we drove through the town square, my husband spotted a sign for a radio station. We continued on our way and stopped to take a look at a Dan Patch tribute along the side of the road (it turns out that he was a horse made famous for a record-breaking 1:55 minute mile). After we'd solved the Dan Patch mystery, my mind turned back to the radio station that we'd just passed. Promising my family that it would be a quick trip, I asked them if it would be OK if we stopped by the radio station to see if anyone was there. They surprisingly agreed.    

Radio Station Field Trip 35 - Radio DePaul

Radio DePaul signage (Photo: J. Waits)

I spent part of my summer vacation in Chicago and was able to see a few radio stations there leading up to and following my trip to Urbana-Champaign for the Grassroots Radio Conference. On Monday, July 30, 2012, I visited DePaul University's online-only student radio station Radio DePaul. Since it was summer vacation, the dorm (University Hall) that houses Radio DePaul was technically closed to the public. General Manager Scott Vyverman met me at the front door of the building and took me down to the station's home in the basement.

University Hall, the home of Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits)

Vyverman couldn't tell me much about the history of Radio DePaul, but he guessed that radio had been a feature of campus life for maybe 25 years. He said, "the early history is a little murky." Apparently there's never been a licensed station on campus and prior to Radio DePaul going internet-only, radio was broadcast through carrier current (using the call letters WRDP on 640 AM) or local cable at the Catholic university. When Vyverman arrived at the station in fall 2001, the station was already using the name Radio DePaul and he said that at that time nobody knew where the old carrier current transmitters were.

Radio DePaul is part of the university's College of Communication, which means that the station is intertwined with course work as well. The station is 100% students, although faculty can also be on the air.

Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits)

The station moved to its current location on Clifton Avenue in summer 2005 from McGaw Hall. Vyverman told me that Radio DePaul inhabits a space that formerly housed an old dorm lunch room. When they remodeled the space to suit the needs of the station, they opted to keep the old lunch counter and rolling metal gate. The music and promotions departments have their offices behind the counter and the gate is now emblazoned with a painting of a boom box.

Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits)

Although it was summer vacation, a number of Radio DePaul volunteers were hanging out at the station. It's a neat and organized space and Vyverman even joked a bit about his high standards for order at the station. A mural ("Timeless Vibrations") painted in 2007 lines one full wall and pillars throughout the lobby are painted with blackboard paint. Musicians and station guests are invited to use chalk to sign the pillars.

Awards at Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits)

A trophy case in the hallway of the station contains various awards earned by Radio DePaul and other awards line the nearby walls. Vyverman said that one award in particular, the 2010 Best Station in the Nation award from Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) "changed everything." He said that their standing on campus shifted and they've been able to get more funding for the station after receiving that recognition.

CD Library in Main Studio at Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits) 

In terms of programming, Radio DePaul plays a blend of music that includes indie, hip hop, and metal. They also have live news shows, arts programming (including a poetry show and a program run by the writing center), live sports, and live remote broadcasts.

Recently Radio DePaul was one of the first college radio stations added to Clear Channel's iHeartRadio app. Although some college stations shied away from partnering with Clear Channel, Vyverman said that it's allowed them to increase the number of listeners. He said, "We're now heard on the most popular radio app in the world." He told me that with more than 100 people volunteering at Radio DePaul, it's important for him to ensure that there is a good listener base. Vyverman recounted his own college radio days, telling me that he remembered heading to his station at 3am in order to be on the air. He said that for many student DJs, the time they spend on the air is "the best two hours of their week."

Main studio at Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits) 

Nathan Brue, Radio DePaul's outgoing Program Director said that it's important to attract DJs who are "passionate" and admitted that one of his mantras at the station is to "keep it weird." Vyverman agreed, saying that they are "committed to diversity." Brue told me that he had hosted a progressive rock show on Radio DePaul in which he "tried to balance...classics...with modern counterparts." He explained that doing the show was an education for him, even though he'd had a head start since he grew up hearing his dad play songs and records from that genre, including "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Tubular Bells."

Events Listings at Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits)

At Radio DePaul they strive to be on the air at the minimum from 10am to 10pm. By the end of spring semester 2012, the schedule was filled with shows from 8am to 2am Mondays through Thursdays and from 8am to midnight on Fridays. Weekend shows tended to end by midnight. During the school year the building is open all night, so the station is not restricted in terms of broadcast hours. They shut Radio DePaul down over winter break and put the station on automation. In the past they had to do that over the summer as well, but they've been able to work out an arrangement with the school so that they can continue operating during summer break. I was told that DePaul is mostly a commuter school, so there are plenty of students around to fill shifts over the summer.

Equipment in Radio DePaul's main studio (Photo: J. Waits)

Brue said that for the most part DJs are playing music off of their computers. Radio DePaul has a digital library full of 13,241 tracks (the first track digitized was the Beastie Boys "Triple Trouble"), and about half of the music that comes into the station today is digital. They will also rip CDs to add to the library. Although Radio DePaul does get sent some vinyl, the station has no turntables on which to play vinyl. I was told that they rarely get sent cassettes, although they do have a double cassette deck in their studio (as well as 2 CD players and a mini disc player).

Many of the shows on Radio DePaul are archived and the Radio DePaul website hosts podcasts of live performances. Vyverman told me that he'd like to add some original podcast programming and said that he was planning to hire someone who would be dedicated to overseeing the station's podcast programming. Additionally, Radio DePaul is utilizing multimedia features and has videos and photos posted on their website. A webcam also captures all the action in the studio.

Thanks so much to everyone at Radio DePaul for the lovely tour of the station.

Radio DePaul (Photo: J. Waits)

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 34 - WRFU in Urbana, Illinois

Sign at WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

This summer I was able to visit six radio stations in the midwest during my travels out there in July for the Grassroots Radio Conference. The easiest field trip to orchestrate was to community radio station WRFU-LP 104.5 FM. Located at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, the site of this year's Grassroots Radio Conference, WRFU is a sliver of a station nestled within a historic post office.

Entrance to WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

WRFU first went on the air November 13, 2005. According to Station Manager Raymond Morales,

"Anyone can have a show on the air as long as they are trained, paid members, FCC compliant and not promoting hate speech. Otherwise, whatever the community wants to put on the air, we try to facilitate. It doesn't matter whether it is left or right, music or talk, atheist or religious. We are merely a channel (get it?). We are the easiest radio station to join and we represent a diverse group of voices across the community."

WRFU Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

The station airs a range of music, public affairs (in English and Spanish), and sports programs. Music shows include hip hop, dance, blues, world, gospel, experimental, jazz, R&B, and indie pop.  Public affairs programs run the gamut, ranging from a show about bike culture, to a political talk show, to programs focused on environmental topics. A number of these shows (including Radio Bilingue) are syndicated programs produced elsewhere.

WRFU board (Photo: J. Waits)

The low power FM station is a project of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center and according to its mission statement:

"WRFU is a progressive radio station collective committed to social justice, focusing on public affairs issues and the arts. WRFU airs opinions and debates in an open and diverse forum that focuses on educating and empowering the public. WRFU provides an accessible venue for an eclectic mixture of arts programming."

WRFU Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

In addition to WRFU, the Independent Media Center includes meeting space, an event/concert space with a stage, production equipment, a computer lab, and a library.

CD Library at WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

Throughout the Grassroots Radio Conference, I would wander by WRFU and for the most part there was no sign of volunteers at the station. They did hold some WRFU studio training sessions as part of the conference program. Additionally, an entry on the conference schedule stated that, "Throughout the weekend, WRFU will be broadcasting content from the GRC on the air. Stop on by to get acquainted with the station, drop off an audio file to play, or do an interview.  Don’t be shy!"

Sign on window at WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

Since the station was largely unoccupied (despite the above sign on the window that read "Station Occupation"), I asked one of the organizers if it would be OK for me to take a look around. I wandered about in the cozy studio, snapped some photos, and took in the view. WRFU has a glass window that faces a row of post boxes that border an active hallway that leads into the main part of the Independent Media Center. From a DJ's perch in the studio, he or she has a prime view of everyone coming into the building.

WRFU Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

With this visit to WRFU, I wrapped up my mini tour of radio stations in Champaign-Urbana. I didn't manage to see all of them (I would have liked to have seen the other college radio station in town - WPCD at Parkland College), but I was happy to see a broad range of stations.

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (Photo: J. Waits)

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 33 - WEFT in Champaign, Illinois

Entrance to WEFT (Photo: J. Waits)

During my trip to the mid-west this summer for the Grassroots Radio Conference, I was able to tour a number of radio stations. My first stop was WLUW in Chicago, then I visited WPGU in Champaign, followed by a visit to community radio station WEFT in Champaign.

Historic advertising on the lobby wall at WEFT (Photo: J. Waits)

WEFT 90.1 FM is a community radio station located in downtown Champaign, Illinois. WEFT's first FM broadcast was in 1981 (following a launch over cable FM in 1980) and by 1988 WEFT was broadcasting at 10,000 watts of power.

Paul Riismandel in the WEFT record library (Photo: J. Waits)

My friend Paul Riismandel was a former DJ and volunteer at WEFT from 1994 to 2008, so he helped arrange my visit to the station on Saturday, July 28, 2012. We met up with Paul's friend Mick Woolf, who is the Station Manager at WEFT. Woolf drove us over to WEFT, which was empty when we arrived.

Public Service Announcement bin at WEFT (photo: J. Waits)

WEFT owns the building that it's housed in and faces a main street in town. The studio is near the entrance to the building and behind that is a large open space containing the record library. According to Woolf, there are about 40,000 CDs in the library. He told me that they moved the vinyl out of the library because it wasn't being played as much and they were having trouble with broken equipment on the turntables. He said that they got rid of most of the vinyl collection, but held on to a portion of it which is housed upstairs.

Main studio at WEFT (Photo: J. Waits)

Riismandel shared his perspective about WEFT with me. He told me that it's largely a volunteer organization, saying,

"What makes WEFT unique is that it is very volunteer driven, with only one full-time staff member and a couple other part-time staff. It serves a somewhat transient small university community of just over 100,000, which means there's a fair amount of turnover and, therefore change in programming, especially compared to community stations in larger cities."

Music genre list at WEFT (Photo: J. Waits)

WEFT currently airs a mix of music and public affairs programming, including some syndicated shows as well as programs produced by local volunteers. Music genres represented include jazz, blues, lounge, electronica, experimental, Celtic, goth, industrial, and rock. There's also a local music show called Local 901.

Riismandel explained the station's music philosophy and told me,

"The station makes a strong commitment to American music like Jazz and Blues, which has been historically popular and strong in Champaign-Urbana due to its location on the way between Chicago and Memphis. At the same time, so-called 'world music' is also a strong component of its programming due to the very international and cosmopolitan nature of the community around the University of Illinois. As well, WEFT has a long lasting music program, where bands come in to play live on air, which has been running for over 20 years."

Sign in WEFT music library (Photo: J. Waits)

Since my visit was timed with the Grassroots Radio Conference, it's also fitting that WEFT has been active in the broader culture of community radio. Riismandel told me, "WEFT has a significant place in the history of community radio, of the first Pacifica affiliates, as well as one of the first stations to air Democracy Now and Free Speech Radio News."

Artifacts in the WEFT library (Photo: J. Waits)

Since WEFT was DJ-less on the day that we visited, Woolf asked if we'd like to get on the air. Riismandel quickly got set up in the studio, grabbed some headphones, and turned on the microphone. He invited me to join him and we spent about half an hour chatting about the Grassroots Radio Conference. It was much like Riismandel's former "Media Geek" program, which aired on WEFT from 2002 to 2008 (and on WNUR from 2008 to 2010). On that show, Riismandel featured news, commentary and interviews about various topics in the media.

After our impromptu interview, we turned the studio back over to automation and raced back to the conference.

Thanks to Paul and Mick for the great tour of WEFT!

Board in WEFT main studio (Photo: J. Waits)

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 32 - WPGU at University of Illinois

WPGU 3-D Logo (Photo: J. Waits)

During my whirlwind trip to Urbana-Champaign for the Grassroots Radio Conference this summer, I managed to squeeze in visits to three different radio stations in the area. First on my list was WPGU in Champaign, Illinois. Although it is a student radio station affiliated with the University of Illinois, WPGU is owned by the non-profit Illini Media Company. Illini Media owns and operates student media at the university, including the campus newspaper, the yearbook, and various student magazines.

WPGU (Photo: J. Waits)

WPGU 107.1 FM inhabits a rare category of college radio because it holds a 3000 watt commercial FM license. Although the early days of AM college radio (as well as unlicensed carrier-current radio) saw many campus stations airing commercials, the advent of non-commercial educational FM licenses has meant that college radio is typically associated with non-commercial radio.

Vintage WPGU photo on wall of present-day station

A small subset of college radio stations (including Princeton's WPRB, Brown's WBRU, Harvard's WHRB, Cornell's WVBR, and University of Virginia's WUVA) break the mold and have commercial licenses today. Many of them, like WPGU, are comprised of students, but are owned by independent non-profits.

Plaque In Honor of WPGU's 50th Anniversary in 2003 (Photo: J. Waits)

WPGU began as a carrier current AM station at University of Illinois. Its initial broadcast was in December, 1953 over 640 AM. After obtaining an FCC license, its first FM broadcasts began in April, 1967. Carrier-current broadcasts continued on campus under the call letters WDBS (see one DJ's recollections here) and that station's signal also reached student dorms through FM cable from 1982 to 1992.

Front entrance to Illini Media (Photo: J. Waits)

I visited WPGU on the morning of Friday, July 26, 2012. I dashed over to the downtown Champaign studios at 8:30am, so that I could make it to the Grassroots Radio Conference in time for the morning sessions. The station has been located in an off-campus building that houses other Illini Media publications since 2006. As one approaches the building, it's hard not to miss the street-facing broadcast studio. When I arrived, the on-air DJ was doing her morning show in a spacious studio surrounded by large glass windows to the street and to the building's entry-way.

On-air DJ at WPGU (Photo: J. Waits)

WPGU's Program Director Courtney Yuen toured me through the station and filled me in the role that it plays on campus. Yuen, who is a University of Illinois student, explained that WPGU is managed and staffed entirely by students. Even though it's a student radio station, the programming approach is more similar to commercial radio. The music library is all digital and there are no CDs or vinyl records in the on-air studio. As I watched the morning show DJ doing her show during my visit, I saw her doing short mic breaks between sets of pre-programmed music. The station has live DJs all day long during the school year, but during the summer there are no live DJs between 3 and 6 am.

CDs in Office at WPGU (Photo: J. Waits)

Yuen told me that WPGU gets sent between 35 and 50 CDs a week from promotion companies, labels, and artists. They also occasionally get sent vinyl. Music that is sent to the station gets added to WPGU's automation system (Selector). Yuen said that she and the Music Director determine what music is added to the station each week. They also spend a lot of time tweaking the settings in their automation program by sound coding and tempo coding every track that's added. In this way, they can ensure that music segues make sense sonically. Yuen said that programming the station takes most of her time, as it requires building categories and building each hour of music.

Band's plea on WPGU office wall (Photo: J. Waits)

There are around 700 tracks in the WPGU digital music library and those tracks are either coded as current ("things emerging now," including the band Fun's "We are Young"), recurrent ("big songs from the past year," including tracks by Foo Fighters and Florence and the Machine), gold (the "bread and butter" of the station, which includes artists like Nirvana, Kings of Leon, Death Cab for Cutie, and Stone Temple Pilots), spike (live tracks, B-sides, and other items that add extra "spice" to the air sound), and local.

At the time of my visit in July, there were 31 songs in current rotation, with 5 or 6 current songs being played per hour. Rules created by the station within the Selector program ensure that the same song is not played within 1 hour and 45 minutes of itself. Additionally, the same song cannot be played in the same hour on the following day. Yuen said that the most you'd hear any one song on WPGU would be 4 or 5 times in a given day.

On-Air Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

Yuen also explained that WPGU changed its air sound a year ago. She said that prior to that time the station was "very indie" and played more underground artists. Because the station relies on ad dollars, there was a programming shift in order to play more commercial, more accessible music in order to attract more listeners and advertisers. With a 3000 watt signal and a listening range of about 50 miles, WPGU has a large potential audience and mostly airs local, community-based commercials. Yuen said the programming changes seem to be a success and that ratings have gone up.

Production Department at WPGU (Photo: J. Waits)

When I asked if there was any backlash after the changes, she admitted that there was (see a former WPGU Music Director/DJ's take on the changes), but not from people at the station. She said that it can be challenging to get support from the local music scene, but also said that it's important for WPGU to "support local music." Local artists are played at least once per hour on WPGU and the station also has promoted some local shows.

Poster-covered walls at WPGU (Photo: J. Waits)

WPGU also airs some specialty music shows, including Shrink Wrap (new releases), Back Room (underground music), Surfabilly Freakout, Flashback Cafe, and a dub step show on Fridays. Yuen said that specialty DJs often play music from outside the WPGU library, typically off their laptops.

WPGU on-air studio (Photo: J. Waits)

The station has deep connections to the University of Illinois campus scene. Yuen mentioned that they were planning to be at the annual Quad Day (held in August), which would also feature performances by some local bands. She also told me that the station's mission is "to train broadcasters," and said that many of the students on staff are broadcasting/journalism majors. She said that there are people at WPGU who are interested in getting into the radio industry and that she would like to work in the music business. However, there are also people at WPGU who have had different career goals and the station attracts a range of majors and its alumni pursue a variety of careers. Yuen said that DJs get six weeks of training at the station and learn how to not only operate the equipment, but also learn how to be "confident on-air." As part of that process, airchecks are regularly recorded and critiqued.

On-air studio at WPGU (Photo: J. Waits)

Yuen mentioned that WPGU is quite popular with students. A recent information night over the summer attracted around 50 applicants interested in joining the station. Although most people want to be DJs, some want to work in other capacities at the station, including marketing and advertising.

Thanks to everyone at WPGU for their hospitality during my July visit. It was quite interesting for me to visit a college radio station with a commercial license and I'd be curious to explore more commercial college radio stations in order to explore the commonalities and the differences within this rare breed within college radio.

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 31 - WLUW at Loyola University Chicago

WLUW Studio Entrance (All photos by Jennifer Waits)

While visiting Chicago during a summer vacation/trip to Urbana-Champaign for the Grassroots Radio Conference, I decided that it was time to tour more college radio stations in the area. On Thursday, July 26, 2012, I scheduled a trip to visit Loyola University Chicago's station, WLUW 88.7 FM. Located just a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue (with its upscale shopping destinations and  historic Water Tower), WLUW has some swanky digs in a relatively new building on the Loyola campus.

WLUW Office (Photo: J. Waits)

General Manager Danielle Gunn gave me a tour of WLUW and filled me in on the inner workings of the station. She told me that the station has been on the air since 1978. Although she's only been at WLUW for a few years, she explained a bit of the station's history. I was particularly interested in hearing more about the station's relationship with community volunteers, especially in light of some management changes a few years back.

WLUW DJ in the Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

When I arrived at the station on a Thursday afternoon, Gunn was wrapping up her radio show. I took a look around the station while she was finishing up and then we sat down to talk about WLUW. She told me that she was hired in January 2009, around six months after Loyola University took over the management of the station from public radio station WBEZ.

Back in 2002, WBEZ stepped in to help after the university decided to no longer fund WLUW. Between 2002 and 2007, WBEZ oversaw the day-to-day operations of WLUW. In 2007, Loyola announced that it would be ending its relationship with WBEZ, and brought management of the station back to the university in 2008. With some changes on campus, there was a desire to once again incorporate the radio station into academic offerings and use it as an "educational tool."

One of the several vintage radios in Danielle Gunn's office at WLUW (Photo: J. Waits)

Gunn told me that she was brought in after everything was settled, but admitted that there was still some "panic" at the station in the wake of the WBEZ relationship ending and added that it was like the aftermath of a "break-up." Despite the changes, Gunn said that the station is "largely the same" as it's always been. She said that students and community members both share the airwaves and get along, with many community volunteers helping to train students. WLUW also continues to work with WBEZ by airing the local call-in show Vocalo Morning Amp. Loyola students work on the program, which is produced at WBEZ and airs on a number of radio stations.

Vinyl spinning in WLUW's on-air studio (Photo: J. Waits)

Today, WLUW has around 150 volunteers, with about 125 of those working on-air. Although it's officially a student station, a little more than half of the volunteers are non-students from the local community. Some of those community DJs have been at the station for "decades," according to Gunn. She is the only full-time staff member at WLUW, but she is assisted by a student executive staff.

Flyer in Main Studio - Turntable Training! (Photo: J. Waits)

The station moved to its current location three years ago, after it became a part of the School of Communications. Ironically, the FM broadcasts cannot be heard in the part of town where the station is located, although they can be heard at Loyola's main campus in Rogers Park (where the station was formerly located in a now-razed building that was full of asbestos). When WLUW first began broadcasting in the 1970s, it was actually located in the attic of a house on the same spot where the station is currently located. In the intervening years that building was torn down and replaced by the new building where WLUW is today.

Photo of old WLUW Studio posted on wall of WLUW office

On the day that I visited, Gunn was busy with phone calls in preparation for Lollapalooza. This year was the third year that WLUW was at the Chicago music festival, providing live broadcasts from the massive music event from August 3 to 5. WLUW had its own stage and was able to book bands and air those performances and interviews throughout the festival. I caught a bit of their Lollapalooza broadcasts while I was in town and thought about the WLUW crew when a huge thunderstorm shut down the festival one afternoon (the WLUW staffers safely evacuated to a local restaurant).

WLUW's CD Library (Photo: J. Waits)

Amidst the Lollapalooza prep, Gunn toured me around the station. She showed me the physical music library, which only includes CDs. Gunn said that WLUW gets sent some vinyl and DJs also bring in their own vinyl to play.  The physical music library contains more than 11,000 CDs, which are organized numerically in the order that they have been added to the station. The most recently added CDs are located at the end of the library and have the highest numbers assigned to them. She said that it's easier this way (versus having a library in alphabetical order). Gunn said that most DJs play CDs, but that a lot of people also bring in laptops and at least one DJ plays cassettes. The station also has a digital music library.

Portion of CD Library. Can you guess when these were added? (Photo: J. Waits)

The Music Director manages the station's music staff and a democratic process is used to determine what music goes into rotation. Around 35 items are in rotation at a given time and those CDs are placed in the on-air studio. DJs who are assigned an independent music shift (generally daytime shows) are required to play 6 tracks an hour from rotation. Gunn describes WLUW's airsound as being "on the approachable end of indie" as far as music goes. During the evening and on weekends there are a range of specialty shows which are not required to play music from rotation. Those shows include programs focused on house music, Native American music, black gospel, as well as public affairs programming including community talk shows.

A few of the "rotation" CDs when I visited (Photo: J. Waits)

Gunn told me that the 100 watt station reaches mainly the north side of Chicago and can also be heard in nearby Wisconsin. She said that WLUW has a "pretty big audience." On Fridays live bands play live from a spacious studio that's located across the street from WLUW's main studio.

Thanks to everyone at WLUW for showing me around the station. It was a great start to my summer tour of 6 radio stations in Illinois and Indiana. More on that later...

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here.