Dial the Web for college radio

Tiny Cayuga Community College in upstate New York usually plays what WDWN station manager Jeff Szczesniak calls a mix of "melodic punk and hard core."

But when the Auburn Doubledays, a minor league baseball team, is on the road, so is WDWN - pumping away-game action around the world via its Web site. Listeners from as far away as El Paso, Texas, and Las Vegas tune in. The station has even been heard by a family in the far reaches of Brazil, Mr. Szczesniak says.

Sound like a stretch? Think again. From Keene State College in N.H. to the University of Washington in Seattle, scores of colleges are giving new artists exposure and spreading music globally in an increasingly fractured radio market.

"College radio continues to be the place for new and emerging artists to get their music played. Even more so now than ever before because of all the consolidation in the traditional commercial radio space," says Alex Ellerson the chief operating officer of College Media Journal. "You look at the market share that independent and unsigned artists have enjoyed in the entire marketplace and between about 1992 when it was around 10 percent; it's now pushing 25 percent. In aggregate, that's the largest market share."

With Congress approving legislation last month that curbs an opening of airwaves through the sale of low power FM spectrum, college stations chance of obtaining more wattage is now greatly reduced. Instead, they are looking to the Web to get their music heard.

Brendan Kredell, a junior station manager at Georgetown University, says their station, WGTB, will be launched on the Web this fall, partly because of the clogged radio market in Washington D.C. and lack of dial space in the area. Their current method of broadcast is leaky cable strung through dorms. This means someone standing with a Walkman outside their station can't pick up the signal.

Streaming on the Web is a good alternative, Mr. Kredell says, because the costs associated with purchasing more wattage can be prohibitive - anywhere from $5 to $20,000, depending on the equipment. But when he proposed buying more wattage to Georgetown's administration, they didn't hesitate, he says. "There's a feeling that obtaining a signal is not going to come around in a long time," he says. But for now, they will have to wait. Instead, Kredell is focusing on the Web.

Kredell says the Web allows colleges to shift from traditional radio. "The Web gives you a chance to control your own destiny," he says. "The cost of Webcasting is so much cheaper."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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