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University of Colorado’s College Radio Station Radio 1190 to Revamp

Radio 1190

Radio 1190

An article in the Colorado Daily last week announced that changes are afoot at University of Colorado’s college radio station KVCU-AM, popularly known as Radio 1190. A re-branding effort along with a new website, the elimination of several paid student staff positions, a stronger collaboration between student journalists and the station, and the digitization of a portion of the physical music library are all in the works for the Boulder station.

Many of these changes are outlined in a bill that was just passed by the University of Colorado’s Student Government. The bill argues that a number of problems at the station, including communication challenges across station departments, “too many on-air personalities…diluting the talent pool causing everyone to think they can be a DJ,” an environment where student employees view their jobs as hobbies rather than professions, lack of accountability among staff, and budget challenges, are holding Radio 1190 back.

Radio 1190’s independent music mission will apparently remain intact. In the Colorado Daily article’s accompanying video, Radio 1190’s Program Director Hannah Warner states that undiscovered music is still very important to the station, saying, “We’re not about trying to please the masses. We’re about trying to promote the best music.” She added that raising the profile of the station is something that’s important to them, pointing out that, “…we really wanted to start striving to be a more recognizable organization within independent culture. And part of that is being able to have a presence at things like festivals, trying to have more outreach programs, trying to have more innovative promotions.” She acknowledged in the video that awareness of the station is low on campus.

The station’s former General Manager Mike Flanagan left in 2011 to head up Colorado Public Radio’s new indie rock music station Open Air (on KVOQ 1340 AM), which officially launched on Halloween. Flanagan was replaced at Radio 1190 by commercial radio veteran Mikey Goldenberg. According to the Colorado Daily article:

“Part of Radio 1190’s purpose is to educate students who work there, and Goldenberg hopes the reorganization will provide a professional experience as similar to the real world as possible. Part of that involves digitizing Radio 1190’s analog collection of 30,000 albums. The station has traditionally worked with CDs and vinyl, and while Goldenberg said that’s an important part of the station’s brand, it’s not how most professional stations run. The digitization will also allow the staff to focus on more than music. ‘What we’re looking to do is basically digitize a vast amount of [the CDs], which will allow us to keep our eyes on the actual function of the radio station — the programs, the content,’ Goldenberg said.”

When I caught up with Goldenberg yesterday, I learned a bit more about the digitization project. He explained that they will only be digitizing a portion (between 5000 and 7000) of the station’s CD collection and added that Radio 1190 will continue to play music off of CDs and vinyl. He explained that digitizing music would enable them to “revamp the daily programming to best fit the message of the station.” Goldenberg elaborated by saying,

“Digitization allows more control over the day to day functionality of a radio station.  We currently schedule music about 60/40 meaning my Music Director and I pick 60% of the music to play, and the additional 40% is DJ choice.  Digitization helps in clock management, rotation of music, accountability to underwriters and supporters and more.  We have an automation system that’s being implemented as we speak.”

In addition to changes to the record library, Goldenberg is also focused on helping to re-establish the Radio 1190 brand.  He told me, “The station brand has completely fallen off the radar…The changes were precipitated by the need to increase the level of educational opportunity and to create a radio station that once again, speaks to the indie community of Boulder and Denver.” Although they are working to up the station’s profile, Goldenberg said that there are no plans to change the music that Radio 1190 plays.

It’s unclear how the current staff and DJs feel about these proposed changes, but a few alums and listeners have indicated concern, with one saying that he hopes the station’s role as a cultural leader remains intact and that its “spirit thrives.”

KVCU is a bit unusual in the college radio world, as it is a non-commercial educational station on the AM dial. It was initially donated to the University of Colorado Foundation in 1997 for use by the schools of Journalism and Mass Communications “as an educational laboratory” and “for other university and student educational purposes.” KVCU first hit the AM airwaves in November, 1998. In 2008, the station was transferred from the University of Colorado Foundation to the Regents of the University of Colorado.

Currently Radio 1190 plays a mix of sounds, including indie rock, local music, and specialty programs (at night and on the weekends) including folk, underground country, Bollywood sounds, jazz, rockabilly, hip hop, metal, and electronic music. Recent on-air events have included vinyl giveaways and live in-studio performances. Daily artist features (in which a highlighted musician is played at the top of every hour) have included Duran Duran, The Smiths, Nina Simone, Ane Brun, De La Soul, the Be Good Tanyas, Buddy Holly, and the Stone Roses.

With the recent launch of public radio station Open Air, Radio 1190 definitely has other local radio stations nipping at its indie music format. And, in fact, many members of the Open Air launch staff had backgrounds at Radio 1190. It will be interesting to see how both stations evolve and how they continue to differentiate themselves from one another and from local community radio station KGNU.

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