WVAU revives the radio star online
Campus radio station WVAU has become one of the largest student groups on campus this year with live DJs playing tunes at nearly all hours over the station's Internet site and channel 30 on campus cable.
This year, the brains behind this successful radio operation are the team of General Manager Josh Pearlman and Programming Manager Smith Rodes. Each has been involved with WVAU since their freshmen years.
"I was a DJ my freshman year, and I just stuck with it because it was so much fun," Rodes, a junior in the School of Communication, said.
Pearlman, a senior in the School of Public Affairs, became involved through a work-study requirement.
"I thought work study at a college radio station would be easy and fun," he said.
Since the pair began with WVAU the media organization has exploded.
"We were a little shocked when we ran out of DJ forms at our first informational meeting," Rodes said.
The station currently has 84 DJs to fill the 62 slots - only three of which are open - of airtime for shows.
"This time last year we didn't even have half of the slots filled, and only 35 people turned up for the first meeting," Rodes said.
Rodes credits the unprecedented number of DJs in part to publicity a "blitz and putting posters up all over campus." She never expected to see the large turnout for the first DJ meeting, she said.
WVAU's budget has not increased with its popularity.
"We have had virtually the same budget for the past three years," confirmed Robert Spuhler, the former General Manager and a 2000 AU graduate.
Under Spuhler's direction, WVAU hit the Internet in the winter of 1999.
"Most of our listeners hear us on the Internet," Rodes said.
"Last year we even had a regular listener in Sidney [Australia]," Spuhler said.
Spuhler also procured broadcasting on channel 30 for the station. Further expansion is planned this year with Nibble Box, a college media syndicate that will pick up the best programs for national broadcasts.
Despite the limited budget, the station will be able to offer a few new incentives to listeners this year.
"We have scraped by for the last few years, but this year we finally have money to play with. We use it for things like concert tickets. Even if we can't get them for free, we can buy them now and give them away on the air," Pearlman said.
Publicity has been key to WVAU's growing success.
"I basically blitzed the whole campus," Rodes said.
Both students are passionate about their radio pastime. College radio is a good alternative to the mainstream selection, Pearlman said.
"All commercial radio is horrible, good bands don't get played or they get played too much," Pearlman said.
Although Pearlman plans to go into law, he enjoys WVAU and says that is why he is so dedicated to campus tunes. Rodes, too, stayed with the station for the pure pleasure.
"I just have so much fun doing this," she said.
Now that they have so many people working for them, Pearlman and Rodes plan towork on keeping the DJs they have this year through to next year. With a new station in development for the next academic year, they will need as many people with prior experience they can get, particularly since Pearlman and Rodes will be graduating.
According to Pearlman and Rodes, WVAU's concerns in years past have not been fully attended to by the administration, particularly in their earlier quest to broadcast over the airwaves. Since then, WVAU has refocused its efforts to become a strong Internet based station, giving up the immediate goal of traditional broadcasting. Pearlman said the staff of the station and the administration have been working together and gotten to know each other better.
"What's past is past," Pearlman said. "They're helping us out with the new station, and we haven't had any problems."
The station runs live except from 4 to 10 a.m., when prerecorded music is played, Pearlman said.
Both agree that their goal right now is reaching listeners. "People need to listen. It is as simple as good music and free stuff," Pearlman said.