With the new fall season here or quickly approaching for everyone in college radio, it’s strange to think back and realize that we aren’t far removed from those days ourselves. As the radio department here continues to expand and connect with new music directors – maybe you’re one of them! – the ways we got into the business of promoting music to radio might seem mysterious. And with my own time in college radio still clear in my mind, I asked the radio team here to share their stories about how they got started on the paths that took each of us from being music fans to being music professionals.
One common thread runs through these stories: we all needed somewhere to express how much we loved music, to the point that it was among our top priorities in life. I asked everyone to limit their anecdotes to one or two paragraphs, but as you’ll notice, some ran way past that mark. And that’s just emblematic of the passion we all have about what we’re doing, and how we couldn’t forget where we came from if we tried. We don’t just promote to college and non-commercial radio stations; we support them with all we’ve got, because they were there for us.
Click each of our names to jump to our bios, or just keep reading!
I got into radio for the same reason everyone does – to get chicks. Seriously, I felt a connection to radio ever since I started listening to music that wasn’t what my parents played. Music was more than just a pastime; it was a constant in my life. In high school, turning my friends and classmates on to music I’d heard was as big of a rush as scoring a goal playing soccer was. I remember getting the tour of the college I eventually went to and surprising the fratty tour guide when I asked him to stop by the radio station, WDNR. Upon walking in and seeing the studio and its huge library of records and CDs, I knew that I would wind up there.
My first night at the school, I found the frequency and listened, excited as I heard metal music that I hadn’t been heard on Philly airwaves for years (a metal show eventually launched on WMMR later that year). Myself and my roommate, who I’d gone to high school with, called to request some music, told the DJ we were new on campus, and that we intended to join the station. The DJ invited us over to the station that night, and I essentially never left, becoming metal director six months later, then program director a few years later. I didn’t need to play sports or join a fraternity to find a sense of belonging. I found it at my college radio station, which indirectly led me here to The Syndicate.
I fell into radio largely by accident and, of course, because of those damned slippery LPs. Coming to Rutgers University, I put myself in a position where I had to meet new people to make friends, which bit me in the ass. So, out of desperation for human contact and an already-hot passion for the music I liked at the time, I went to my first general radio meeting with seven friends from my freshman dorm who were in the same social boat. Through rain, sleet and two bus connections on a weeknight (uphill, both ways), I got through the six week training stint.
My station at the time was changing its format from “Shit Anyone Likes to Play” to a stricter indie format with no major commercial artists allowed, which forced me to abandon my ska and classic rock tastes for more evolved stuff comprised of bands my friends and roommates turned me onto, a healthy helping of indie rock, and lots of local music in New Brunswick. At that time, I was also being (unknowingly) groomed for the position of General Manager after I did actual work in the nearly forgotten position of Underwriting Director at my station. It finally happened, and I plunged into real responsibility up to my neck. The rest is probably in some disorganized box of history crammed in a corner of a mail bin.
The first song I ever introduced on the radio was “Give My Regards to Broadway.” No, really.
I fell backwards into radio one day my junior year of high school. I was hanging around after school on a Friday, waiting to be done with my drama rehearsal when my friend Jordan ran up to me and asked if I had some free time that night – her co-host was sick you see, and she was looking for some company on-air. I thought the girl was crazy, and I had no idea what she was talking about until she explained that she was a part of our high school’s radio station and played Broadway music every Friday night. I thought it sounded pretty cool, and at 16, I was pretty knowledgeable about B’way jams (yeah, that’s right, I’m admitting that) so I agreed. And I agreed to help out next week, and the week after that… next thing I knew, I was a co-host on “Broadway Bound,” which became the #1-rated Friday night radio show on Long Island for almost two years.
Lucky for me, besides having a station right on my high school campus, you were able to take a class on it, too! My senior year of high school brought me a morning show and the dubious honor of being the pseudo-student station manager. Although Sachem High School Radio, aka WSHR, is not a CMJ subscriber, I got super-involved in programming the music that we played in automation and tried to learn as much as I could about the FCC and all of its long-ass rules. By the time I graduated high school, I had changed my intended major of music education/theatre to radio/audio production, and I hauled myself nine hours away to one of the only SUNY schools in New York that offered that major, SUNY Fredonia.
Though my major jumped around while attending Fredonia and my focus became more of the music industry itself, I still lurked around Fredonia Radio Systems, home of WCVF 88.9 and WDVL, our Top 40 internet station. After staying mostly behind the scenes my first two years, I jumped at the chance to become Assistant Music Director at WCVF and quickly got educated on CMJ and all of its workings. I fell in love with the way college radio was run, the people it introduced me to, and the hundred of artists I got to listen to each week. I funded my own trips to CMJ for two years, got together a music reviewing team, played many games of Hot Bagel, and decided I never wanted to truly leave the world of radio.
After a summer as interim-GM at FRS, I graduated in August of 2010 and moved back home to Long Island to get myself one more internship – this one, I thought, would definitely be the last. With a plan to end up on the label side of things, I found myself working at Photo Finish Records and totally missing the radio world. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I started hitting up my old high school station to come DJ on weekends, word came my way that The Syndicate was looking for a part-time radio employee…and I jumped on it. A few chats and trips to New Jersey later, and here I am! I’m not even a year-old employee here at The Syn, but I feel like it’s exactly where I belong right now.
So – yeah. I know what it’s like to be swamped with a hundred CDs in a week, while balancing a full course load and 70 bajillion activities. Oh, and a personal life. I know how you feel about radio – I bet we feel that same passion. And I definitely know what it’s like to have an album handed to you by a promoter, and fall in love with it on first listen. And let me tell you, I love the fact that now, I get to be that promoter. I’ve had a long love affair with independent radio so far, and I’m damn proud of it – and I’m even more proud that I get to work alongside people who feel the same way. What up, The Syndicate!
Wait, I should probably include my own story too, right? I can trace it all back to being 13 and lying on my bed with headphones plugged into a boom box, straining to hear rock stations from the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore markets two hours east of me. But even though that was an awesome thing to have at the time, I knew there was a lot of music out there that commercial radio had to be hiding from me. So three years later, I was a junior in high school and inadvertently tuned the radio in my parents’ car to WSHC at nearby Shepherd University. I’ll never forget what happened next.
The DJ was talking up the music he wanted to play, and I realized that everything he was doing flew in the face of what commercial radio was about. He identified WSHC as “the greater variety” without a hint of smugness in his voice, and then, before I could even wrap my head around that, he blew my mind by playing Sonic Youth’s “Mary-Christ.” I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of college radio, the purest place for music I’d ever found. I had never heard the band or anything of that intensity before, and it shocked me into digging up as much punk and metal as I could get my hands on. I entered college knowing that I had to get into radio, and although I didn’t join WWVU until my third year due to my hesitance toward signing on for a night shift, I eventually tossed that aside once I realized my music fandom needed somewhere to vent if I was ever going to be a functioning member of society. I ended up practically living there, spinning everything from indie rock to blues and jazz while giving up a lot of Friday nights out to be a regular DJ on the metal show. I’d ultimately become WWVU’s program director, and its graduate assistant, and its interim metal director before a trip to CMJ in 2009 convinced me to move to Brooklyn and pursue work in the music industry. I can’t imagine what I would have done without college radio there to help set my focus, and I definitely know I wouldn’t have learned as much about myself or had anywhere close to as much fun.
I guess you could say I either took a back door or fell backwards into working in the music industry. I always admired the idea of college radio, and while I grew up on commercial radio, I eventually found myself migrating towards the “left of the dial” as I grew older and became more involved with the D.I.Y. music scene. I totally adored WKDU – they were the only station playing punk rock and ska like Saves The Day and Mustard Plug. I also equally loved Y100 (WPLY), which was the radio station that introduced me to Weezer at an early age.
When I was in college at Rowan University in Glassboro, my academic advisor brought to my attention the possibility of getting an internship at a radio station. I was never involved with their station, WGLS, mostly because I was a commuter who worked 30 hours a week at Starbucks, so I could never split the difference with a night slot radio show. Everything during the day was news and classic rock, which was far from being up my alleyway. As luck would have it though, I landed an internship through my advisor, who DJs every Sunday morning on WXPN in Philadelphia. They’re an amazing radio station – a AAA/Non-Comm, member supported, and totally into new music. I was blown away that such things existed, because by this time in my life, I wasn’t listening to the radio at all. I was studying film, playing in punk bands, and listening to records.
I interned on their radio program World Café with David Dye, a wonderful interview show that’s syndicated through NPR. There, I was able to help engineer sessions with amazing bands and artists while getting to take a crack at audio production. It was an eye-opening experience. My first week there, I got to record Sonic Youth and T-Bone Burnett.
It was around this time that WXPN had acquired a new on-air personality, Jim McGuinn of Y100 fame (and many other great stations) as their new PM drive time host. With him, he brought his bedroom bunker operation Y100 Rocks – which was an online streaming version of his former radio station that had flipped to urban top 40 programming months prior. They renamed it Y-Rock, and gave them a home on WXPN’s new HD-2 radio signal. Jim and I had bonded almost immediately over such bands as Teenage Fanclub, Archers of Loaf, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – and it wasn’t long before I had my first ever DJ gig. It was a blast. Fast forward 3 years, and my 3-month internship had completely outgrown itself into a full-blown volunteer position. I loved the place too much to leave.
Then one day, during a radio session for a band called The Little Ones, I ended up meeting Jon Landman, owner of The Syndicate, and husband to a fellow Y-Rock DJ. We hit it off talking about indie rock bands, and ended up staying in touch. Then in December on ’09, I got the call that there was an opening in the company, and decided to pack my bags and move to North Jersey to work with The Syndicate. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back since. Nor have I forgotten my roots.
Hometown: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Station: KRUX 91.5, New Mexico State University
It all began with me being a wee youngin’ in the quiet little city of old Las Cruces, New Mexico. I always had a constant thirst for old and new indie music! I was always visiting local record stores and reading about artists, then going and seeking them out, and I never thought ever in my town that I could ever find a station playing the music I was reading about and looking for. Then one day while driving, I was surfing through the channels on the radio when, all of a sudden, I came across an anomaly of a station. I was hearing the most bizarre and pleasing things. I was like, “WHAT IS THIS STATION?!?” Out of curiosity I stayed tuned in, and before I knew it, all the music I had been reading about and looking for was playing, as well as things I’d never heard before. This was quite awesome. I had found my station! As time went on, this was my main go-to station, and I fell in love with it; only problem was, I really knew nothing about it. They played lots of awesome music, but I rarely heard anything that gave notice of the station’s ID! So, this station was pretty much a mystery. For a while, I thought that it was being blasted from the bedroom of some random dude with great musical taste. But I later found out through a good friend that it was our college radio station, and his brother actually worked there.
I had talked to my friend’s brother a couple times about music but never knew that he worked there. He later invited me to a couple shows and talked music with me; then the topic of if I’d ever thought about volunteering with the station came up. He told me a little about the duties that went into it, and I was like, “Where do I sign?” I went for it, and once in college, I made my way to becoming part of the station that played everything I loved. I began as a volunteer, first helping with the music, then as a DJ. Then the old music director’s time had come, and he said I should apply for the position. I went for it because the station was very important to me! A couple of weeks later, I found out that I was the station’s new music director and was very excited to get to work! As corny as this sounds, I vowed to keep the station true and awesome! I had a great time at my station, and I’m pretty sure that it will be one of the coolest jobs I will ever have.