College Radio Day Calls to Occupy the Airwaves
William Paterson University’s WPSC-FM has done a lot of work in the last few years, relaunching themselves as Brave New Radio and hosting the annual Brave-athon, an on-air showcase for local music in N.J. But Dr. Rob Quicke, the station’s general manager, could not leave well enough alone. Partnered with Peter Kreten, the general manager of WXAV-FM, Chicago, the two stations are prepared to soon launch College Radio Day, the first ever unified celebration to support college radio.
At 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 11th, College Radio Day will explode onto the airwaves of over 300 college radio stations across the US, including five in Canada and one in Jamaica. WPSC-FM is taking the lead this year, acting as the national headquarters for the day; they’ll be volunteering thirty hours (to service all US timezones for the entire day) of sourcing news from other stations and blasting it back out as hourly bulletins while still running the WPU’s radio programming and events. It’ll be a day “fueled by excitement and pizza,” says Quicke, aware of the intensity of marathon-esque events. “After this, the Brave-athon will seem like a walk in the park.”
Though WPSC-FM is the national headquarters, and state HQs (N.J.’s is Seton Hall’s WSOU) are making the connectivity of the event more dynamic, none of the programming for the day is dictated. Quicke made sure to tell every station, “Make it your own celebration.” And stations are going out of their way to do just that, holding pizza-eating contests, BMX performances, and hosting graffiti artists while others are sponsoring blood, food, and clothing drives. WPSC is starting their celebration two hours early at NYC’s Angels & Kings, inviting every other tri-state area participant to join them. The day is slated to be nothing less than an indie radio uproar across the entire continent.
Back in April, when College Radio Day was a newly sparked idea in Quicke’s mind, his aim was low. There was no website, no materials, and just a rough cut of the logo—nothing worth sensationalizing. At a time when only three or four people knew of the idea, Quicke remembers that they would have been “delighted to have fifty stations.” On a marketing budget of zero dollars, Quicke and Kreten wielded the social media battle-hammer, gathering 300 stations in five months, turning that spark into a wildfire. And because there are no strict rules regarding any station’s involvement, there is no cut-off day to sign up. The list of participants will keep growing through the 11th. It hasn’t been strictly fun and games, however. A large question from most media outlets has been “How do you feel about the selling of college stations?” and that’s a hard pill to swallow—at what point does College Radio Day stop being a celebration and start playing white knight to a perceived-to-be dying format? The answer: it doesn’t.
WPSC-FM’s manager is understanding of universities selling stations; it’s a tough economy, and selling a radio license can bring in a lot of money (like Rice University’s KTRU netting a whopping $9.5 million). There is a flip-side to this issue, though, which the College Radio Day staff believes is well-discussed in the day’s keynote speech College Radio in 2011: Its Past, Present & Future. “College radio is a fine art,” says Quicke, “not for everyone, but if it were abolished, there’d be an outrage.”
Looking ahead to the future, Rob Quicke believes that one day of celebration won’t be enough. A format that is, as he describes, “scruffy, dangerous, and risky” needs greater support. College Radio Day plans to establish a non-profit fund to support the format. Essentially, this will allow stations to participate for free and receive an equal cut from the fund for their participation. And how does College Radio Day, the organization, plan to stay afloat financially? By selling merch.
For more information, you can find College Radio Day on their website, Twitter, and Facebook. The website is also host to a complete list of participating N.J. radio stations.