The Onion On My Internet Belt

This week was Social Justice and Awareness week down at KUST. That means that there would have been a lot of my talking in this show. The topic I was talking about why libraries matter in the digital age. Below at the main sources that I would have drawn from. The second link is the one that I like the most. It’s an article by author Neil Gaiman and I think his points are the most well phrased and salient.

You’ll notice from the language of that first paragraph a lot of “would have”. That’s because the mix never happened. The computer we use at KUST that runs AudioHijack (that we use to record the stream as it hits the tubes) needed a lash update. So no signal capture was available. After about 15 minutes of troubleshooting and then the dawning of this realization I was captured by two of the djs. They had a lot of good technical questions as well as questions about KUST in general. As I’m the advisor for the club I felt obliged to answer fully their queries. Neither of these djs could know that they stole this precious hour from me and I won’t hold it against them. Doing without is a commonality when others need you. So it goes.

One of the topics the djs and I talked about is what KUST really is. We call it the campus radio station but that is misleading, disingenuous, and a type of cultural shorthand. Radio is a medium, a band of wavelengths in the atmosphere. KUST doesn’t vibrate the air that way. We don’t have a terrestrial FCC license. We do stream music 24 hours a day but there is really no way to know what you are hearing most of the time. There are about 30 hours of programming a week. Those shows, broadcast on the internet, lack many of the staples of ‘radio’, such as commercials, public service announcements, or even proper station identification. It would be fair to say we are doing music themed podcasts but that doesn’t mean anything to most people. KUST is doing for audio programming what the VCR did for video programming: allowing focused time shifting. And yes, that is 30 years behind the curve of other media outlets. When we say ‘radio’ we are using a cultural shorthand to mean audio programming focused on music that is both curated and delivered by a real person.

The next part of the discussion is really where calling what we do ‘radio’ falls apart. The questions of who and how many people listen at any given time. The truth is that no one is listening. There is no meaningful overlap between the groups that listen to dj A and dj B. College radio is done for the love of music and for the fun of it. Commercial radio is done for profit. As Van Morrison is noted as saying “Music is spiritual. The music business is not”. The listeners to any college radio show are the friends/family/acquaintances of the dj. The continuity of a college radio station is usually its downfall. Commercial radio works hard to sound about the same all the time so that listeners know what to expect and can stay tuned in all day. That is why they have programming directors.

Related to why students do radio is a fading cultural idea. Do you remember all those Brown Institute ads saying ‘Take our classes and become a radio DJ!’ ? When was the last time you saw one of those? People don’t have that dream that way anymore. Unless the campus station is supported by an academic program (KUST is not) it is not a gateway into broadcasting. Even if the station is academically supported, most of those students won’t go into radio. Maybe 1 in 50 students has a real drive, a real interest, or the real talent to get into radio. It isn’t a glamorous industry. The veil of legitimacy is very thin.

I think what KUST offers is a place to discover new music, to share creatively with people, to have fun for an hour or two a week. It is a creative space and that is worth quite a bit even if it isn’t popular by conventional standards (and I would argue the average college station has never been popular outside of the confines of the campus itself).

So we are in a strange place. We aren’t actually doing radio in the strictest sense of the medium. We aren’t hitting some of the programming hallmarks of the format. We aren’t staffed by professionals or really even folks who are interested in becoming professionals. We are inconsistent and niche on a good day. We are doing something that there isn’t a well-recognized term for if there is a term for at all. All that being said, I am glad that students who are interested get the opportunity to do ‘radio’ this way. I’m an audiophile in the widest sense of the word and getting more people to listen to things they haven’t heard before and getting to turn others on to that is remarkable.

So, until someone can get the zeitgeist going that will resolve all the storage, distribution, licensing, and cultural term issues, let’s just call it “radio”.

Below is the playlist for what you would have heard. A fine group of songs based on literary references, but I had no other time to stitch it together than that precious hour gone. Hopefully next week will yield another audio file.

Song – Artist – Album
The New York Editor – Amon Tobin – Bricolage
A Book Of Black Valentines – Teargas & Plateglass – Teargas & Plateglass
Fear (Rez Edit) – Adam Freeland – Rez: Gamer’s Guide to…
Much Ado About Nothing Left – Orbital – The Altogether [Disc 2]
The Book (Magik Johnson Tribal NZ) – Salt City Orchestra & Magik Johnson – The Book Single
Boileroom – Sasha – Airdrawndagger
Thing In A Book – Underworld – Dark & Long [EP]
Book Of Love – Claps – Wreck
Tock Tick – Kurt Vonnegut and Simon Heselev – Tock Tick [Single]
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker – Prince – Sign O’ The Times [Disc 1]
The Problem with Saints – Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds, Amanda Palmer – 8 in 8

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