Campus Alt Radio; Changing & Localizing

by Grace Goodman

When most people turn on the radio they flip on KLCC or KDUK — radio stations run out of Eugene. Why, with such a big rivalry between Corvallis and Eugene, are these the primary radio stations people are listening to. “I listen to KDUK everywhere I go. It’s on constantly. In my car, at Fred Meyer, everywhere. After a while listening to the same top 40 gets really boring.” Oregon State student Katie Robbins said.

Well what about KBVR? Corvallis’ own student run radio station.

KBVR is a small radio station that is going through a great transformation. “We’ve gone through a lot of changes in the past year. Change isn’t always easy and I’d say we’ve been experiencing some growing pains.  Jack Fraser (Program Director) and I spent a lot of time researching and visiting other college radio stations for fresh ideas. We saw a lot of room for improvement at KBVR and completely restructured it.  It was really difficult at first but we’re seeing really positive results now and our programming has definitely improved.” says Elizabeth Elder the KBVR Station Manager. Fraser agrees by stating that these are big changes that will be overall positive and last a long time.

The biggest change they are trying to make is gaining more recognition as a radio station. One of the biggest reasons KBVR doesn’t get the listening time it deserves is that quite simply most people don’t even know it exists. “KBVR hasn’t done the best job at promoting itself in recent years…. Being student run it can be exhausting trying to promote the station while balancing a full course load. That is definitely something we struggle with, but have been improving upon.” Elder says. They have been solving this problem through reaching out to the community more through both Facebook and word of mouth.

Both Elder and Fraser are ready to take this, among other challenges, head on. One of the station’s main goals in 2012 is to localize the station. KBVR has created a news team whose goal it is to bring attention to local events, people, and trends from Eugene to Portland, but with a obvious focus on Corvallis. Along with this comes their goal to continue and strengthen their collaborations with other Corvallis associations. This includes the Daily Barometer, which is the Oregon State newspaper. In a symbiotic relationship KBVR reads certain Barometer articles on the radio, while the newspaper advertises KBVR. By doing this they hope to increase their popularity on campus, and recruit both more DJs and listeners.

Obviously a major reason to why people listen to the radio is for the music. KBVR, unlike most other radio stations, is not set to a certain genre. KBVR is also ahead of the pack playing music that a lot of the time you wouldn’t be able to hear anywhere else. “We encourage a variety of genres, but our general rule of thumb is to avoid playing music that can be heard on other commercial radio stations.  We play a lot of alternative and up-and-coming bands that most people probably haven’t heard of.  That’s the cool thing about college radio.  In many ways we’re a way for the underdog to break through.” Elder states. DJs select what type of music they wish to play thorough a program proposal sheet issued at the beginning of each term. Although the school does not censor KBVR in any way, adult content music is only allowed to be played from 10pm-6am, also known as safe harbor hours. Another KBVR goal is to bring listeners the best new music first. “We follow College Music Journal (CMJ) charts to see what is trending in college radio and record labels send us early releases to promote albums.” Elder says.

Currently there are about 90 DJs working for KBVR and 40 different programs running weekly. Most KBVR shows are music based, but there are a few talk shows whose topics include dating advice to graduate research. The shows are self-named by the DJ, and a few DJs chose to co-host with a friend or other people around campus.

What comes with the show aspect of radio is just another way to improve the station “We improved the DJ training process using the best aspects from old documents and from other radio station’s processes. We’ve also created DJ volunteer hour requirements which has greatly improved the communication and interaction between DJs and KBVR FM staff.” says Fraser. To first become a DJ on KBVR, they set you up through an apprentice program giving you the best first hand experience. They pair you up with a current DJ with similar music taste and then after a few weeks you are prepared to have a show of your own.