How Community College Radio Effects Mainstream Radio

by Chad Agrawal

College radio stations are run by the students at a community college or university. Within these entities, it is not just the on-air voices, but oftentimes the programmers as well that are students – although they may include some professionals who have come in from the local community to assist in running the operation. In most cases, similar to mainstream stations, college radio stations are also licensed and regulated by the government.

In many instances, college radio stations have only lower-power broadcasting capabilities whereby their audience may consist of just on-campus listeners. Yet, in other cases, the programs that come out of these radio stations can be distributed to the surrounding community via cable FM, local cable television, and / or the second audio program of a television radio station.

Today, with the rise in internet use, many college radio stations will also broadcast through one or more online radio feeds. Because of differing internet “rules,” the radio station’s format may differ a great deal from that of a licensed traditional college radio station.

In fact, many stations that use the internet can actually broadcast commercial free on a worldwide basis 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. And, because so many people are able to receive these feeds on their mobile devices, these radio stations are able to reach consumers and to engage them by asking for song requests and other events that cause people to interact directly in real-time with the radio announcers.

College Radio Formats and Attributes

Typically, a college radio station will broadcast music that may not be categorized as being commercial hits. Because these entities will oftentimes provide airplay and promotions for new and rising local musicians, many college radio stations have become associated with starting emerging trends in music. Some examples of this include genres such as indie rock and punk being played on college radio long before they were popular in the mainstream.

In addition, because of their willingness to promote newer musicians and artists, college radio stations have more and more become the catapult for getting relatively unknown music out into the mainstream – often in far less time than it would otherwise take these artists to “move up the charts” on their own.

With regard to the “talk” aspect, college radio stations often carry programming such as news and sports information. In most cases, these stories are usually related to people and other items of local interest in the surrounding community.
Due to its “freeform” programming style, college radio has at times gained critical acclaim – and these stations are often even considered by their local communities as a truly essential outlet for media.

College Radio Advertisers

College radio can provide a great way for local advertisers to promote their businesses – especially those that offer products and services to those in the student community. Oftentimes the advertisers on such stations include local restaurants and other entities that are easily accessible to the college students.

In addition, the school itself may also place promotions or ads on the station in order to provide information on the college’s sporting events, theatre productions, and / or other items that would be of interest to both students and the community.

Because college radio is most often primarily listened to by those on campus and the local area, the cost of advertising on such airwaves is typically much less costly than it would be on a larger commercial radio outlet.

Budgeting for a College Radio Station

While college radio stations can provide many benefits to listeners and advertisers alike, oftentimes they are overlooked when making up the school’s budget. Therefore, in many cases, it is up to the station members as well as their fans to keep the station afloat financially and on the air.
In order to raise needed funding, often these stations must go outside of their local campus and promote to individuals and businesses. Some ways that this has been done include holding CD listening parties, throwing benefit concerts, inviting potential vendors to the college campus, and requesting local businesses to underwrite some or all of the station’s costs.

Moving Forward – Starting With College Radio

Although much smaller in scope than its larger local and national counterparts, college radio truly does have an effect on mainstream radio. Many of the music selections that are played on these entities have quickly allowed relatively unknown artists to go from local exposure to national recognition within a very short period of time.

With its freedom to program using non-traditional talk and music choices, the trend-setting abilities of college radio can be very beneficial for those who are willing to utilize these stations’ capabilities.

This post was written by Chad Agrawal

Chad Agrawal is the founder of CCTS, helping students transfer from community college to Ivy League, tier 1 or anywhere else by following this community college guide.

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