When we started thinking about a family vacation to Colorado, I knew that I’d want to make room in the schedule for some radio station tours. So, on Thursday, July 7, my first full day in Denver, I walked in 90+ degree heat to Metropolitan State University of Denver in order to see college radio station Met Radio.
It’s always confusing arriving on unfamiliar campuses and it helped that station volunteer Vinnie White told me to look for the “huge old style brick building with a large smoke stack.” I was still unprepared for the grandeur of the historic Tivoli Brewery Building, which now serves as the student center for three colleges on what is known as the Auraria Campus: Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), Community College of Denver, and University of Colorado-Denver. Built in 1864, the brewery shut down just over a hundred years later. By the 1980s, it was transformed into a shopping center and by 1994 was in use by the campus as a student center.
The gorgeous building is now home to a new brewery/restaurant using the historic Tivoli name (it opened less than a year ago) as well as many student services, a bookstore and Met Media, where Met Radio resides. A student-run Internet college radio station, Met Radio’s history is hard to determine, although the station has been known as both KMET and Met Radio and seems to have always been an online-only college radio station. Its Facebook page says that it was “reborn in 2008.”
Met Radio is part of the older Met Media organization, which has been around since 1979. According the Met Media website, “Met Media is a multimedia news platform operated by the Office of Student Media at Metropolitan State University of Denver. We prepare MSU Denver students for successful careers as communications professionals through hands-on experience in journalism, photography, radio and television broadcasting, publishing, marketing and sales. Met Media and the Office of Student Media are part of the Student Engagement and Wellness office at MSU Denver.”
White, along with current Music Director Alex Gunn showed me and my daughter around the station. Located just beyond the entrance to Met Media’s offices, the radio station and adjacent studio both have windows facing a main hallway in the building. The windows, as it turns out, have been a boon for recruitment. Gunn said that back in March, 2014, he was sitting in the hallway when a DJ spotted him and asked him to come into the studio. The DJ showed him a few things, giving him an impromptu training. Then, on another day, he was eating lunch in the same place and again the DJ invited him into the booth. This time he told him to run the board himself.
From that point on, Gunn was hooked, telling me, “I enjoyed it and stuck around.” Now, he’s finishing up his classes and is preparing to pass the Music Director torch to White in the fall. Right now, things are pretty quiet at Met Radio, as it’s summer and not too many students are around on the commuter campus. Gunn continues to add music to the station’s automation system and said that he was making his way through a one-foot by one-foot box full of CDs that had been sent this semester.
Gunn explained that the styles of music played at the station have changed since he’s been there and that it’s moved from being mostly older mainstream music to more of a mix, including indie/alternative music as well as local material. When the station is on automation, music rotates by genre, shifting from classic rock (midnight to 6am) to jazzy down tempo sounds (6 to 9am) to alternative, indie and some pop (9am to 7pm) to electronic (7 to 10pm) to rap and hip hop (10pm to midnight).
Live DJs override automation and over the summer there are only maybe two live shows. That’s compared with at least 4 to 5 live programs a day during the fall and spring semesters. The station also does live sports broadcasts, which take precedence over scheduled programs.
Some recent programs on Met Radio have included live DJ mix shows, sports talk shows, an old school European death metal show (one of White’s favorites), a house/techno music show, the Daily Met student-produced news show (hear archived podcasts of the show on the station’s podbean site), and a movie-themed show. One of the more fascinating shows was the “History of Rock and Roll” program, which sparked off of ideas discussed during a course of the same name.
White said that the station would love to have “more unique content,” like the shows he and Alex mentioned. He added that it would be great to have “out there shows,” explaining, “It’s my opinion that college radio is really anything that you’d want it to be.” Gunn chimed in, “if someone has a solid idea, we’ll give them a shot.”
White said that the station is in the midst of a “rebranding effort” and part of that includes a desire to play more of their DJs’ favorite music. Students have been bringing in music in order to help build the collection. By fall, the station’s air sound will change as a result of that.
The studio is equipped in such a way that DJs can plug in turntables as well as hook up an iPod or computer. Live music performances can be broadcast from the studio and the station has also done remote broadcasts from various events on campus, including during student orientation.
Another exciting project that Met Radio undertook was a 56+ hour marathon broadcast in August, 2015. Both White and Gunn reminisced about the experience, which was an extended edition of White’s morning show, “The Rabbit Hole” that they say broke a Guinness World Record for the “longest uninterrupted live webcast.” The program included various show hosts as well as live DJ mixes and it also served as a fundraiser for the MSU Denver Food Bank and the Food Bank of the Rockies.
During the marathon broadcast, DJs kept themselves awake and occupied through various games and challenges (see video here), including ninja pinata, a consequence wheel, truth or dare, and a food challenge. When the marathon wrapped up, $1600 was raised for Food Bank of the Rockies.
After showing me around Met Radio, White and Gunn walked us across campus to take a look at MSU Denver’s other streaming radio station: WCAS, which operates from the school’s broadcasting program. I’ll share that tour in a separate post.
Thanks so much to Vinnie White and Alex Gunn for the great tour of Met Radio. This is my 106th station tour report. See my most recent field trips on Radio Survivor and see a full list of my station tour reports on Spinning Indie. 7/26/16 Update: You can hear more about this tour (including clips from my interview with White and Gunn) on Episode #56 of the Radio Survivor Podcast.