College radio station FAQ

Ver 0.68
May 16, 2007 – first time on here
July 29, 2008 – Last updated

When I started out in the world of college radio, I didn’t know how things worked and found few sources online that had info about it, so I started this. So far, this information has been from my own experience and reading the listserv at CBI Radio .

Plus, when relatives that I see once or twice a year ask ‘so what do you do at college ?’ and I tell them that I run the college radio station, they don’t know what to ask, or have mistaken assumptions about it. After reading a book on the history of college radio in the USA, My experi is different than what is described in the book, because of WJMD’s small operations and technology including the internet.

(Note: WJMD’s operation is much smaller than most other college radio stations. I’ll make note where our is different than others).

  • How do the station get all of the CD’s and vinyl in the collection ? Do you have to pay for all of it ?!

All (or nearly all) of the cd’s and vinyl that WJMD have are promotional copies that record labels (major and indie labels) send us. With the cost of making a CD decreasing over the past few years (I’m guessing since ’99 or so, when personal CD burners became more prevalent), we have received a lot more submissions from unsigned artists who self-released their work, sometimes burned on a blank CD-R. ^_^ (I love the ingenuity and you can find really new artists that wouldn’t get exposure before, but this trend also lowers the level of quality of music you get, because anyone with just a bit of money, protools, and a couple instruments can send out a promo – which is good and bad, and deserves its own post). Bands that do concerts in town or at the school sometimes will give us a CD.
Also, some stations subscribe to a CD database of some sort that sends them so many CD’s (or music, sent digitally) costing $X amount per month. That’s all I know about that.

  • Wait, you still use vinyl ?!

– Well, at least my station does. Some of the promo stuff (even from large labels like Warner Bros.) that we receive comes in vinyl (primarily from hip-hop, electronic, techno and its related genres), so I presume other stations still do as well. Some DJ’s prefer vinyl because it is more authentic (aesthetically) or it sounds better than compact discs (this reason has it its own debate).

  • How are you funded ?

– Like other student clubs, we get our funds from the student government (Student Commission), and our operating budget is a part of the overall student government/extracurriculars. This hurts a bit because we have to apply for a budget every quarter and makes us unsure about long-term planning.

Larger college radio stations have their budgets outside of the student government’s jurisdiction. They’re usually funded through the Communications/Media Arts department because the school has integrated the radio station into its curriculum. Some stations are also NPR affiliates so I presume that gives them other sources of funding, but I’m not positive on that.
Stations can also hold a fundraising drive on the air, a la NPR. Here, listeners call in and make a donation. WJMD has not done that yet, because we don’t have the amount of station members or enough listeners to do this.
Why Doesn’t WJMD Broadcast on the radio (AM/FM Dial) ?!?!

Here goes the classic urban legend (there’s not many of them at K either) as it was told to me when I started at the station….

This event took place between late 1990s or 2003 (Paper records with any information of this, or anything for that else matter, from 1996-2003 have not been found at the station…). Some ambitious WJMD members with engineering skills, had used the AMTRAK train tracks and its electrical boxes (that run on the edge of campus) and was able to amplify our radio signal. Legend says that WJMD could be heard in Chicago, Indiana, western Michigan, Ohio, heck, even Kentucky…. Eventually, the FCC found out; took away our license (to broadcast on the AM/FM dial) and fined us. My engineering knowledge is rusty, so I have no idea specifically how the signal was amplified (if I had, I wouldn’t explain it – yet), and I can’t confirm if that story is really the reason why WJMD is no longer on the AM/FM Dial. The administration (President, Stu Org advisor, etc) who was around back then are now longer at K; but I’d like to track down someone who knows more. Either way, it’s a good story.

Given that story, plus our minuscule budget, the waning influence of college radio and the AM/FM dial for the college generation, I, personally, find it unlikely that K will have an AM/FM station again.

Yeah, it’s cheaper for one thing. Also, I personally believe (here’s my crackpot prediction and I’ve had this idea since high school..) that AM/FM will die. Instead, it will all be satellite radio and/or internet radio via wifi. Car radios and stereos will all have the satellite radio and/or internet wifi in there. Here, college radio (and even local pirate radio stations) can proliferate, especially on wifi-equipped campuses where the station can broadcast over the internet and every digital audio player will be wifi-equipped. You just pick up the signal and listen in.

When will this happen ? within 20 years maybe. It can vary widely – depending on the politics, more than technology. Politics, as in, the FCC limiting the devices allowed to access (and licensing) the satellites.
Personal predictions on the future of college radio, music:

Headphones will be completely wireless [they already exist, they’re just expensive…].

[even further down the road, relatively new one I thought up of]: Your music won’t existing on your digital music player. It may be held on your server [at home, on your home PC] or you can subscribe to a central place, similar to a itunes store, where you just browse what you want and listen to it at will. This eliminates the need to connect your digital audio player to a computer and manually move tracks from it to your player. It also eliminates the need for buying a larger model if you want more songs than your current player can store on its memory.

That isn’t to say all memory based music players will be gone. They may exist for niches like places [i.e. boonies, rural areas] that won’t have wifi access to it [yet]. Plus, you may want to be sentimental and keep your music on your player [especially if the itunes like place has some sort of DRM on it].

When I think of these crackpot ideas, I’m reminded of several things: Feed by M.T. Anderson and my freshman world history teacher, who in Fall 2001 (Ipods were not yet common place in the American pop culture and in my mind, at least, if i remember correctly] said something to the effect of: ‘the idea of music being on something that has to be spun around in order to be played is actually pretty old, if you think about it. Even vinyl and cassettes did that. It won’t be that long before there’s some technology where your music won’t even have to spin in order to play it.’

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