Friday, March 13, 2009

The Signal's Source

By Alexander Cole

One of Rutgers University’s two radio stations is 88.7 WRSU FM. While many people listen to the various programs available during various times of the day and week, most take the music itself for granted. What gets on air is picked during weekly music meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to decide what would go into the station’s music playlist from the new music that had been sent in all week. Open to anyone with an interest in radio or music, the meetings take place in the WRSU radio station on the fourth floor of the Rutgers Student Center.

Before the meeting last Sunday began, I spoke with Lisa Uber, the Music Director of the station. According to her, the music comes in the form of CDs or individual files that get mailed or e-mailed in to the station. “We get ‘em from promoters, record labels, and individuals,” says Uber. This music is gathered over the week and stored in bins based on what genre it is. Geoff Pape, Community and World Music director, commented, “The ones that don’t fall into Urban, Metal, or Radio 200 lists are left out of the meeting and go straight through me.”

When it came time for the music meeting, it all started with a call to the pizza place. Once the food arrived, the first CD was brought out and put into the CD player on a small desk. The air became one of tension and suspense as the eight people in attendance waited for the CD to play. As the first notes of the song floated through the air, all seriousness was shattered as someone loudly stated, “I’m already feeling pretty s***ty and this [song] isn’t helping any.” As everyone laughed, Zach Huff, a DJ on the radio show Oh, The Shenanigans, looked at me and asked, “You thought we were going to be that serious about a song?”

One might say the people who have the responsibility of selecting the music that gets aired to thousands of people weren’t doing a very good job, but this is the opposite of the truth. This is how it went for the rest of the meeting. Of the 100 CDs played, 62 wound up being added to the station’s playlist. In a later discussion Uber mentioned that the amount of CDs listened to that day was average compared to what comes in each week. Jared Migden, former Music Director for the station, told me that it is actually better for the people at the meeting to have a casual attitude.

The reasoning behind that is that the people at the meeting have to judge whether or not the music will actually get played by the DJs at the station. If they let CDs in randomly, Huff opined, they would quickly run out of room for them and might be left with artists that no DJ wants to use anyway. By acting as if they were choosing songs for their own personal collections, the DJs, officers, and attendees of the meeting act as a sample audience for the radio station. When asked why they would volunteer one to four hours of their time for such a cause, Huff’s response sums up the general feeling of those in attendance. He smiled and said, “First, to decide what I’m going to play during the week. I’m kind of a music snob. However, it’s cool to know that I’m deciding what others hear on their radios.”

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