Where Is College Radio Going?

Because we’re at Davidson, I’m assuming that little to none of us have heard of our school’s radio station, WALT FM 1610, unless you’re friends with me and have seen my incessant updates trying to get people to hear me ramble about punk bands every Sunday night, speaking of which, tune in to Waka Flocka Flaming Lips tonight at 9!

While the WALT personnel generally don’t care or don’t want people listening to their shows, it is fascinating to me, while looking through the archives and finding old documents of how WALT used to function on campus. At this point we have very few DJs, especially regular DJs (so you should come get a show if you want), but looking through documents, even from 2005, pretty much every time slot from 9AM-1AM was booked with people doing anything from music oriented radio shows, talk shows about politics, sports updates and general call in music requests. There used to be concerts with actual artists sponsored by WALT at one point, it seems like it used to actually be something on campus, whereas now its just a select group of people who have wanted to be a part of college radio since before coming into Davidson. While this year seems to have been the worst for WALT considering our budget was stripped completely after hosting an unauthorized event last Frolics, hopefully at some point we can come back as being an events oriented group as I don’t see people tuning in to the radio station regularly in the near future. And really why should they? I mean if listening to music that you haven’t heard before, or trying to just listen to genre oriented playlists, the digital wave (.wav) of music gives you ample opportunities, you could just check a tag on Spotify, have friends send you albums online or just browse the obscurities that bandcamp and soundcloud have to offer. The college radio DJ has transformed from some sort of late night persona trying catering to a certain audience to Spotify premium members who compile large playlists with certain hash togs making discovery simple and effective, and convenient too. It’s that convenience which might be the most damaging to the college radio infrastructure, people no longer want to set aside an hour every week to tune in to their favorite shows or support their friends by listening and giving feedback, now people want a playlist to stream while they go on a run or walk to a certain location on campus to work, hell they could probably hear most of the music they’re interested in just by going to the Campus Summit location. As a DJ at WALT none of this really comes as surprising, especially at Davidson, we’re not really an music oriented school or exploratory in artistic media by a long shot. Which is where I see the future of college radio as playing a different role from just the studio, after attending Duke Coffeehouse’s Brickside Festival, including big names in the electronic scene such as Dan Deacon and Baths, which was cosponsored by Duke’s very own WXDU, I then attended the MacRock music festival in Virginia, a punk/indie/metal fest put on by the students at the radio station of James Madison University. I was blown away by the interest generated at each, the crowd being people who would never generally attend these events but because it was so outlandish for the schools and their generally unpopular radio stations to do something big like this, it ended up being wildly popular. WALT will probably never be able to bring in interesting acts no matter what strings I try to pull, but its great to see radio stations across college campuses (i.e. Brickside at Duke, Macrock at JMU, Nochella at Pomona, etc.) find innovative ways to generate student interest in music.