On Saturday, April 9, I took a misty drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz for the Spring 2016 UCRN (University of California Radio Network) conference (my 10th!). The low key college radio gathering takes place twice a year at a different college radio station in California. Although the organization originally began as a way for University of California stations to connect and communicate, it now welcomes a wider variety of California college radio stations to its events.
More than 100 attendees from thirteen radio stations traveled to Santa Cruz for the KZSC-hosted event. UC stations in attendance included KZSC, UCLARadio (UCLA), KCSB (UC Santa Barbara), KALX (UC Berkeley), Bobcat Radio (UC Merced), and KUCI (UC Irvine). The non-UC college radio stations included Foothill College station KFJC (where I volunteer and DJ), KXLU (Loyola Marymount University) and KSJS (San Jose State University). Additionally, non-college radio stations KAZU, KSCO and KCBX participated as well as online radio station classic KABL.
A highlight of visiting KZSC is its amazing location in the woods on the University of California, Santa Cruz campus. Housed in its own cabin-like building, KZSC is an inviting college radio station (see my 2009 tour here). Surrounded by shelves full of vinyl records and CDs, the large lobby area has a living room feel with couches and KZSC pillows. An eye-catching quilt on the wall was stitched out of an array of KZSC T-shirts and swag (including a 2013 UCRN tote bag) and the familiar Leo Blais sign is perched in one corner near a KZSC guitar. Stickers, posters, and handmade signs cover every remaining bit of wall space.
The day began with station tours and since this was my third visit to KZSC, I skipped the tour and just focused on taking photos. Rumors of a station move have been swirling for years, so I figured this might be my last chance to see the current space. After some mingling about at the station, the conference began with an opening session in the Cultural Center of nearby Crown College. Representatives from attending stations introduced themselves and shared news.
Stations varied from decades old terrestrial stations to brand new online stations like Bobcat Radio, which is “starting from scratch,” according to its station report. Some stations brought just a few staffers, many came in groups of around 10, and UCLA Radio held the record, with a crew of around 26 people in attendance. An interesting part of the introductions was learning about the different ways that stations raise money. Most seemed to do on-air fundraisers, with KALX representatives describing theirs as full of “fun spots,” the “best music” and teams shows, whereas KXLU staffers characterized theirs as “10 days of begging.”
After introductions, attendees had the choice of six different morning breakout sessions about radio art, news (led by KZSC’s environmental news collective This Just in From Outdoors), marketing & underwriting, media conferences, media law, and radio technology & physics. Following lunch, six more simultaneous workshops were held. Topics included how to teach radio, voice over production, broadcasting live music, radio art, and careers after college radio. Everyone came together for a closing keynote Q&A with drummer Kiran Gandhi, who spoke about music and feminism. As that wrapped up, a frenetic swag swap began. Stations hauled out mail tubs full of T-shirts, CDs, vinyl, stickers, buttons, tattoos, beach balls, and beanies; while everyone scoped out the merchandise. The gist of the swag swap is for stations to trade promotional items and hopefully get ideas for future projects.
Reflecting on the day, KZSC’s Broadcast Advisor Keith Rozendal said that one of his favorite moments was seeing the excitement generated by the KZSC environmental news collective’s presentation. He explained that, “Since October of 2014, This Just in from the Outdoors has produced a weekly environmental news cast focused on the Monterey Bay. They cover science being conducted in the area, agriculture and land-use practices in the area, they go on audio nature walks, and they profile citizen-led non-profit enviro orgs and projects.” Rozendal said that he was pleased that their panel seemed to inspire other college radio stations to think “about producing more news here and all across California.”
I was particularly drawn to the presentations about radio art and it was exciting for me to learn more about the history of radio art and to also hear about the fascinating array of projects taking place today. I will talk about those sessions a bit more in this week’s Radio Survivor Bulletin, in my College Radio Watch column on Friday and on next week’s Radio Survivor Podcast.
As the conference drew to a close, some attendees trekked to KZSC’s nearby transmitter site for a tour, while others headed back home. The day concluded with an after-party at a crepe restaurant in Santa Cruz, where more conversations ensued and connections were made.