College Guide 2011
What next for college radio?
Once a cultural force, now fighting for relevance
Published: August 24, 2011
Last year, Rice University in Houston told members of the student-run KTRU that the station was being sold off to become a sister-station to the University of Houston's NPR affiliate, completely dismantling KTRU and its DJ roster. In April of this year, Rice sold the station to the tune of $9.6 million, according to The West University Examiner and Radiosurvivor.com.
Similarly, in Nashville, Vanderbilt University's WRVU was sold to a news-heavy NPR affiliate last June.
Boxing against these kinds of adversaries might seem a lost cause, but Yee claims that stations like his and others can offer "a compelling alternative" to pre-programmed commercial — and noncommercial — stations, not to mention to iPods and services like Spotify.
"With Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, the device that is serving up the music is by nature purely electronic," says Yee. "It has no idea, besides through key words attached, what music is like other music, or what connections lie in between."
College radio stations like WCBN with real DJs are all about the human connection that lies in the communication and understanding of art from one person to another, Yee says.
Whether college radio can stage a comeback is largely up to the radio staffs, advisers and colleges, but artists can play a role if they use the media the way they once did.
"Part of the reason, for example, why Wu Tang Clan blew up so big was because they spent all day long calling into college radio stations all over America and requesting their own songs," Yee says. "That contributed a lot to their success, and it contributed a lot to other artists' success as well. A lot of this was born out of free speech, having a place that was uncensored and uncontrolled for people to listen to and request music.
"I think college radio is very important in that regard and still is — that it's a place where we are free to express ourselves and for artists to express themselves."
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