Archive | Radio
What were you doing on April 14th, 1948?
If you’re like me, you didn’t even exist yet. And to those of you reading this that did exist on that date, I hope that whatever you were doing was fulfilling and wonderful, even if you were only a newborn at the time. You likely don’t remember it though, because it’s not a date that readily stands out to most. To those that recognize it, though, it’s a date that we’re thankful to have in the history books.
April 14th, 1948 was the first day that 89.5 WSOU-FM went on the air. The brand new radio station, running from the basement of the rec center at South Orange’s Seton Hall University, was the first college FM station in New Jersey and one of the first FM stations in the entire country. Who could have known, on that day, of the monster that would one day be unleashed?
Today, WSOU is known as the only hard rock and metal station in the New York metropolitan market and one of the only full-time metal stations in the country. And as the station’s 65th anniversary approaches, we at Metal Insider want to pay tribute to our friends in the broadcasting realm that fight the good fight for metal (in addition to providing us with a good radio station to listen to while we’re working). And what better way to do that than to get the inside scoop on the station itself from former staff members?
As an alumnus of WSOU myself, I will admit that I spent most of my time at the radio station while I was attending Seton Hall, and I probably devoted more time to WSOU than I did to my studies. However, I know for a fact that many of my fellow staff members were in the same boat as me when it came to splitting time between the station and classes, and as it happens, we were just continuing a proud tradition of WSOU staff from years before.
“Like many alumni, I spent more time at WSOU than I did in a classroom during my years at Seton Hall,” says Bernie Wagenblast, who graduated from Seton Hall in 1978 and was part of the station for his entire time at Seton Hall. He goes on to state the benefits of such devotion: “There’s no substitute for doing radio, and in my four years at WSOU, I had a chance to do almost everything I would do in my professional career.”
Given what he does for work, it would seem that spending most of his time at WSOU paid off for Wagenblast. Today he owns his own voiceover and recording firm, Bernie Wagenblast Communications, LLC, and works as a traffic reporter for the famous 1010 WINS in New York City.
It was just after Wagenblast’s time at WSOU that the station started to become the metal powerhouse that it is today. According to Mark Maben, general manager of WSOU and one of only two WSOU administrators that are not students at Seton Hall, that growth came from a desire to be different and offer something that no other station could – a format that was rightfully dubbed as Modern Active Rock. Read more »
SiriusXM has a channel called “Outlaw Country,” but they’re about to get a host that’s a an actual outlaw in a country (that’d be the Czech Republic). Yes, Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe is doing a monthly show for SiriusXM’s Liquid Metal channel called “The Crucible.” Here’s what Randy had to say about it via his Instagram account:
“The reason I came to NYC was to record the first installment of my radio show for Sirius/XM’s Liquid Metal channel. That’s right, I have my own damn radio show now. My homeboy @JoseMangin (who has done a lot for lamb if god since the start) hit me up & said- “Um, dude, do you want a radio show?” WHY NOT? I have decided to call my show THE CRUCIBLE. Besides being a fantastic play by Arthur Miller (and a container that holds MOLTEN METAL), a crucible is defined as a difficult or trying experience, one that you come out of harder and more refined & more pure.
Sometimes life is like that- you have to step into the fire to burn away all the crap & and just take the pain that comes with it. It hurts, but if you want to be A BETTER PERSON, you face this stuff & forge yourself anew, PURER & HARDER. One thing that has always helped me through these times is MUSIC. So on my show, I’ll be playing songs by bands that have helped shape me into the man that I am today, that have gotten me through the rough shit. I’ll also be playing songs by newer artists I like, & I’ll be telling some stories about what all the tunes mean to me. Then, once every show if I can, I will interview a member of one of the bands I’ll be playing, & I’ll ask them about what their music means to them. Right now (due to scheduling & my uncertain future), the show will be once a month- I want to do it more often eventually, but right now I’m kinda busy & have a situation to settle.
For my first guest, I wanted someone who has seen some hard times himself, who has gone through some brutal stuff & come out a better man. I needed a real-deal, no bullshit, highly respected & moral, yet hard-as nails motherfucker. I immediately thought of one dude. He’s a legend & a good friend of mine, so he came up to do my first show & KICK IT.
John Joseph (AKA Bloodclot), singer of the almighty CRO-MAGS. John is an amazing dude who has lived a life that would crush, break, & destroy most folks- I don’t think a lot people would make it out of a childhood like his alive, much less go on to be a living legend with such a positive message. Just read his autobiography,”The Evolution of a Cro-magnon”, & you will see what I mean. Dude gets MAD RESPECT for a reason- he’s as real as it gets, & no one to fuck with AT ALL, but also is one of the nicest most humble & generous men I have ever met. Big hearted dude, & I’m proud to call him a friend! So thanks Bloodclot & @JoseMangin for helping me bring THE CRUCIBLE to life! I’ll be announcing the air dates soon- I wanna get nutty with this show, & use it kinda like this instagram- share some art & tell some stories behind it- here it’s photos, on the show it will be tunes. We blasted some Cro-mags for the interview potion if the show & I talked about what the tunes meant to me, then asked John about what they meant to HIM. When you make music, if it’s ANY GOOD, the listener takes it & makes it their own. I’ve done that with Cro-mags & countless other bands- for me, it’s cool to talk to the faces behind the songs- I’m a fan of music first, & a band guy second. Watch out for my show!
It’ll be interesting to hear this show. Not only is Randy an intelligent and well-spoken dude, it seems like he’s being given the freedom to talk to people that influenced him, which should lead to some insightful conversations. Plus, if he’s given the leeway to play music that he likes, it might lead to some new music on the channel that’s currently being overlooked by the staff there now.
Now more than ever, it’s a tough time to be in the radio business. In between smart phones, satellite radio and the internet, it’s easier than ever for music fans to get their fix elsewhere. And while the majority of people still listen to radio more than any other medium, there’s been a lot of tuning out. And if you live in a small to medium-sized radio market and still listen, you might want to get ready for a lot of the local flavor of your radio station to disappear, if it hasn’t already. Clear Channel, a major corporation that operates over 800 radio stations, laid off a number of local DJ’s believed to be in the ‘hundreds.’
“We’ve completely rethought our regional market strategy and reinvented our operations in those markets in a way that will let us compete on a new level — and succeed using all of Clear Channel’s resources, scale and talent,” the New York Times reports company spokesperson Wendy Goldberg as saying. Translation: get ready for syndicated shows that are voicetracked in major cities and say goodbye to local DJs, some of whom have been at radio stations for years. Goldberg says that those syndicated jocks will be cutting local liners and breaks so it appears that they’re in the markets, but they obviously won’t be. She also maintains that content will be more localized than it was before. I can’t imagine how that could be the case. A local DJ knows their city inside and out, has formed a bond with their listeners, and can be seen at local events. That’s not the case for someone that’s never even been to the town. And even those stations that are keeping talent, look for voice-tracking to occur. One DJ in the Times article was doubling as the morning host and pre-recording the afternoon show at the same station. Granted, if you’re not a discerning listener, you probably won’t even be able to tell the difference, but that’s a lot of DJs that are out of jobs.
And while this is a cost-cutting move that makes sense for Clear Channel’s bottom line, it’s not the only place where cuts are taking place. Cumulus Media, who recently took over smaller company Citadel Broadcasting, announced layoffs in New York and Los Angeles. Among those impacted were Jim Ladd, the longtime personality at classic rock station KLOS that inspired Tom Petty’s song “The Last DJ.”
Granted, this doesn’t really effect metal that much. However, one of the only places to hear metal on the radio is from local hosts that do one or two hour shows on the weekends. College radio is still the best place to hear underground music, much of it metal. But it’s a shame to see generic, non-local programming take over radio and give more people a reason to tune out.
Last month, Philadelphia rock radio institution WYSP signed off for the last time, flipping to a simulcast of AM sports station WIP. And while it was still a commercial rock station, their metal show, Rockers, helped foster Philly’s reputation as a metal town. Countless guests had stopped by the show, and Job For A Cowboy even featured the station in their video for “Unfurling a Darkened Gospel.” Onetime Rockers host “Spike” Eskin had been at the station for years, most recently serving as Assistant Program Director and Music Director while hosting middays. The end of another rock station, this one in a top ten market, is indicative of the times. While radio has long been a means of discovery for new music, the consolidation of radio companies and other ways to find music (satellite, Internet, smart phones, etc.) have made it harder for terrestrial stations to survive. We gave Eskin a chance to talk about the end of the station.
I remember the moment I realized that music radio wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. I was on the phone with John Lenac, and I had just been on the phone with Dave Downey. At the time, those guys worked for trade magazines. I’m pretty sure Lenac was at HITS and Downey was at All Access (sorry guys if I’m wrong about either). Up until this time, I thought trades were the coolest things in the world. I mean, all of these guys just writing and talking about new songs that may or may not end up on the radio. When I was in college at Syracuse, I read these things like they were the bible. You know how the sports section is for sports fans? That’s what trades were like for me.
So here I was, a 25 or 26 year old Music Director at the mighty 94WYSP, and I got to talk to these guys every single week. These two guys were always fun to talk to. Here we were, just talking about radio and new rock songs. This is my job. Something struck me about the way Lenac was asking me about the songs though. Like he had to ask me. Or not so much like he had to ask me, but he wanted me to like some of them. It seemed like an unusually long discussion about a song that I didn’t think was any good.
That was always kind of my thing with these guys, or record labels, or anyone. If I loved something, I was totally honest. If I thought it sucked, I was totally honest. Some people always appreciated the fact that I was honest, even if it meant a lot of the time I thought their songs sucked. When I really believed in something, I wouldn’t stop until I made it happen. So anyway, it was at that point that I realized what Lenac was doing, and what the trades REALLY were. It was like that moment in The Truman Show when Jim Carrey puts all the pieces together and realizes the world is fake.
Trades weren’t really magazines about the music. No, not at all. Those things that looked like articles were just advertisements for the songs. It took me six years to realize I’d never read one article about a song not being any good. And these guys, these two really good guys (and to this day, still really excellent guys) who I enjoyed talking to, were being paid to get my opinion on songs, and maybe even try to convince me to play them. It was like my parents paying other kids to be my friends.
“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!”
It was this fork in the road that I hit, when I realized I could take one of three paths. I could become like every other programmer, and bullshit everyone I talked to. I could just bail when I realized the radio world wasn’t what I thought it was. Or, I could do what I ended up doing, and try to blow up the death star the only way anyone could, from the inside. I realized that even though music radio wasn’t exactly what I thought it was, I could still do some things I wanted to, I could reach more people with my personal message and the songs I thought were great from inside the machine rather than outside of it.
And I did it. I didn’t do as much as I would have liked, but I did all that was possible. When I thought something sucked, like The Darkness, let’s say (sorry Danny Buch), I used every bit of my effort to make sure I wasn’t responsible for playing that song. When I thought something was awesome, like Slipknot or local band Octane or Jack’s Mannequin and Hanson in Chicago, I found tooth and nail to make sure the world knew about it. 94WYSP gave me the chance to live out my dream of sharing music, and talking about life. Every song I’ve ever loved reminds me of a time and a place. I got to help people make those memories, and share my own. It’s as close to magic as I can imagine.
As the years went on, it became harder and harder to do what I wanted to do in music radio. I understand why it happened, and I don’t think anyone is to blame, it just kind of “is.” Big, corporate, music radio just wasn’t what it used to be. So as I mourn the loss of 94WYSP as a radio station and as a name, as part of my history, I realize that 94WYSP disappeared at the right time. WYSP was always about being a little edgier, a little tougher, and had a little more fight than everyone else. So when radio became a place where being edgy, having fight, and being tough was no longer important, then WYSP became less important.
Imagine a party. There’s usually one point in the party where it’s at its peak. There’s the right amount of people there, and they’re the right people. The music is just right. It’s just noisy enough and you’re just drunk enough. Then a bunch of assholes show up, turn the music up too loud, make it too crowded, and ruin the party. Rock radio is that party, and WYSP left the minute the assholes showed up.
You can now add Vanderbilt University’s WRVU/Nashville to the continuing list of college radio stations getting the axed from the airwaves. Back in September of 2010, the Vanderbilt Student Communications announced they were looking into moving the famed Nashville college radio station from the air to solely online. Well yesterday, VSC and Nashville Public Radio confirmed that WRVU’s license has been sold to WPLN, Nashville’s NPR affiliate. WRVU’s spot on FM radio will be replaced by new classical station WFCL, which began broadcasting programming at midnight CDT. As part of the deal’s terms, WRVU will continue to stream online and will gain control of WPLN’s HD3 channel in the fall of 2011.
The news of the sale comes after months of protests from both WRVU staff and alumni. In addition to vocal out cries, the “Pledge Nothing” campaign, which urged university donors to suspend donating to Vanderbilt until sales discussion were abandoned, was launched. Despite the sale becoming official, administrators of a blog site dedicated to saving WRVU’s FM license claims that the “fight isn’t over” and will continue their efforts.
What makes this news even more disappointing, besides the fact that this marks the end of WRVU’s six decade life span on terrestrial radio, is that the college station apparently averaged 28,500 listeners between July and October 2010. In other words, WRVU was doing considerably well. While online broadcast will keep WRVU alive (somewhat), the station will now have additional operating costs for streaming royalties and bandwidth. Plus, exclusively streaming online and HD3 in the Fall will decrease its audience reach considerably.
As Bram and I have said it before, news like this hits us pretty hard, and not just because we’re both involved with college radio stations in different fashions. College radio remains a vital source for both the music fans and students wanting to gain experience. College radio’s extinction is a scary thought, but with news like this doesn’t sound as unlikely.
In the past few months, several college radio stations, including most recently Rice Univeristy’s KTRU, have been of having their licenses and even stations sold by the University. Well, the College Broadcasters Inc. and a majority of the student media outlets they represent want everyone to know the harm that this can cause.
To increase awareness of how sales of student-run radio stations are affecting colleges and local communities, the College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) are orchestrating a “minute of silence” today at noon. If all goes as planned, hundreds of college radio stations will go dark for one minute to display what could happen as universities continue to sell their stations’ broadcasting licenses. “This minute of silence is just the first step in a broader effort to make the nation aware of how critical student stations are to localism in broadcasting,” CBI president Candace Walton said in a press release.
The date was chosen to coincide with the date Rice University planned to sell KTRU to NPR affiliate KUHF, which would leave the channel silent until KUHF took over programming. While new developments in the purchase may keep KTRU on the air until May, CBI’s “minute of silence” will still go on as planned. Though CBI represents over 200 student media outlets, the exact number of stations participating in this event is unclear.
Both Bram and I have been involved with college radio in different fashions, and we can attest to how vital of a service it provides listeners. If you’re hearing metal on terrestrial radio, it’s probably on a college or community station. While it’s hard to imagine that college radio could become completely extinct, it’s still a scary thought. I mean, it’s not like regular FM radio is doing too well for itself either.
Remember when HD Radio was supposed to be terrestrial radio’s savior? The digital signal boasted surround sound, it was a lot clearer than a normal broadcast signal, there were additional substations on HD2 and HD3 bands, and best of all, it’s free once you buy an HD-compatible radio. But with all the choices available to consumers, a different version of terrestrial radio just hasn’t caught on so far. Apparently, the HD Radio Alliance thought they might be able to change things by redesigning and relaunching their site, hdradio.com. However, daily music industry e-mail RAMP noticed that the formats of the stations on their station guide is hopelessly out of date. New York’s K-Rock (WXRK) is still listed as a rock station, but they’ve been dance for two years now. And Los Angeles station Indie 103.1 hasn’t been an alternative station for several years, either. Maybe they should have taken some time to update their station list before launching a new site. What’s frustrating is that HD Radio isn’t a terrible idea. While terrestrial radio isn’t necessarily “cool,” and won’t be as long as endless commercials take away from music listening, it’s still immensely popular, especially for those that commute by car. But HD is like an uncle going through a midlife crisis by buying a new sports car and dressing like “the kids” do. It’s trying a little too hard, and it shows. We’re just waiting for one alternative/rock station to come up with an all-metal sub-channel and then we’ll start listening.
This past Thursday, The House voted to end federal funding to National Public Radio. Last year, NPR reportedly received almost $5 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2010, while its revenues included $2.8 million in dues and $63 million programming fees from local stations. The new bill, which passed 228-192, now bars federal funding to NPR and prohibits local stations from paying for NPR programs and dues with federal money.
While Republican supporters claim that the bill simply makes fiscal sense and that tax payers’ money should stop being spent on such a service, Democratic opponents felt the bill was the conservatives way to attach NPR for its heavily liberal programming such as “Car Talk” and “All Things Considered.” It didn’t help, though, that video of an NPR fundraiser voicing his opinions about “Tea Partiers” leaked online. Even the White House voiced their concern about the bill, releasing a statement pleading to “save public radio” prior to the voting. Yet it would appear that did very little to help as well.
This blow to NPR is especially unfortunate for its music programs, since many bands (even metal ones) have recently seen a nice boost in sales and popularity thanks to NPR. While it’s arguable about how badly this bill will effect NPR, it certainly isn’t too promising for them either.
[via Huffington Post]
This past Tuesday, President Obama’s administration made numerous recommendations to Congress regarding online piracy, counterfeiting, and on-air broadcasting. Among their recommendations was support for the Performance Rights Act, the highly debated legislation that would pay artists and musicians (not just publishers and song writers) when their music is played on FM and AM radio. It was less than a year ago when the Commerce Department first expressed support for the Act. This additional backing is as good of news for the RIAA and labels (who have been pushing for this legislation) as it is less than stellar for National Association of Broadcasting and radio stations (who have been strongly opposed to the Act).
Dennis Wharton, EVP of the NAB, had the following to say upon this news:
“This is hardly a new policy position from the White House. NAB remains unalterably opposed to legislation creating an onerous, jobs-killing fee on America’s hometown radio stations without offsetting provisions and benefits that recognize the unparalleled promotional value of radio airplay. NAB offered a legislative package to resolve this issue last year, which was summarily rejected by the musicFirst Coalition. Our offer still stands.”
And the long and highly debated battle between the RIAA and NAB about performance radio royalties continues. Back in August of 2010, labels and radio broadcasters appeared to have found a bargaining tool with mandated FM radio chips in cell phones and portable devices, but there’s been no update about such a mandate since. And now with the Performance Rights Act getting additional support from the White House, radio may have to pay up sooner than later. Though that doesn’t mean this drama will end any time soon.
[via Digital Music News and FMQB]
After 21 years of playing rock, Portland, Oregon’s KUFO has changed formats. Alpha Broadcasting announced yesterday (March 15) that the channel will opt to simulcast news/talk AM station KXL on channel 101.1 instead of its previous active rock format. Bob Proffitt, Alpha Broadcasting President/COO, had the following to say about the station’s new format:
“Today begins a new chapter in Portland radio as we bring the news and information heard on KXL to the FM dial at 101.1. The future of news is on FM and we are excited to be the first to make the move.”
So there you have it. Portland will go from listening to metal and hard rock programs hosted by the likes of Ivan De Prume (former White Zombie drummer) to hearing Glenn Beck. However, KUFO’s slip in ratings makes this less surprising to hear. According to Radio-Info.com, the station had fallen into a four-way tie for 15th place in the January Arbitron PPM. This, along with KUFO’s demise, is a sad reminder of how barely anyone listens to terrestrial radio anymore.
As part of our farewell to the rock station, here’s a news clip highlighting Ozzy Osbourne’s appearance on KUFO’s The Marconi Show back in 2007.
[via Radi0-Info and KATU]