A few years back, three universities sold their licenses to commercial networks, for up to $9.5 million. DJs lamented the change. Students hated it. And fans fought back. News like this speaks to two seemingly distinct but largely interconnected opinions of college radio: on the one hand, people doubt its value; on the other, it is apparently valuable enough to be sold (for millions of dollars).
Another conflicting story: In the summer of ’81, MTV chose “Video Killed the Radio Star” for its inaugural video. There was no subtlety — this would kill the radio program. Then, a quarter century later in 2008, MTV began giving out Woodie Awards, recognizing the best college radio stations. Radio hasn’t died, and it’s not going anywhere today. From the education it provides to students, to having a knack for playing emerging artists and underground beats, college radio still thrives in the studio and on the airwaves. People trust college station DJs to play what’s fresh, not what’s marketed and corporate backed. These 10 stations — ranging from fully independent ones to blends of students and professionals — curate the new, unheard and upbeat.
KEXP 90.3 FM
University of Washington
With over 40 DJs — who KEXP says are “widely recognized as experts” — expect a meticulously curated variety ranging from new indie rock to modern global hits.
KRCW 89.9 FM
Santa Monica College
Operating under the directive “play what you love”, KRCW’s musical offerings focus on discovery. But there’s a news element too, including NPR news and other global and cultural coverage.
WPTS 92.1 FM
University of Pittsburgh
WPTS began as “a living classroom” and aims for professionalism in curation and emcee-ing. They operate in programmed blocks like “Blues & Bluesy John”, unlike freeform stations.
WKCR 89.9 FM
WCKR’s strength comes from its blend of music, spoken word and original journalism. You can listen on the radio, or stream it online.
WTBU 83.9 FM/640 AM
BU’s multi-channel station not only provides original news, celebrity interviews and music curation, but presents live music sessions exclusive to its audience, too.
WRHU 88.7 FM
Hofstra’s impressive programming ranges from local news to sports and music. They’ve even interviewed the likes of John Mayer and Janet Jackson.
WESU 88.1 FM
WESU integrates news from NPR with music discovery programs like “Afternoon Jazz” and “Acoustic Blender”. They have strong ties to the community, focusing programming on local people and youth.
WESS 90.3 FM
East Stroudsburg University
WESS aims to train its students in broadcasting and to entertain and educate the community. The station broadcasts a variety of music programs (including vintage radio), talk shows and sports coverage.
WEIU 88.9 FM
Eastern Illinois University
Claiming to offer “the story of your life in music”, WEIU offers — first and foremost — professional training for its student radio hopefuls, and also aims for quality in its music and community broadcasting.
KCSN 88.5 FM
California State University
KCSN enjoys the endorsement of U2’s manager (not a bad referral), and their mission is to serve the audience with discovery — musical and cultural — while professionally mentoring CSU’s students.