College Radio: Radio Free Lexington

Posted: 18th February 2013 by Spread Radio Live in Radio News
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The folks over at the University of Kentucky have some great things in the work and Radio Free Lexington or WRFL is no exception. This local Lexington based college radio station is taking the city and surrounding regions by storm, challenging big radio to either change their tune or get out all while having fun. While it may have a small staff, WRFL is no low-power radio station. This mostly volunteer run station in Kentucky has significantly altered the musical soundscape of the Lexington community. WRFL first hit the air in 1988 and has been going for several decades uninterrupted. Folks from Lexington are used to the station’s tongue and cheek commercials (often parodies of commercial radio stations) and colorful DJs. But is WRFL really the only alternative left in the Bluegrass state?

Radio Free Lexington logo

WRFL isn’t sitting still waiting around for the answer. In 2009, the local station launched its music festival, Boomslang: A Celebration of Sound & Art. The festival was a collaborative effort to bring together different aspects of Kentucky’s emerging music and art community. It acted as a new extension for WRFL’s mission to provide a platform for non-commercial and non-mainstream acts to take over the stage and take over they did. Legendary acts like Faust and Os Mutantes shared the stage with Mission of Burma and other local acts. Musical, visual, and artistic performances were given equal opportunity to shine at Lexington’s Boomslang Festival. For more information on becoming involved in Boomslang 2013 check out WRFL’s Boomslang submissions page.

This little radio station may be small but it continues to make a big impact on Lexington, gathering talent from all over Kentucky. The station got a much needed signal boost in June of 2010 after several years of fundraising added up. DJ Mick Jefferies recounted his memories of the new radio tower with Ace Weekly.

I learned of it Thursday morning at 5:30am, after reading an email from WRFL’s
unflappable Faculty Advisor, John Clark:
“hi, RFLiens. Shortly after midnight, at
12:10:58, to be precise, with little fanfare, but
lots of love, [Program Director] Matt Gibson
and I applied our digits to the proper places on
the transmitter touchscreen. Then we stood back
in silence and awe and watched the digital
readout climb. Without even beginning to name
names, many thanks to everyone who had anything
to do with this awesome event, all the way
back to 1996, when we first started working on
it.”

And with that, WRFL boosted it’s signal from 250 watts to 7900 watts, enabling the Lexington station to reach beyond Lexington’s borders to surrounding communities. So what’s next for the little station that could? WRFL team members are working hard to find talented on-air DJs to keep the programming fresh and diverse. Listeners can tune in at any time of the day and hear music from every genre, LBGTIQQA shows, political programs, and much more. WRFL is proving that for-profit radio radio will have to step up their quality if they intend to compete with upstart radio stations like WRFL.

Podcasts for Dummies

Posted: 19th January 2013 by Spread Radio Live in Radio News
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The world of radio can get a little tricky sometimes but we’re to help you get back in touch with radio today. These days podcasts are pretty “old school” but this doesn’t mean everyone has caught up with technology. For the more digitally aware, podcasts enable users with portable devices to listen to radio programming on their electronic device. At first, the technology was limited to mostly Apple users and more compatible with devices like the iPod, iPhone, Macbook, and iPad. Lately podcasts have shifted from the world of Apple and entered the world of the everyday technology users with big names such as NPR joining the podcasting fray.

Apple Podcast Logo

Before I go any further I’ll stop and answer the basic question: What is a podcast?

The term “podcast” comes from the face podcasts first popped up for iPod users. These radio broadcasts could be downloaded from iTunes and added to a user’s iTunes library. In an attempt to make a catchy name for the new media source, the words “iPod” and “broadcast” were combined to make podcast. Podcasts have since left their original home on the iPod and become easier for all users to enjoy with Android users having the option to download handy podcast apps.

The greatest thing about podcasts is that they fit easily into any schedule, regardless of how busy you are. If you’re anything like me, time is very valuable and sitting down to watch TV or listen to the radio happens infrequently. In fact, ever since Netflix and podcasts popped into my life, the world of entertainment has become accessible once again. Podcasts can be downloaded usually at radio sites and listened to over and over again. Some are free and some cost a small fee but overall they are worthwhile.

Who makes podcasts?

Another thing podcasts have going for them is that anyone and everyone can make a podcast. When did radio become this easy? While I prefer the touch and feel of a soundboard and being holed up in a traditional radio station’s DJ booth, I do like the simplicity of making a quick podcast. Sometimes simple can be better. Podcasts are a very affordable option for young DJs looking to find their voice on the radio but don’t have access to $10,000 for a basic transmitter or lack connections to a college radio station.

For those new to podcasts, the easiest way to get up to speed is just jumping in. I can’t vouch for the quality of the programming of lesser known podcasts, but I can say this is one convenient way to bring radio to listeners.

Bringing Hyper Local Radio Stations Back

Posted: 7th January 2013 by Spread Radio Live in Radio News
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Think no one listens to radio anymore? Think again! The Federal Communications Commission recently adopted rules that enabled thousands of community groups and non-profits to create and launch their own low-power local radio stations. This new ruling will obviously be strictly regulated to keep average joes from jumping on the air but it is a big step in the right direction for radio listeners looking to put radio back in the hands of the community. Often radio programming is based heavily in big cities and urban areas, leaving less populated communities with non-local radio programming.

Radio Tower

Sure, there are certain perks in hearing the latest news and hits from urban cities and Top 40s lovers can satiate their need for the next Justin Bieber hit or Beyonce ballad. But what about the small town heroes or community events that get overlooked by big radio incentives.

This new regulations will allow small communities to once again speak for themselves on the airwaves and promote initiatives that support community growth and involvement. These new hyperlocal radios would enable small groups to establish their voice on the radio, adding an additional outlet for sharing information between like-minded people.

Now I know what you’re thinking, how would I start a LPFM station? Or what do big cities like New York or San Francisco need with hyper local radio stations? Despite how much hype these cities get about their bustling arts and music scenes there are inevitably going to be groups looking to shake things up. What better way to highlight local music and art galleries than by creating radio stations for those groups.

Low-power radio stations are indeed low powered and cannot transmit farther than a 3 mile radius in most cases so there are certain disadvantages to this choice of radio transmission. It also will have a tough time beating out internet radio as more and more listeners take to the computer. I, on the other hand, believe traditional radio will never die out and putting radio back in the hands of listeners like you and me is a good starting point to growing its already sizable fan base.

Organizations such as the Prometheus Radio Project are looking out for small start-up radio stations. Based in Philadelphia, this non-profit has worked to help communities build their own radio stations from the ground up.

When responding to the news about last year’s FCC ruling, Prometheus Radio Project’s Pete Tridish stated, “A town without a community radio station is like a town without a library. Many a small town dreamer – starting with a few friends and bake sale cash – has successfully launched a low power station, and built these tiny channels into vibrant town institutions that spotlight school board elections, breathe life into the local music scene, allow people to communicate in their native languages, and give youth an outlet to speak.”

The cost of starting one of these LPFM stations isn’t cheap but the overreaching benefits of radio to small communities outweigh the costs.