Descending into the basement of Todd Union doesn’t feel how you might imagine walking into a radio station feels.
WRUR, residing in what were once the kitchen facilities for an ancient campus dining hall, puts students the push of a button away from an invisible audience of hundreds or thousands.
Hosting shows on both WRUR’s internet and FM platforms (The Sting and 88.5, respectively), student DJ’s dig into a wide variety of musical genres on their weekly broadcasts. The ease of access that WRUR offers leads to a high volume of DJs—about forty on The Sting and ten on FM—with all different tastes and musical perspectives.
Becoming a student DJ is quite a simple process.
“For The Sting, it’s really easy. All you have to do is email me and then someone trains you […] and they basically just explain all the rules to you, what not to say, etc. After that, you setup a demo […] and record it,” said senior Liz Anderson, programming director for The Sting. “Then I review it and critique it, if there’s any problems you might have to do it again, but I really don’t do that very often […] there’s not really a lot of problems that would prevent someone from being on The Sting.” The Sting is home to most of WRUR’s shows, partially due to the freedom that comes with its format of internet radio.
“Because FM is live radio, it follows a lot more FCC stuff, while on The Sting it’s more like satellite radio where you can get away with a lot more, like you can swear occasionally and you can play some more uncommon things,” Anderson explained.
The Sting also welcomes non-musical shows to its broadcasts.
“[Senior] Dean Smiros does a comedy show, it’s hilarious. [Senior] Justin Schumacher and some of his friends also do a talk show that they do live, it’s also pretty funny,” she said.
The chance WRUR gives to share music with a broad audience isn’t limited to just UR students, either.
Community member Jermaine O’Neill hosts a four hour long show dubbed “The Soul Monologue” every Saturday, showcasing fresh soul and funk music weekly on The Sting.
On FM, Rochester resident Bob “Heavy Metal Bob” Stiewe has been hosting his rock, shred, and metal show “Academy of Shred” weekly for almost 20 years.
For DJs that seek to expand their audience and don’t mind slightly less freedom on air, FM can be an exciting opportunity.
The process for getting on FM is similar to The Sting, but with higher expectations from both WRUR and their partner on 88.5 FM, WXXI.
“If you want to do FM, you have to do a minimum of four Sting shows, then an FM training with me, and then an hour long demo that gets reviewed by me and […] WXXI,” junior Toby Kashket, head of FM programming, said.
While The Sting still offers more freedom in its laxer regulations, FM is becoming increasingly more open in recent years.
“On FM, you used to only be able to play “Triple A,” which is adult album alternative. We just got rid of that restriction so now we’re more in a free format. You can play whatever genre you want,” Anderson said.
Genre flexibility does also depend on time slot however, and not all genres are easy to play due to the content guidelines in place.
“Most 8-10 p.m. shows are indie rock/alternative, but past 10 p.m. we can go into other genres like hip hop, or jazz…typically on FM it’s alternative rock and things like that. The FCC regulations make it difficult for some genres on FM,” Kashket said.
Anderson and Kashket encourage any and all interested parties to join the proud legion of student DJs that call WRUR home.
“If anyone is interested in becoming a DJ they should just go out and do it. It seems like it’s scary but it’s really not once you’re on air and you get a little practice. It’s a really rewarding thing to do and a lot of fun,” Kashket said.
In the age of automated playlist radio that we live in, many find the personalized nature of college radio refreshing and enjoy the moments of connection between DJ and audience that it can create.
“Sometimes you’re in your little bubble and you think, ‘no one understands me,’ and then you turn on the radio and someone’s playing your favorite song,” Anderson said.