College Radio Reality: Crunching the numbers…

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How do stations celebrate College Radio Day? Does it have any benefit for them?

Just under two months to go until College Radio Day 2016. On November 4 we expect college radio stations from across the country and also worldwide (celebrating World College Radio Day) to celebrate the medium of college radio. In many ways, it’s difficult to keep track of what stations are doing for this event, and certainly almost impossible to actually hear all that radio broadcasting!

For us, this is the tricky part. It’s a bit like being a kid in a candy store being told that you can have as much candy as you can physically carry. Sure, that’s a lot of candy, but you can imagine how tortuous it is to see just how much more candy you will never get to!

So last year we offered a survey to college radio stations that participated in College Radio Day. We really wanted to know how they celebrated and how they thought we could do better for this year. The results were utterly fascinating. They really give a true (albeit limited) snapshot of how stations use College Radio Day and harness the occasion for their own good.

For example, of those stations that completed the survey, 94% of them said that they broadcast special programming for the day; 64% said that they had live music in the studio or somewhere on campus; 52% said that they had on-campus activities and also had special interviews on the air. Many stations did all of these activities and more. Some stations had special fundraising drives, had guest DJs (including inviting alumni back) on the air and many stations offered raffles, free food, had outdoor remotes and concert ticket giveaways as well!

98-5-wnuwThe Staff of 98.5 WNUW celebrating College Radio Day!

Even though the survey was not completed by every participating station, it’s still a valuable snapshot of the energy and passion that students, community volunteers, faculty and staff pour into this event every year. And yet…we still know that many more special events and activities happen that we never hear about!

So we also wanted to know how did the CRD event benefit the stations involved? Some of the feedback was as follows:

“Very successful at establishing our presence on campus as well as the community”
“It energized our students, and our alumni mentioned it”
“We got many artists in the station that we would not have pursued if we were not participating”
“There were more listeners than usual, so it was successful in that sense”
“This was an extremely successful event for us”

College Radio Day as an event is a unique thing really. There is no one single way to celebrate college radio, and as such, stations are literally doing their own things across the country during the day. It shouldn’t be any other way. Every station is different. From the survey we asked how stations celebrated in their own ways:

“Our station had a live concert on our cafeteria patio”
“We held a local artist showcase at our biggest local venue”
“We played 1,069 songs in a row”
“We ran a 24-hour broadcast”
“We did 12 hours of live music and interviews from local acts”

At CRD HQ we also heard about station BBQs, Dunk-A-DJ, food and clothes drives for local charities, CD and merch giveaways and student recruitment drives as well. It was impressive just how imaginative some of the events were.

Once in a while I do get an email from a station that contends that there is no benefit to participating in CRD. “What’s the point?” they ask. One such email said “there is no benefit to participating in CRD at all for us.” In my opinion, such a view is a failure of vision. College Radio Day is meant to be used by stations as a vehicle for them. CRD should be harnessed to raise the profile of the station both on and off-campus; to remind college administrators that they are alive and kicking and that it is an incredibly important resource for the students and campus community. I once even received an email that made the argument that a station would not be participating because they did not want to bring themselves to the attention of the university, because they would remind them that they exist and they feared their scrutiny!

It’s true that every college radio station is in a unique position, and I respect the difficulties that some of them may find themselves in. Yet, it is our hope that college stations can use College Radio Day to be a genuinely positive experience. When we come together nationally, even for just one day, we are reminding the entire country that we are still here, and we are the last bastion of truly independent radio programming that is both fearless and innovative. Now, surely that’s a good enough reason to celebrate, right?

– College Radio Reality is a monthly column written by Dr. Rob Quicke for Collegeradio.org.