Hearing Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” five times within the same hour on KIIS FM has driven me to the brink of insanity on numerous occasions. Thankfully, there’s an alternative to normal FM radio in the form of UCLAradio.com. Despite being accessible only online, the station used to garner listeners in the hundreds. Unfortunately, that number has dropped to less than 10 listeners at a time in recent years.
When I started looking into UCLAradio.com’s dismal state, I began with the premise that it must be the university’s fault, that it must have been a lack of funding or some other form of administrative neglect. I’ve now come to a much different conclusion. Despite the high quality of programming that UCLAradio.com puts on, it’s all for naught if it does a dismal job advertising itself, and a dismal job it most certainly does.
UCLAradio.com needs to get its act together.
The station costs $10,000 to run and brings in no returns to the university Â”“ essentially a black hole in Student Media. To justify those costs, UClAradio.com must increase its audience size.
As one of the most important academic institutions in the world, UCLA’s radio station ought to have, at the bare minimum, hundreds of listeners each day.
Though there are no shortage of musical events at UCLA, having a competent radio station would complete the package and bring us in line with UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine, which all have thriving stations, in large part because they have FM frequencies.
Music is an incredibly powerful form of expression. Hearing live studio performances, rare tracks off hard-to-get albums and the soothing voice of a DJ-in-training are just some of the perks to listening to UCLAradio.com.
It’s for this reason that I urge UCLA students to tune in. Every genre of music imaginable, including some you may have never heard of, are represented and DJed by those that know them best.
Admittedly, the lack of an FM frequency is debilitating. To fix that problem, Arvli Ward, director of Student Media said that Student Media and UCLAradio.com are looking into a mobile application that will allow students with smart-phones to listen in on the go. Such an application would do much to alleviate the problems caused by the lack of a radio frequency.
Since the application may take years to develop and money Student Media doesn’t have, advertising will have to take on the burden of getting people to tune in. The endemic problem of students being disinterested in online radio won’t be solved, but the wounds won’t be as egregious if advertising gets in gear.
“There have been competent radio marketing managers in the past who began to turn the corner on public awareness,” said Ward.
There’s no reason that UCLAradio.com couldn’t see a return to hundreds of daily listeners. It will require a committed effort from every staff member to flier on Bruin Walk, host events, contests, raffles and make tuning in worth it ““ just as real radio stations do. The radio staff has done this in the past, but it clearly hasn’t been enough in the present.
One of the perks of being on UCLAradio.com, according to Vanessa Herandez, director of fundraising, is free tickets to concerts.
UCLAradio.com has raffled off these tickets before, but it needs to make sure students actually tune in when free things are given away. That UCLAradio.com doesn’t have a presence on Bruin Walk this week, when new students pay the most attention, is inexcusable.
“We’re doing what we can with the resources we have, but I admit we could be doing more,” said Hernandez, a fourth-year global studies student.
UCLAradio.com has been on the cutting block for the last couple of years, along with other Student Media productions. On the one hand, Ward must defend the admittedly small amount of funds and resources allocated to UCLAradio.com to those passionate about college radio, and on the other hand must defend UCLAradio.com’s existence to the ASUCLA Communications Board, which oversees Student Media.
For Ward, it’s hard to justify paying for radio when even the Daily Bruin ““ which supplies Student Media with 80 percent of its operating budget from print ads ““ is struggling to make ends meet.
And considering that Student Media’s raison d’etre is to inform and supply students with news, it would not be entirely surprising to see radio cut sometime in the future.
If the music lovers at UCLAradio.com and students in general don’t want to lose their distinctive college radio voice, students will need to start tuning in and radio will have to give them a decent reason to do so.