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Top 5 Things Found at every College Radio Station

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:

Hanging Records at WVFI

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.

Sticker Cabinet at KUSF

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.

Couch at WHRC

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.

Instant Replay Machine at WNYU

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.

Skull at KALX

I spied a Scooby Doo mystery machine in the KUSF record library, skulls at both KALX and WBAR, and an owl with a stick in its eye at KFJC (there used to be a hanging prosthetic arm there too).

What else do you expect to see at a college radio station?


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5 Responses to Top 5 Things Found at every College Radio Station

  1. Brian John Mitchell January 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    You should do one of five things you don’t always find.
    #1 – record players
    #2 – dj’s with musical taste
    #3 – a space for bands to play live
    #4 – a way to find music that makes sense
    #5 – broadcast radius over a mile

  2. Jennifer Waits January 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    College radio isn’t always consistent that’s for sure, but I’ve been happy to see record players at most stations that I’ve visited. Some even have really fancy set-ups for live bands (WNUR comes to mind, as well as WNYU).

    I have to agree that finding music can be a challenge… I’m often confused about where things are in the library at KFJC and I’ve been there for 10 years!

    Since space is always an issue, college stations often have crazy storage solutions for music and have their library spread out in every nook and cranny imaginable; thus making it hard to find things at times. At KFJC the vinyl and CDs reach to the ceiling, requiring tall ladders to access some of the material. Even still, I prefer a confusing physical library of music to a hard drive full of digital files.

  3. Tapeleg January 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Hey, if you come across an “ancient” instant replay machine you don’t want, I’ll gladly take it off your hands.

  4. Paul Riismandel January 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    The students at WNUR wish they had an old couch to flop down on. When the station moved in to swanky new studios there was no place to put even a small common area. In effect they had to trade off having a great place for live bands and a nice production studio for a couch.

  5. Sandy Blackwell January 9, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    Wow, they nailed that! Brings back memories of WUVA way, way back.

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