Cory of Monkey River Town left a comment on this photo that got me going on something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about, namely the current and future status of radio (at least in the U.S.) and of KUMM (the student radio station here at UMM).
It’s pretty clear that radio in general, and KUMM in particular, is in a pretty weird place right now. With iPods, and podcasts, and XM why would anyone listen to live, local radio, especially the bland, commercial filled crap that dominates so much of the airwaves. When everyone was the captive of their cars or an inexpensive transistor radio, the current model worked pretty well. Now people have a huge array of choices, so it’s not clear how much longer they’ll keep listening to the lame stuff corporate radio keeps feeding them. They’re already leaving in droves (for example, and so far the suits haven’t been very creative in their responses (some are simply in denial).
As far as KUMM goes, I think the profile of listeners and (especially) DJs has changed enormously, and we’re still not at all sure what that means. 20 years ago, a milk crate of LPs was a pretty good sized music collection for a college student, and DJing at the radio station was a great way to access a vastly larger music collection than any student could afford (or find room to store!). Now, students have 50-100Gb of music on their hard drive and can’t find time to listen to a fraction of it all. When I started at KUMM in 1991, I was unusual in how much of my own music I brought in to the station (but I was old and had collected a lot over the years). Now I see shows where two or three DJs have laptops and iPods that they’re plugging in and playing from, and the only “station” music they’re playing is they’re required four songs from the official new music section every hour.
So why listen to KUMM? Why be a DJ on KUMM? Do we really care about upping our wattage so that people in Glenwood (and maybe Alexandria on a good day) can here us? Or is our real market in on-line broadcasting and (if we could sort out the permissions) podcasting specialty programs? My sense is that if we have a future, it’s online, but it’s unclear exactly what form that will take.