College Radio Day! Born In The UK!

college-radio-illustration-michael-byers-617-409College stations are almost always on the front lines of music discovery, championing both new artists and those who can’t find a place on commercial radio. If it weren’t for this vast network of radio stations in the 80s, the alternative nation of the 90s might never have been born. From Billboard via

REMEMBER! Many US college radio stations have MORE listeners than many of the UK’s biggest commercial radio stations! And it’s back with a bang:

Campus radio is also vitally important to discussing important social and political issues and offering a voice to communities that might not otherwise have one. But there’s a crisis in college radio. Faced with declining listenership, a funding issues or both, some schools are closing down their stations or selling off their transmitters and frequencies. College Radio Day is designed to bring attention to all these issues.

College stations, from big to small, continue to break hits, serve communities and launch careers. College Radio Day, an event, which echoes in spirit Record Store Day’s mission of illustrating the vibrancy of a seemingly marginal — but actually quite vital — cottage industry… College Radio Day, a worldwide celebration founded by public broadcasting veteran and communications professor at William Paterson University named Robert Quicke, is about to celebrate its third year this coming Tuesday, October 1. The event, which echoes in spirit Record Store Day’s mission of illustrating the vibrancy of a seemingly marginal — but actually quite vital — cottage industry, takes place across 680 college stations in 43 different countries.

The seeds of College Radio Day stretch back to founder Robert Quicke’s time at Oxford, where he was instrumental in launching the UK’s first-ever FM college radio station, Oxygen 107.9. “Many people said it could not be done, that the UK government would simply not allow a bunch of cheeky and unruly students on the air. But we never gave up, and so we won the first-ever FM student license in the UK in 1997. I remember opening the mic on the very first show on launch day and could not believe that we had actually done it! We played a lot of music that commercial radio had never heard of, and that really is what college radio continues to do today. That feeling we had of creating radio history, of doing something that had never been done before was incredible, and I’ve only experienced that one other time, and that was with College Radio Day,” Quicke told

college-radio-day-650-430The event will feature a day-long “relay” marathon, wherein 24 stations from 24 countries will broadcast for an hour each, before handing off the mic — “For WPSC in New Jersey we hand off to a station in Israel,” said Quicke — to the next station in the next country. The marathon will be available to stream via the College Radio Marathon station on TuneIn. As well, a compilation record, “College Radio Day the Album, Vol. 2,” will be released, featuring songs from Wilco, The Soft Pack, Jukebox the Ghost and more. Proceeds from the record, to be released November 12, will — of course — go towards funding college radio stations.

College Radio Day supporters such as Moby and guitarist Nils Cline (Wilco) expressed opinions many who grew up with a musical curiosity and within broadcast range of a college will share. “I just can¹t express just how much college radio not only affected me when I was growing up, but continues to affect me,” said Moby in a statement. For his part, Nils Cline called college radio essential to his development as a musician, saying: “It is college radio where I heard almost all of the music that fueled my curiosity and formed my polyglot aesthetics. It is one of life’s great pleasures and, for me, indispensable.” Those interviews, along with chats with Andrew WK and Lucius, will be distributed to participating stations for air. Quicke’s industry in service of, and dedication to, the medium is inspirational to an cultural world increasingly dependent on corporate funding. “Working in college radio keeps me feeling that I’m still young — although the food that these kids eat can be life threatening.”

Not all college stations run purely on student initiative. While Boston University ‘s WTBU is student-run, its other outlet, WBUR (billed as “Boston’s NPR news station”), is professionally-staffed. It’s also a ratings winner, sporting a 3.5 share and a cume of 408,000 among listeners 6-plus in Arbitron’s June Boston rankings. In Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania’s triple A WXPN drew 298,000 listeners 6-plus in that period. In Los Angeles in that span, college radio listening totaled more than 1.2 million, courtesy of outlets providing classical (the University of Southern California’s KUSC), freeform (Santa Monica Community College’s KCRW) and jazz and triple A (California State University’s KKJZ (Long Beach) and KCSN (Northridge), respectively).

no_music_no_life-1280x800KCSN’s staff includes PD Sky Daniels, formerly of triple A KFOG San Francisco; Jed the Fish, a former 30-year veteran of Los Angeles’ alternative KROQ; and, even Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn. “Due to the experience and relationships of our staff, we are aggressive in establishing new acts, both local and internationally, as well as respecting and extending careers of creative legends,” Daniels says. (True enough, U2 manager Paul McGuinness told the Los Angeles Times last year: “In every era there will be a mold-breaking, groundbreaking, taste-making station, and KCSN sounds very clearly like something we ought to support.”)

Still, approximately 35 students contribute to KCSN, whether on-air, in social networking or marketing efforts, learning alongside respected industry veterans. “Students are exposed to a high level of professional awareness and interactivity,” Daniels says. “They get real-world training if they have vocational desires toward the music and entertainment industries.” With such experienced radio experts at the helm and millions of listeners tuning in, it’s no wonder that college radio is a favorite target of record labels, especially independent labels, whose mindsets tend to fall in line with the DIY affinity for discovery that marks the college years. I.R.S. introduced R.E.M. in the early ’80s with the support of college airplay, while labels such as Sub Pop are practically synonymous with college radio, having helped popularize grunge in the early ’90s via signees Nirvana and Soundgarden. Sub Pop’s success has continued with newer acts like Beach House, Fleet Foxes and the Postal Service.

The amount of major label love for college radio, however, appears to vary label-to-label. “It’s hard enough getting attention at commercial radio,” one major label executive laments, with some majors relying on independent promoters only in working college radio. Conversely, Capitol Records is among major labels that consider college airplay a key starting point for acts with multi-format potential. “We’ve seen crossover success with the Decemberists, the Gorillaz, and, more recently, M83.,” Capitol college and specialty radio manager Erin Ginty says, adding that the label additionally employs independent promoters to help “cover as much ground as possible.” After Mute worked M83.’s sixth album, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” to college stations, the label teamed with Capitol’s alternative promotions department, resulting in a No. 5 Alternative Songs hit in “Midnight City.” Count Ginty among those grateful for college radio’s willingness to foster the development of new acts. “College radio helps lay a foundation for an artist. Without this format, some musicians could never get airplay.”

WRAS’  Jones concurs. “We love music. We have the rare opportunity to play pretty much anything we want. “We are not going to waste it

R.E.M> Radio Free Europe:

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