When we were young, there was always a college radio station in the area, it always played that “strange” music, (music that wasn’t currently on MTV), and because it was run by college kids, it would occasionally delve into even stranger areas that we didn’t even know existed. It was the PAX TV of radio stations. And our parents would always listen to it because it made them feel younger.
Now we are those college kids and that music doesn’t seem so strange. It’s no surprise then that some fellow students have developed a passion for running UR’s own radio station, WRUR on 88.5 FM. Most students generally don’t know much about WRUR, except that it broadcasts from behind that locked door next to the Post Office in Todd Union. In fact, WRUR has been a UR staple since 1947, when it broadcasted from the basement of Burton Residence Hall. The station made the move to Todd Union in 1955 and the move from AM to FM in 1965. It has been making Rochester-area adults feel young again ever since.
And indeed WRUR is probably comparable to that college radio station you would occasionally hear growing up. Primarily a music outlet, WRUR recently adopted its first “format” – Adult Album Alternative – after being entirely “free-form” for many years. But this new format by no means boxes the station in.
“The format that we have is so incredibly varied,” WRUR General Manager and junior C. Mike Lindsey said, (his first name is a mystery). “It’s everything from blues and oldies and classic rock to indie rock and pop – all sorts of stuff that’s being played today. It’s offering more than people could possibly imagine – quite the accomplishment, I think.”
The new format, compared to free-form radio, also helps to draw a steady listenership in the Rochester area. “The problem with [free-form] is that it makes the listener feel less attached to the station,” Lindsey said. “They may hear something they don’t like, or they don’t know when to tune in.”
As manager, Lindsey overlooks all other WRUR employees. “Everyone has a specific job at the station, from productions, coordinating events, to managing DJs, to business,” he said. Lindsey is also one of the many students to host his own show, broadcasting “The C Spot” on Friday afternoons from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. According to Lindsey, “It fits the format but it also happens to be music that I like.”
All student DJs enjoy nearly free reign in their choice of music. “It’s not uncommon for me to play Jimi Hendrix and follow it up with The White Stripes,” Lindsey said. Of course, FCC regulations do apply.
One main goal Lindsey hopes to see accomplished during his tenure as manager is raising WRUR awareness and student listenership. “We don’t have a huge image on campus yet; we’d like to focus on that.” Indeed, WRUR’s popularity off campus is much greater than on campus.
A problem posed for students who want to hear their friends’ and peers’ shows is that they do not know when to tune in, and the station will, during certain hours, pick up syndicated programming and outside broadcasts. “There are times that are talk with NPR and stuff in the middle of the afternoon, which students may get scared off by,” Lindsey said.
But WRUR has dramatically increased its live DJ team, to the point where only 24 hours a week are automated. According to Lindsey, “Right now we have more DJs than we’ve ever had before. It’s a lot of live programs.”
As original programming increases, hopefully so too will on-campus popularity. The station is occasionally broadcast in the Hillside and Common Ground Cafes, though Lindsey specifies, “It depends on who is working there.”
Lindsey, who is creating his own major in Neuroethology, of all things, did not become involved with the station because of an interest in broadcasting, but instead was driven by his love of music. “I had never done any radio stuff before,” he said. “I’ve always liked music – it’s always been about the music.”
According to Lindsey, many in similar situations discover a love of the broadcasting aspect. “A lot of people get involved for the music and then realize they want to do it as a career,” he said. “I’ve learned an incredible amount about the business and how to run a station and how to manage people. It’s actually been the learning environment that UR has boasted.”
Lindsey has also seen the station begin DJing events as an effort to get more students involved in and aware of the radio station, as well as providing a more customized service than the typical DJ. “We now have our own equipment so we can DJ any event that needs music, and we will cater to specific genres,” Lindsey said.
WRUR’s new format, its increasing number of disc jockeys and live programming and customized DJ service should begin to gain listenership among the many students looking for good radio. “We’re hoping to raise awareness, raise visibility and let people know that we are actually here,” Lindsey said. “We want to be the place on campus where people go to learn about music.”
If these goals are met, WRUR will become more than a station for Rochester-area adults looking for a taste of college life, it will be a college station for college kids.
Fountaine is a member ofthe class of 2008.