why save WRVU?

So, this is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but it comes from a genuine curiosity and a real question: why is WRVU worth saving? I’m not convinced that it is. I realize and appreciate the value that college radio had in years past: providing a voice for people and music that normally couldn’t make the cut on mainstream radio. Maybe I’m being naive, here, but does anyone listen to the radio anymore? And even if they do, is it a demographic that intersects with the people that most need the voice of college radio? When I think of radio’s current core demographic, I think of an older generation. Hence, the boom of conservative talk radio — the only thing I imagine keeping radio alive. Somehow I just don’t imagine kids out there getting their first doses of new/broader horizons via WRVU anymore, sorry. Are we trying to save it out of a misplaced sense of sentimentality, or an out-of-touch overestimation of its value? I don’t get it.

And this isn’t because I don’t appreciate the *content* on WRVU. I have friends that have/had great radio shows on WRVU that I’d love to listen to, but I never can, because .. who has time to listen to the radio? I don’t even own a radio. (no really — even my car doesn’t have one). Give me a podcast, or at least a live stream, and now we’re talking.

If you want to preserve what was valuable about WRVU, ditch the airwaves and move to a medium that actually reaches people. Start a non-profit/consortium that collects donations to pay for streaming costs, start a blog. Whatever. Let the radio station die a natural, peaceful death — the rest of the traditional broadcasting industry will be following right behind it anyway.

Am I missing something obvious?

  • http://www.liberadio.com/ Freddie O’Connell

    Chris, the way you frame the question here, I’m just going to answer very narrowly: because it is no less equal a member of the roster of media making up the collection managed by Vanderbilt Student Communications. They operate the Hustler among other student newspapers. If you’re calling for modernization, then it seems as if you should be calling for it equally across all media that still focus on delivery through archaic channels. In short, the sale of WRVU is being mooted as (somewhat arbitrarily) competitive with the other archaic-leaning media available to students through VSC.

  • http://nicholsonrecords.com/paul Paul NIcholson

    I hear what you’re saying, but last time I checked, even a station like WRVU has a far larger listening than any indie music podcast. The availability is definitely broader. The music can reach a larger demographic and socio-graphic spread than a podcast link that is spread by facebook and twitter links among friends. Yes, even these days.

    I know for me personally (31 years old, technophile with a smart phone I use for podcasts and music) I’m still as likely to listen to WRVU as to my own mixes. That’s how I find really new music. All my playlists and ‘music recommended for you’ automated sets get old after a while. Sometimes just putting on the radio and listening to what comes next (and tagging with Shazam) is a great way to get a shot of fresh blood.

    Not to mention: If the DJs on WRVU were to start self-publishing their shows as podcasts, they would all have to individually buy licenses to distribute the full-length music on their shows.

  • http://chris.quietlife.net Chris

    That’s a fair point — I am completely ignorant to the politics or management/organization at Vanderbilt..

  • http://nelsnose.net Nels

    Your point about declining listenership are valid, however I am in that minority that listens to OTA radio 75% of the time I’m in the car.
    Hypothetically, when the government shuts down the internet to keep you oppressed how will you get your information?

  • http://chris.quietlife.net Chris

    I don’t know, but I assure you it won’t be the radio by that point. :)

  • http://dorknation.wordpress.com Mark

    Well, couple things. The powers in traditional broadcast media aren’t going to go away. They’re just going to find a way to bring their old practices to the new medium, using money to buy out competitors and buy the lobbyists to convince govt the old model is the right one and should perpetuate over broadband. Even if this doesn’t happen, college radio shouldn’t have to be the first to make the move, especially given then audience they serve OTA. Let Clear Channel become “new media” first and exist and thrive in that sphere.

  • http://www.liberadio.com/ Freddie O’Connell

    Well, then your question has limited relevance. This is all about the intent of VSC. One of the potential goals would be to endow other similarly archaic media in perpetuity; not wholesale modernization. Which brings up another interesting point: why would this asset have any value in the market if it weren’t valuable in some way? It’s not like VSC owns a pair of rabbit ears for TVs that no longer pick up a signal. (Speaking of which, I have two pairs of those if anyone wants ‘em. Cheap!)

  • http://chris.quietlife.net Chris

    What do you say, then, to what Bill said on Facebook (have I mentioned how much I hate the fact that facebook/twitter have totally decimated the coherence of blog comment conversations?)

    Chris, I put some thought into this issue a few months back and determined that vsc could likely do more with the proceeds than the actual frequency would be worth. So many restrictions on content for broadcast, just seems that it will open more doors creatively to ditch the airwaves.

  • http://www.liberadio.com/ Freddie O’Connell

    Well, now I have to broaden my defense. :P

    When we first started Liberadio(!), we were told repeatedly, by people who knew better than we, that “radio is dead.” Blogs would rule the world like SkyNet. We were stubborn and produced a radio show. No medium in the Middle Tennessee market turned out to have better reach than 10,000 watts worth of FM. And you might be surprised how youthful our demographic skewed. I feel like my experience was a mix of learning about media, reach, content strategy, and politics. FM might someday be rabbit ears, but as long as people have receivers, it’s going to be a great way to broadly reach a localized audience in a way that nothing else will. Broadcasting means something totally different when the FM dial is constrained by available frequencies, which is why centralized control of broadcast media is problematic. The internet is great for number of signals but less so for signal-to-noise ratios. In the broadcasting booth, my hope is that WRVU DJs get a little bit of training about the importance of responsible broadcasting, which isn’t something one learns on Blogger, and might not be meaningful in the long run, but it’s still a worthwhile lesson in the here and now. It certainly was for me, and I believe any of the trainees who spent time with us would agree.

  • Nicki

    I’m with Paul — I still listen to RVU as much as the various indie podcasts I download. And I always listen in my car, because I spend a lot of time in the car. RVU is one way I find new music that I don’t get exposed to in any other way because I’m in a hospital 50 hours a week. And there’s nothing else quite like RVU — the indie podcasts don’t necessarily pick up our local bands, and we’re lucky to have so many good ones.

  • Nicki

    I’m with Paul — I still listen to RVU as much as the various indie podcasts I download. And I always listen in my car, because I spend a lot of time in the car. RVU is one way I find new music that I don’t get exposed to in any other way because I’m in a hospital 50 hours a week. And there’s nothing else quite like RVU — the indie podcasts don’t necessarily pick up our local bands, and we’re lucky to have so many good ones.

  • Rutles

    Dude, WRVU has been around nearly 60 years. Your blog will not. In fact, future WRVU will outlast your blog. http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2010/11/04/how-facebook-and-twitter-are-replacing-blogging/

    Don’t you pay attention to endless sweeping ‘Punk is Dead’ type statements to bolster whatever retarded new technology someone is trying to hawk? Satellite Radio was going to kill radio. HD Radio is going to kill radio. blah blah. The fact is, ‘dead’ media like tv and radio have the largest audiences ever (Andre 3000 voice: Ever…Eva Eva Eva). The generalizations that you are speaking about as far as whatever fad gadget that will replace radio only apply to a tiny subset that keep up with that sort of techno geek stuff – i like to call them iTards. Most of us, however, have jobs and have long grown weary of such nonsense and still (gasp!) listen to radio and (gasp!) watch tv and (gasp!) don’t give two shits about podcasts. Trust me, this statement will remain true in 10, 20 years from now. Furthermore, WRVU caters to both sets of audiences, the people who stream and use podcasts and the rest of the 94% of the population – radio listeners.

    You start off with your post with “So, this is probably going to be an unpopular opinion…”.
    No, just a stupid one.

    • Anonymous

      cool ad hominem bro

  • Rutles

    wow. dropped an ad hominen on my ass. Snap!
    Ok, I will spell it out for you, you smug turd. As taken directly from this post:

    Maybe I’m being naive, here, but does anyone listen to the radio anymore?
    Answer: uuhhhh, yeah, 93% of the population listens to it DAILY. This blog? Not so much.

    And even if they do, is it a demographic that intersects with the people that most need the voice of college radio?
    Answers? Who most needs the voice of college radio? What does this statement supposed to mean? Who cares what demo listens to it, but a lot of people are and the under-served bands and musicians appreciate it.

    When I think of radio’s current core demographic, I think of an older generation. Hence, the boom of conservative talk radio — the only thing I imagine keeping radio alive. Somehow I just don’t imagine kids out there getting their first doses of new/broader horizons via WRVU anymore, sorry.
    Answer: Generalize much? What is your sample size for this, one?

    Are we trying to save it out of a misplaced sense of sentimentality, or an out-of-touch overestimation of its value?
    Answer: No

    Start a non-profit/consortium that collects donations to pay for streaming costs, start a blog.
    Answer: Start a blog about a radio station? What?!? The reason streaming is affordable is because WRVU is sheltered from having to pay online license fees since it is a Community Radio Station as per FCC regulation. This online ‘free pass’ is given to on-air stations only. Ironically, if WRVU loses its on-air license, running an inferior online only station would be more expensive. Until FCC changes how it operates, it make NO SENSE financially or otherwise to kill on-air WRVU.

    If you want to preserve what was valuable about WRVU, ditch the airwaves and move to a medium that actually reaches people.
    Answer: WRVU does ‘actually’ reach people by on-air and through streaming. AGAIN: The reason streaming is affordable is because WRVU is sheltered from having to pay license fees since it is a Community Radio Station as per FCC regulation. This ‘free pass’ is given to on-air stations only. Ironically, if WRVU loses its on-air license, running an inferior online only station would be more expensive. Until FCC changes how it operates, it make NO SENSE financially or otherwise to kill on-air WRVU.

    Whatever. Let the radio station die a natural, peaceful death — the rest of the traditional broadcasting industry will be following right behind it anyway.
    Answer: Fine, just start with Clearchannel, radio no one will miss. In the mean time let the rest of us continue to enjoy independent radio like WRVU.

    • amolitor

      Man, you’re pretty angry, Rutles. You have some points, but you’re missing some points too.

      First of all, radio is still viable, yes. Chris loses on that one. His point, though, I suspect isn’t actually that radio is stupid and dead now, but that it will be sooner than people like you think and far more abruptly than people like you think. Some day in your lifetime (unless you’re very old) you will be shocked and appalled to find that broadcast media are basically gone. Maybe I’m putting words in Chris’s mouth, though. Anyways, you’re falling in to the trap of thinking “it’s always been here, it always will be” when in fact broadcast radio has only been around for 100 years. What replaces it, I do not know, and neither does anyone else. Something to do with cell phones, maybe?

      Secondly, I love your swipe at Clearchannel. “Radio no one will miss.” That must be why they’re so insanely popular? Just because they’re evil and they suck doesn’t mean that nobody would miss them. What IS your position, anyways? Is it that 93% of the population listens to cute little indie radio stations like you do, cuz that’s wrong. 92% of the population listens to “radio no one will miss” and one percent listens to cute little indie radio stations with cute little DJs with black-rimmed glasses and purple fedoras. WRVU is actually the “radio no one will miss” in the big picture.

  • Rutles

    Wow. Talking about ad hominen…
    This post and these sort of responses make dealing with kids so infuriating. Do you think before you disgorge some opinion? I know that the internet prevents stupid people cover from feeling embarrassed about stating foolish opinions.

    For starters: ‘You have some points’
    Some points? Every once of reasoning (such as it is) in this post that states why WRVU should be callously tossed aside as a sentimental dinosaur was systematically crushed. This guys goes so far as to say: ‘Give me a podcast, or at least a live stream, and now we’re talking.’ Well, I guess we are talking because WRVU has been live streaming for 10 years! Why kill on-air broadcast because you prefer to stream ? Makes no sense, as amply illustrated in my response above. Why would you waste your time defending this post?

    Next:

    ‘First of all, radio is still viable, yes. Chris loses on that one. ‘
    That is the whole premise of this retarded post! Now if he said, as you are suggesting in your replay, which, by the way, is TOTALLY different – that radio stations need to think about transitioning to new media as it becomes available (which, again, WRVU already does), then that is a valid point, but that wouldn’t be as provocative now would it? Sure, some day at some future point radio may become obsolete but it isn’t now. Again, why would you waste your time defending this post?

    Second:
    Again, ad hominen central here, but I will try to make it clear. I never insinuated that 93% listen to WRVU, but said that 93% listen to radio daily which is counter to the CENTRAL tenant of this post’s central argument: ‘Again, this post says: ‘Maybe I’m being naive, here, but does anyone listen to the radio anymore?’ The answer: “DUH, Yes they do”. This pinhead post then proceeds to insinuate that anyone that would want to defend WRVU as “out of touch”. Are you kidding?

    Third:
    ‘Secondly, I love your swipe at Clearchannel. “Radio no one will miss.” That must be why they’re so insanely popular? Just because they’re evil and they suck doesn’t mean that nobody would miss them. What IS your position, anyways?’

    I don’t know what your position but mine is clearly that WRVU is vital and worth saving. Pretty simple. How did you miss that? Smelling your own farts? Intoxicating isn’t it, but it does cause brain damage as evidenced by your writing. Again, because you are slow, this blog post as is your mystifying defense of it is brain dead.

    Now pay attention. ClearChannel isn’t so much popular as profitable (very different) and is so ‘insanely popular’ only because they run a near monopoly on radio. All CC programing is canned and they just insert adds and therefore are immensely profitable. They are popular because there is no choice in radio at that end of the spectrum, again reinforcing why WRVU is so important and again, reinforcing how durable radio is: as shitty ClearChannel is, people still listen to its canned programming, even over the more varied programming of satellite and what not. On air broadcasting is very popular, no matter what is on it. Clear Channel understands that. I understand it. You do not.

    ‘at 92% of the population listens to “radio no one will miss” and one percent listens to cute little indie radio stations with cute little DJs with black-rimmed glasses and purple fedoras. ‘

    Ahhhh…brain dead swipe that shows your true colors: a dig on the ubiquitous strawman – ‘hipsters’ – that is so popular among hack bloggers and flunky blog commenters.

    • amolitor

      Got some anger issues there, kiddo, and it’s making your writing kind of incomprehensible. I prescribe deep breaths and plenty of ‘em. Also, look up “ad hominem”.

  • amolitor

    So I looked up WVRU and it turns out that they get around a 0.2 share. That means that if everyone in the greater nashville area is listening to broadcast radio all the time, about 3000 of them are listening to WVRU. Since Vanderbilt has about 12,000 students, I think we can make a rough estimate of the audience: the Vanderbilt students with indie rock T-shirts, stupid haircuts, and black-rimmed glasses (or, if that accurate describes all Vanderbilt students, then it’s just some of those).

  • http://lauracreekmore.com Laura Creekmore

    My institutional bias: I’m a former editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler and as such, a former member of the VSC board. I have always liked WRVU.

    For decades, the Hustler was the money-making machine that kept VSC afloat, funding many other publications and media. The system was wonderful and designed to foster student creativity and innovation with new media developed as desired by students. VSC media [in the past, can't speak to current] was also funded through advertising and student activity fees — as designated by a student board. The independent body [wholly owned by the university but in practice managed completely separately] does NOT receive university funding.

    Let’s all pause to think about how newspaper revenues are running these days.

    My guess — again, solely from the outside — is that VSC is concerned about the future state of student media at Vanderbilt, given that revenues in the one industry that have sustained it for decades are in a freefall. Selling a broadcast license currently has the opportunity to bring in millions of dollars — that could be used to endow student media in all forms, in perpetuity, perhaps.

    I don’t think radio is irrelevant. I think losing an over-the-air broadcast of WRVU would certainly be a blow. I also think that overall, student journalists at Vanderbilt might be best served by doing just that.