Last year, the independent radio website Soundtap launched a listening competition pitting independent radio stations against one another in a series of head-to-head battles that coincided with March Madness. Dubbed Soundtap Madness, this year’s edition will include a series of two-day competitions taking place between April 1st to April 12th. Sixty-four college radio stations will be included in the first round, with each subsequent round whittling down the playing field until only two stations remain in the finals (April 11th-12th). Stations that accrue the most listening time on Soundtap during each round will continue to the next round.
The 64 stations included in Soundtap Madness are currently ranked from 1st to 16th across four different geographic regions. These seeds were created based on each station’s “active broadcast hours.” Automated programming and syndicated programming were not included in this total.
Based on the rankings, the top four seeds are KFJC (Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, CA), WOBC (Oberlin College, Ohio), KTUH (University of Hawaii at Manoa), and WRFL (University of Kentucky, Lexington. The #2 seed stations are KZSU (Stanford University, Stanford, CA), KUCI (University of California, Irvine), WREK (Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA), and WCBN (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). All in all, this is an impressive list of intriguing college radio stations.
Last year I got a bit sucked in to the competition and obsessively watched the listening hours counters for some of my favorite stations (including KFJC, where I volunteer, which is one of the top seeds this year). I also enjoyed the opportunity to tune in to a range of interesting independent stations from all over the world. At the same time, others expressed concerns that some stations were taking the competition too seriously. Accusations about cheating were levied against some of the stations in the lead and there were also worries that some stations were violating FCC rules by appealing to listeners to go to Soundtap to listen. In its FAQ section, Soundtap reminds non-commercial stations to “NOT tell listeners to use Soundtap.” Additionally, controls have been put in place in order to limit dishonesty (for example, listeners can only log hours from one browser window).
In last year’s competition, Soundtap users tuned in for more than 2 million listening minutes. The winning station, University of Vermont’s WRUV beat Carnegie Mellon University station WRCT in the final round. Interestingly, WRUV is ranked 16th this year and WRCT is ranked 13th.