WVAU, the university’s student-run radio station available only via Web stream, has launched several new projects to expand its reach to the AU community.
A group of disc jockeys from the station recently launched an advertising campaign featuring posters proclaiming, “WVAU: We Exist.”
“We had been talking about promotion for a long time,” said Lindsay Zoladz, a DJ at WVAU who helped create the poster. “We just felt like nobody on campus really knew about us at all.”
Students seem to be responding well to the campaign.
“I knew it existed before, but now that the new ad campaign is out, I actually listen to it,” said Patty Nollet, a freshman in the Kogod School of Business.
The campaign’s simple plea for recognition seems to be working.
“The words in the campaign are funny,” said Dave Farber, a freshman in the School of Public Affiars. “The fact that it’s true is sad.”
Station manager Ed Davis said he wants the station to be more involved in the D.C. music scene, which it has not been for several years. There are plans to give the radio space to run its programming through the university cable. It had this capability in the past, but lost its broadcast space when the university switched around the channels last year, Davis said.
This year, the station changed formats and now runs four standard weekday shows, which include an eclectic, indie, hip-hop and “loud rock” presentation. The “loud rock” show includes metal, punk, hardcore and alternative. On weekends, the station runs specialty shows, including funk, electronica and world music. The genre-specific show format allows listeners to know what style of music they will hear based on what time they tune in, although the DJs change based on the day.
The station is also putting together a general concert that will hopefully expand into one concert per show per year for each of the station’s four standard shows, Davis said.
Student radio began at AU after World War II with WAMC. Shortly after, the station burned down. It then became WAMU, an AM station. A few years later the station got space on the FM airwaves in addition to its AM frequency. In the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, the AM and FM stations split. The AM station kept the name WAMU and split from student radio. The student FM station had a low-power AM transmitter but could not do much with it due to a lack of money, Davis said. WVAU in its current form came into existence sometime in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s after the college’s FM and low-power AM stations consolidated into WVAU, Davis said.
WAMU, the AM station, is still owned by the university but broadcasts professional NPR programming. Davis has talked to the station about using its old equipment at WVAU and hopes to have some of the DJs intern at WAMU.
When the station moved to its current home on the second floor of Mary Graydon in 2000, many of the station’s records, equipment and music collection were lost. Before the move, the station was “consistently one of the largest organizations on campus,” said Davis.
After the move, the station moved to a strictly Internet-streaming format for reasons Davis has been unable to pinpoint by looking through station records or talking with administrators. At that time, “streaming technology was becoming a big thing,” Davis said. A company called Nibblebox, which is now out of business, gave the station the technology in exchange for the station’s content. The company then ran the content and made money off advertising.
The Internet streaming format also allows the station to reach a wider audience. Due to the number of commercial stations and amount of government radio signals in the city, if the station did have an FM frequency, students would “maybe be able to hear it in the dorms,” Davis said. Having the Internet-only format allows the station to reach a broader audience outside the university.
“The first step is establishing a presence on campus,” Zoladz said. “The next is step is getting people to actually listen.”