College Radio Has a Reason to Thrive…Let’s Work on How

Keene State College logoI saw an interesting post on PolicyMic recently by Adam Hogue, where he relates his transition from a college radio broadcaster at Keene State to becoming an NPR listener, like his (egad) father, and the general decline of Radio from its golden era. What jumped off the page to me were his views about how the future of radio seems to be college radio, because it best serves today’s youth.   Here are some of the verbatim nuggets that appealed to me:

  • All around America, there are stations that people take regional pride in. Most of these stations turn out to be college radio stations.
  • The radio is communication. It is part of our communities, and as long as it continues to evolve with the communities, it will not die.
  • College radio should be the local voice of local youth. While radio is rapidly losing the young listeners demographic (people ages 12 to 24), I believe that it is the job of college radio to be the community alternative for young people.
  • College stations need to be out there in the community and they need to stay relevant with their fan-base in order to grow. Young people have time to listen if they are given a reason to.
  • People should be able to listen to programs from anywhere and enjoy them.  Today, radio has the power to be anywhere; it is no longer confined to a frequency alone.
  • Radio stations need to play music, no matter what the music is, and have local personalities that bring people in and keep them loyal…radio should be a way to learn about new music or just listen to what people have to say about it.
  • It helps that most college radio stations receive a solid amount of money from the school.… A problem occurs when the school sees radio as outdated or too costly, and the station is sold off to a community.

As I see it, this short list distills down to three main points we need to focus on in order to escape the death spiral that’s enveloping Commercial Radio.  Our College Radio stations (IBS Student Radio Network stations and others) need to:

  • Create compelling content to attract and hold onto loyal, repeat listeners,
  • Become an active participant in the community, no matter where your listeners are tuning in from, and
  • Become monetarily self-sufficient to keep from becoming a burden on their schools’ budgets.

We’re going to need some time to look at each of these points and create a plan of attack. There are other necessary improvement points, to be sure, and I’d like your input on those, as well.

I would like to invite comments, emails and blog posts from interested station managers and faculty advisors.  I think it’s time we put our collective network heads together and establish an action plan with some guidelines for how we might go about making these improvements.

IBS Student Radio Network underwriting opportunities

IBS LogoOver the years many of the members of the IBS Student Radio Network have asked about finding sponsors and underwriters for their shows, segments and stations.  This week we are launching a pilot program to work with some of the schools in finding underwriters and sponsors.

In the last year our stations have taken well over 1M listener connections.  As the school year progressed the audience engagement increased by over 50% as measured by the average length of a listener session.  Clearly the efforts of the schools to promote their stations and streams is making an impact.

Building off the success of the live events Backbone helped to power over the summer, from the HOT 97 Summer Jam in New York, to the Outside Lands in San Francisco to the recently concluded Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, we will start this year off with a bang by broadcasting the Jamaica Plain Music Fest on the Simmons and Emmanuel College station streams.  These streams are available in the TuneIn tuner.  For this weekend they will be at the top of the college radio section as a sponsored link.

The college demographic is clearly a target that sponsors and underwriters would like to reach.  What better way than through the campus taste makers of the college radio stations.  If you are interested in being a sponsor or underwriter please contact us at underwriting@studentradionetwork.org.

Radio Dying? Not on your life.

Skull Headphones CigaretteHow many times have you heard it: “Adapt or die”?  It sounds heartless, yet it poses the essential question of radio’s survival.  Is radio dying?  Nope, but it is going somewhere else, and not by itself.

Take the recurring news of disappearing stations, like this post from the Dialy Iowan, College Radio Fights for Recognition, Funding.  To summarize the article, it provides some color about what is happening at many campuses — funding is being cut for the radio station or that the school is selling off its terrestrial radio frequency. In these economic times, it must be difficult for an administration to pass up millions of dollars for an FM station that continues to be worth less as Internet radio starts to become dominant.

So, that raises the question of whether a school that agrees to sell off its terrestrial radio signal can actually support a broadcast journalism program. Well, it’s not only schools. All media are facing similar challenges and looking for the best ways to respond.

Throughout the industry, you can see signs of a growing creative trend: integrated media.  For example, one of our newest member schools, Lehman College, has integrated its Internet radio station presence into its online newspaper, the Bronx Journal.  Media integration such as this was a persistent theme we heard at the CMA conference in New York last month.

We are also seeing mixed modalities in the mainstream media.  None other than the esteemed Wall Street Journal has integrated video into its site.  The Boston Globe has its Globe 10.0 video.  Sports radio powerhouse WEEI in Boston now has both an online presence and video on its site.

We first wrote about this in our white paper, The New Breed of College (and High School) Internet Radio-Surviving the Dinosaur.  It is more apparent now.  Journalism isn’t dying, either.  It is transitioning to a new paradigm as radio becomes a big part of it.  With evolving convergence occurring on the Internet, a college, university or high school can reach a much larger audience than it has in the past, using a truly integrated media strategy.  It is the path to the future.  Embrace it.

John Tesh and Connie Sellecca Donate to KCOD College Internet Radio

We’re proud to report that musician and radio personality John Tesh and his actress wife Connie Sellecca have generously donated broadcast hardware, Apple iMac computers and Backbone software & services to KCOD, the student-run radio station of The College of the Desert, in Palm Springs, CA.  The gift grew out of a panel discussion at the Dec. 3, 2011 Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) Conference in Los Angeles where Mr. Tesh was a panelist.

Tesh SelleccaWith this gift, KCOD, launched in the Spring of 2011, is the newest member station in the IBS Student Radio Network by Backbone (IBS-SRN).  The school notes that the station “has generated tremendous interest from students, broadcast professionals, potential sponsors, local politicians and the surrounding community.”  See more on the KCOD blog.
Listen to KCOD online.

From Wikipedia:
John Tesh is an American pianist and composer of pop music, as well as a radio host and television presenter. His 10-year-old ‘Intelligence for Your Life Radio Show‘ reaches 14.2 Million listeners/week, and is syndicated by Teshmedia on 400 stations in US, Canada, and the UK. Tesh has won six music Emmys, has four gold albums, two Grammy nominations, and an Associated Press award for investigative journalism. Tesh has sold over eight million records. His live concerts have raised more than $20 million for PBS. His NBC Basketball Theme has been hailed as one of the top three sports themes of all time. He is also known as the longtime co-host of the television program Entertainment Tonight. He has previously worked as a sportscaster for the Olympic Games, a news anchor and a reporter.

IBS Student Radio Network covers the NH Primary recap

Tuesday was the first in the nation primary held in New Hampshire.  It was a great day as Emma Bisogno from Simmons College Radio, Joseph Jack Horgan from Emmanuel College Radio and Leona Smith from Zumix Radio covered the event.  Elena Botkin-Levey, director of Zumix Radio was there to help everything run smoothly.  This is the first time the IBS Backbone Student Radio Network has covered a Presidential primary election.”  We’d like to thank Talkers Magazine for sponsoring radio row and for making it a great day.

Sununu with IBS-SRNHere is a summary video put together by Talkers Magazine on the event.  Many of the talkers would like us to look beyond entertainment and become engaged in the political process.  An interesting thing to note is how these talkers view their audience as a community.  The difference between twenty years ago and today is the number of tools that they can bring to bear to grow their community, network and footprint.  Twitter and Facebook are used in real time for audience feedback, questions, topics and even news items.

We have lots of pictures of the student radio network stations broadcasting from the event. There is also more on the topic as the lead article in today’s Talker’s magazine summary.

While there we caught up with Oliver Janney, the faculty advisor for Goucher College radio, while he was working the primary for CNN in Manchester.  Great job covering the primary!

What an outstanding on-the-job learning experience this proved to be! We’re proud that our member stations have such a ready reserve of talent to cover world class events like this.  We hope this is just the beginning for our stations and their unique network.

On to New Hampshire! Student Radio Network to cover the primary

GOP DebatesThe first caucus of the Presidential Election season is over in a photo finish with Mitt Romney barely squeaking out a victory over Rick Santorum with Ron Paul finishing a close third.  The race lost one participant, Michelle Bachmann, and it is now on to New Hampshire for the first primary of this election cycle.

Following up our recent efforts with Talkers Magazine we are heading up to New Hampshire to cover the primary.  We will have Emma Bisogno from Simmons College Radio, Joseph Jack Horgan from Emmanuel College Radio and a number of people from Zumix Radio to cover the event.  While there we hope to catch up with Oliver Janney who works for CNN and is the faculty advisor for Goucher College radio.

Listen in to their coverage and reporting on their stations or on other Student Radio Network stations.  It should be an interesting event.

Liz Claiborne Talkers Magazine Talk Radio Event

Talkers magazineBackbone and IBS-SRN member station hosts Nicole Murphy from WLIU-BK Brooklyn and Alyssa DiNubila from WNEK Spingfield, MA were part of TALKERS magazine “It’s Time to Talk Day” — a massive radio row raising awareness about Domestic Violence, produced in association with its sister firm, Talk Radio News Service, and the corporate sponsorship of Liz Claiborne, Inc.

Held last week (12/8/11) in the fashion showroom of the Midtown Manhattan corporate offices of Liz Claiborne, Inc., the ambitious event was one of the largest and most successful, bringing together more than 20 talk media hosts from around the country who broadcasted their shows live or recorded interviews for delayed broadcast.

Alyssa NicoleAlyssa and Nicole had the opportunity to interview Wanda Lucibello, Faranaz Rodriguez , Napur Argarwal, among others, during the two hour event and rebroadcast on their home stations and made available to all the stations on the Student Radio Network.  It is also content that can be replayed later on any of the stations on the network.

The event generates some press in Talkers Magazine.  For some additional photos of the event check out Matthew Harrison’s photo account of the event along with my own Flickr album of the event.

This was a great event for Backbone and members of the Student Radio Network because it emphasized the benefits of being part of our network and how easy it is to set up and run a live remote.  We anticipate doing a number of these in the future starting with a live remote from the NH primary early next month.  Watch for more on that in the near future.

CMJ Events, Broadcasting from Fontana’s and Radio Panel

Pirate Promotions LogoIf you are attending CMJ then stop by and visit Backbone Networks.  Today we will be broadcasting live at from Fontana’s with Pirate! from Noon to 6:00PM at the Pirate! Party Extravaganza.  Of course you are invited. Just RSVP on the facebook event page.  Come on by and learn about running a live remote in the Internet age.  While you are at it talk to George about the things we have been working on in the last year with our partners.

The schedule for today is:

12:00 – Doors Open
12:30 – The One & Nines
1:20 – The Great Book Of John
2:10 – Army Navy
3:00 – Fairmont
3:50 – Nick Diamonds (of Islands)
4:40 – Hollerado
5:30 – Curfew

Stations Broadcasting live include:

Long Island University (WLIU), Brooklyn, NY

Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ

Emmanuel College, Boston, MA

Manhattan Marymount College, New York NY

CJLO, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Breakthrough Radio, New York, NY

You can listen in live on TuneIn Radio.

Tomorrow Backbone’s George Capalbo will be on the Digital Music Servicing, Radio Revamp panel at CMJ.  The session is at 2:00PM and will cover content distribution and broadcasting in the Internet age.  Hope to see you there!

Radio panel at the 2011 Boston Area Definitive Audio Student Summit

BADASS2011-NoidsFLYERI participated in an interesting panel at the Boston Area Definitive Audio Student Summit (BADASS) summit last weekend at the New England Institute of Art (one of our IBS-SRN member stations).

The subject of the panel was “Radio Promotion”. Participants included Tai Irwin from the New England Institute of Art, Steve Theo from Pirate! Promotion, a professor in the Entertainment Management program at Bay State College and myself.  We provided a brief history of the radio industry and music promotion and then launched into a discussion about the future.  Though somewhat tainted by the past we came away with some hope for what lies ahead.

The record and radio businesses have changed quite dramatically over the last 15 to 20 years.  Radio is fighting more and more for the attention of a new audience and the record business is working to transition from selling physical objects and adapt to the new digital world.

Badass-panelWhile many believe that the music industry is down that is not actually the case.  It is the traditional record industry that is down, the broader music industry is doing quite well, even in this down economy.  On the radio side that is true too, the old way of broadcasting a local signal terrestrially is changing due to the internet.  A station’s ability to aggregate a like minded audience outside of its terrestrial footprint is much easier with the internet.

There are still challenges for the industry though. On the radio side it is the change in their business model for digital broadcast.  When broadcasting terrestrially there were no payments for performance royalties because they were viewed as promotional.  Your business wants to reach as large an audience as it can.  When broadcasting digitally you need to report each “play” to Sound Exchange and pay a royalty for that particular play.  Under this model your expenses grow dramatically as you grow your audience.  Further as per stream royalty rates continue to escalate so will a station’s future expenses.

Even with these challenges there is a dramatic shift to digital distribution and the Internet. Creative promotors and broadcasters are finding a way to work together to help their constituents grow.  Overall the future is quite bright.  We just need to find a way to get there together.

PS I’d like to thank the organizer of BADASS, John Krivit at AES for hosting the event and Julie Viscardi-Smalley at Bay State College for inviting me to the panel in our special “industry room”.  It was great fun seeing the interest radio and music still generate!

Rock Shop Boston – College Radio Event

I attended the Rock Shop Boston 12 event on college radio the other night.  It was quite well attended with lots of local colleges and universities in attendance.  Thanks to Steve Theo from Pirate! Promotion for putting it on . . . and thanks for the spread of food.

Rock Shop Boston logoThe Rock Shop panel discussed the college radio and music in depth with panelists Phil Flemming of 91.5 WMFO, Ali Donohue of 89.3 WTBU, Liz Pelly of 90.3 WZBC, Eric Roberts of 91.7 WMWM, and Rob Duguay of 990 WBOB.com.  The main focus of the discussion focused on the ins and out of getting new music submitted to their stations and what it takes to get on the air.

The interesting thing is that every station was different in their own way and view their main goal is to get air play for the music they find interesting and important.  I won’t go into detail here because Indie Ambassador has done an excellent job summarizing the event in their blog.

Looking forward to the October event!  Also a shout out to Charles McEnerney from Well Rounded Radio, thanks for the discussion about local radio, hoping to see the growth of the Jamaica Plains Music event in the future.  It would be great to get the bands some exposure on the air.