Rock on: The staying-power of college radio

Published April 2, 2012 on USA Today College. Original article found here.

Internet killed the college radio station?

It’s actually just the opposite. In an age when Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, SoundCloud, YouTube, and other less legal on-demand platforms rule while college radio stations are losing their terrestrial frequencies, the internet has become a haven and enabler for these student-run stations.

No longer is college radio’s reach limited to the span of its airwaves. Now with live-streaming, anyone anywhere can listen to a university’s programming through the series of tubes that is the internet. (Parents of student DJs are surely grateful for this.)

That’s not to say that college radio is about the size of the audience. Of course, the more listeners, the merrier, but whether it’s a handful of close friends or hundreds of random strangers, college radio has always been about one thing: the music.

More specifically, how the music brings people together. This idea applies both outwardly on campus and to listeners all over as well as inwardly to the station’s members.

Discovering new music is always a treat. Sharing it with others is even more rewarding, and let’s not forget fun.

College radio stations receive new independent music from promotion companies and labels, and then DJs are encouraged to play the promoted records on their radio shows. Students involved at their college radio station hear the newest music first, a wonderful perk of the job considering they’re most likely music junkies.

An even better perk? Free concert tickets. Often times, promo companies will give college stations tickets to their upcoming artists’ shows in exchange for a published concert review and airplay. Not a bad deal.

Stations also host events on- and off-campus. WVAU, American University’s student-run online radio station, holds open mic nights and concerts that are open to the public and showcase student and local talent. WVAU also comes together to for music-related outings such as DJ picnics, local record fairs and Record Store Day in April.

Open mic nights, free concert and new music aside, what makes the college radio station great are the people. Students who choose to join the radio station are passionate about music, which, regardless of tastes, is a strong common thread. If not for enjoying music in itself, college radio allows DJs to enjoy music together, hanging out in the studio, laughing while playing the favorite song du jour and making fun of each other’s Last.fm scrobbles from their pop-punk phase in high school.

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