I LOVE college radio and have been a DJ at four different stations over the years (and I also went through DJ training at a 5th station). In addition to that, in the past two years I’ve visited 20 radio stations all over the country. When doing my tours, I’m often struck by the artifacts that I see in every single station. These are often the things that make college radio feel like college radio, from the dirty carpets to the musty record library to the posters and stickers plastered on every square inch of wall and cabinet space.
So, with that, here’s my list of the top five things that every college radio station MUST have:
1. Record Art:
My favorite example is the 7″ vinyl-decorated hallway at WVFI at University of Notre Dame. The DJs there promised me that the station owned duplicate copies of all of the records used in this art project.
I’ve also seen melted records hanging from ceilings and funky retro albums tacked to walls.
2. Sticker-plastered metal cabinet:
If you go to any college station and check out the spaces occupied by the music directors, no doubt you will find metal cabinets covered with every sticker imaginable.
Many are band stickers that have either come with the promotional CDs and records that get sent to stations or have been brought to the station by visiting musicians. I also keep an eye out for stickers from other college stations, as they often can be found amid the collage as well.
3. Funky old couch:
Every college radio station needs a hand-me-down couch for DJs to lounge and sleep on. At my current station there’s been a series of couches since I’ve been there.
Some were rumored to be soaked with cat pee and others were more glamorous cast-offs from someone’s parents.
When I visited college station Flirt FM in Ireland this past summer, I was warned about their couch as they joked that it was probably infested with swine flu.
4. At least one piece of ancient equipment:
Some stations have graveyards full of dead equipment, including broken cart machines, tape decks, reel-to-reels, and turntables.
I’ve been to several that have retired boards on display, from the cigar-box crafted antique at KALX to the board that I used at WHRC back in the 1980s (which is just hanging out on a shelf amid some old vinyl). The retro technology that’s my personal favorite, though, is an ’80s looking (complete with mauve accents and New Wave swoosh design) instant replay machine that I spotted at WNYU.
5. Pop culture artifacts:
Funky decor is a staple of any self-respecting college radio station and I’ve seen tons of creative uses of weird objects and pop culture artifacts during my visits.
What else do you expect to see at a college radio station?