I wouldn’t blame you one bit if you didn’t know that UNI had a student radio station. The station a glorified closet jammed with equipment, music, and a DJ or two in the basement of Maucker Union. It is in a location that is pretty easy to miss unless you’re doing a lap around the labyrinth of this campus’ top hangout spot. Not to mention, its coverage only reaches a 0.9 mile radius of the beercan-shaped tower on top of Schindler Education Center.
However, if you are a music aficionado, or a person who takes pride in keeping up with rich culture and hot topics that are delivered by students who truly know what they are talking about, then I do blame you. UNI’s radio station (94.5 KULT-LPFM), along with countless others in the United States, cater to multiple audiences that would be considered “indie” or “hipster” in this decade’s vernacular. It is a common myth to most students of public universities and colleges (and regular citizens as well) that college radio is a dying antiquity—but that statement couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Bradford Cox, member of the bands Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, grew up on the local college radio stations in Atlanta. He was strongly influenced by what he listened to, and he eventually started spinning on the campus radio station. He connects music education to college radio, as something that has been around for an entire generation, and informs people about the music they’re missing, and not discovering and loving.
UNI’s KULT, although very small in size and reach, is expanding in ways that provide awareness and listenership for the station. The number of social media fans, on both Facebook and Twitter, has tripled since March. The growth in student participation is staggering—six months ago 22 DJs had their own show, but this Fall that number has jumped to 48! Spinning music at live events on and off campus, a new concept adopted by the director team at the end of last school year, has caught on very well. Around a dozen events have been emceed, with another dozen on the way before Thanksgiving break.
There is a myth floating around, that the number of stations in the country are decreasing. But according to radiosurvivor.com, nearly 50 LPFM stations (like KULT) have been granted licenses at college and universities recently, and dozens more are awaiting word about their applications.
I had the chance to briefly chat with John Michael-Secor, General Manager of WTBU radio of Boston University. The general idea is that when college stations and markets help each other out and expand on ideas, the listenership and interest increases exponentially. It also doesn’t matter how big the market is, there are always loyal listeners. The College Hill crowd in Cedar Falls contains many loyal listeners that are always interested in indie music and programming, as well as getting involved in the station with their ideas or the bands they play with. Most importantly, however, if you have online streaming capability, the listenership can be endless. It doesn’t matter whether your campus station is located in Cedar Falls, New York or the northern tip of Alaska: people around the world are always listening.
While these ideas and findings stew in your mind, it is important to think about the missing impact of radio in your life. With professional rock and country stations in the Cedar Valley, are you expanding your mind as much to the possibility of music and news, as opposed to hearing the same songs every hour? Then start thinking nationally. Tools like iHeartRadio, College Music Journal and many other indie music and news sites can really open up your mind to what’s out there. It’s the fact that these tools are falling by the wayside that rub people the wrong way about radio.
Going forward KULT staff will conduct a broad search of listeners in the Cedar Valley. Surveys are the perfect tool for this, as it’s easy to gain information from students where they gather the most: right above our walls. I will be searching for the true following of KULT by reaching out to past participants of the station, and those who have been following the progress of the literal radio cult happening at UNI.
The next time you claim you haven’t heard about student-run radio on your campus, you will be the one to blame.
- Brendan Wood