College Radio Day A Grassroots Movement As Much as A One Day Celebration

Posted by Billyjam, August 15, 2012 06:13am | Post a Comment
In the aftermath of the US losing several key college radio stations over the past couple of years including KUSF 90.3FM at the University of San Francisco and Rice University's equally beloved college station KTRU in Houston, TX - parties directly affected along, with the countless others that are similarly endangered, have banded together to protest these injustices are still fighting the good fight.

Many of these same individuals are also celebrating the stations they still have while simultaneously building awareness of the cultural value & importance of college and community radio as an independent media voice. This they are doing via College Radio Day which for its inaugural event last year witnessed the participation of over 350 different radio stations. And this year's College Radio Day, taking place seven weeks from now on October 2nd, is shaping up to be an even bigger event in every way with approximately 500 radio stations already signed on to participate in this grand scale broadcast event.

Just as Record Store Day was started by struggling brick and mortar record shops round the country who joined forces, College Radio Day was begun in a somewhat similar vein. The main man responsible for College Radio Day is Rob Quicke of New Jersey's William Paterson University station WPSC who, in celebration of the second edition of this annual event, is compiling a special benefit compilation album by a wide array of artists. Side A reportedly will feature unsigned artists selected by a committee of stations while Side B will feature signed/known artists that are down for the cause and want to acknowledge the support they received from being played on College Radio over their respective careers.  All proceeds will go directly to a transparent College Radio Defense Fund established by Quicke. This week I caught up with Rob to find out more about College Radio Day and this compilation which will be available through Amoeba upon its release.
Amoeblog: For those who don't know the full background on College Radio Day; how did it come about?

Rob Quicke: In December 2010 I remember watching The Social Network movie and wondered whether there could be a new idea that could go ‘viral’ and get the college radio community excited. I went to bed and woke up with ‘College Radio Day” in my head. I absolutely assumed that someone must have done this before so I Googled it and searched on the web. Nope – nothing. So I got it up and running and in a matter of just four months, over 360 college stations signed up to participate, and we got coverage from The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post and TIME. The fact that so many stations came together for a day of unity for the very first College Radio Day surprised many people, including me! It was nice to see college radio get so much press coverage for a change. College radio is sorely undervalued and often overlooked by mainstream culture, so it was about time that we came together, got noticed and, hopefully, increased listener-ship and support for college and high school radio stations.

Amoeblog: What are the ultimate goals of College Radio Day?

Rob Quicke: Ultimately we want people to tune into college and high school radio stations on the day and then stay listening from that point onwards. We want stations to increase their listener-ship and for people to realize that radio with strong local connections and coverage still exists in an age of homogenized commercial radio output. It’s a celebration of a very important medium that plays music that no one else plays and is diverse and brave in its programming. We recently made a poster about college radio, and about its characteristics, and we end by saying “College Radio is… where it all begins.” It’s so true – careers and people’s lives are really changed by the college radio experience.

Amoeblog: In your opinion what are some of the strongest arguments in favor of keeping college radio alive?

Rob Quicke: College radio is one of the last bastions of free creative and diverse programming and a place where students can find their voice and their identity. It is ironic that so many colleges pride themselves on offering an educative experience that will encourage the students to ‘find’ their own voices, and then they’ll shut down and sell off one of the most important vehicles that allows them to do exactly that. College radio will never have ‘mainstream’ appeal, but that’s OK, because that is not its role within the media culture. College radio is underground and on the margins, playing music that you have never heard and fostering new on-air talent in an environment that forgives mistakes in the greater pursuit of encouraging creative expression. College radio isn’t appreciated by everyone, but if it disappeared it would be a huge loss. People perhaps don’t realize just how unique and groundbreaking college radio is.

Amoeblog: Have the unfortunate events with certain college radio stations strengthened the bond between the surviving stations?

Rob Quicke: Yes, absolutely. Thanks to social media and other forms of communication, we feel like we are all in this thing together. The sense of unity and camaraderie that I felt on College Radio Day lives on throughout the year. There’s real magic in the air at the moment as students are forming friendships across the country and are coming together because of college radio. 

Amoeblog: Can you tell me about the compilation that is been planned for College Radio Day and how you got some big names on there?

Rob Quicke: The idea came from the desire to have a project that would bring college and high school radio stations together again throughout the year (not just on College Radio Day), as well as to raise funds to promote and protect stations. It’s another way that college radio stations can demonstrate their important contributions to musical culture and to remind people that they are tastemakers too.

So, side ‘A’ will feature mostly unsigned artists that have performed in college and high school radio stations across America.  We invited college and high school stations to be involved with choosing and submitting tracks for this album. We got nearly 50 tracks!  The new College Radio Day Sound Board, which is made up mostly of students from a variety of college radio stations throughout the country, voted and organized how the 10 or so tracks were eventually selected. The same group also put together a ‘wish list’ of well known artists to invite to be on Side ‘B ‘ - artists who support college radio and its mission. These artists have been asked to donate a previously unreleased studio or live track, so the fans will get excited. We’re keeping the names of the artists under wraps until September 3rd, but I promise that it will be a great compilation! All proceeds will go towards a new fund set up to help college and high school radio stations.

What I love about this project is that the album will feature some relatively unknown artists sitting alongside names and bands that you will definitely know. This not only gives great exposure to those upcoming artists, but it also showcases the great music that is heard week-in week-out in college radio stations across the country.  Also, this album has been put together by strangers. We have never met each other in person. I do not know most of the Sound Board, but we have been brought together by a genuine passion for music and desire to make this historic album really matter. There’s real trust at work here.  It’s ironic that Facebook, whose story inspired the College Radio Day idea in the first place, has been instrumental in allowing us to form a group online and bring together people who live and breathe college radio. Glory days!

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