Funding your college radio station

Funding your college radio stationWe have been running the IBS Student Radio Network for years now and have over 40 stations as members. One question we often ask our schools is how are you funding your college radio station? As you all know every school is a bit different and that impacts how the stations are funded, organized and how they operate.  Let me provide you with a high level overview of how schools are getting their funding.  I will also provide a preview of things we are investigating to help with the broader funding effort.
Student Government – The school has a number of clubs and provides the student government a budget to operate the clubs.  Depending upon interest, budget and drive of the students they generate the necessary interest to get their share of the student government budget.  The stations at Goucher College, Long Island University and Babson are funded in this manner.
Communications/Journalism Department – The school has one or both of these departments and offer majors in these subjects and other closely associated fields.  What we are starting to see is a move toward consolidated “media” departments that encompass the student newspaper, its radio station and where they have a program “television”.  The trend we are seeing is a move to transition the “Communications” department at some schools to become the “Journalism” department providing more focus on the research and reporting aspect of communications and the associated skill required.  This is reflected in what is happening out in the commercial world.  The stations at Franklin & Marshall, Lehman CollegeTowson, Oklahoma State and Simmons College are organized in this manner.
Underwriting/Commercials – Some schools augment their budgets with underwriting and commercials.  Traditionally if the school ran a terrestrial radio station they were non-commercial.  As such they were required to comply with FCC regulations on what it means to be a non-commercial radio station.  These stations took underwriting spots instead.  While Internet radio does not have the same restrictions most stations are operating as if they were FCC non-commercial regulated because it is good training for the students.  Oklahoma State University takes underwriting spots from the local pizza parlor and a few other sponsors.
Other – One of the schools we had worked with runs a radio station and a record label.  The radio station is used to promote the music of the record label and vice versa.  The school offers programs in both to help the students gain valuable experience in their desired fields.
We are investigating how to help schools with some of the above efforts and other synergies they may have within the school and elsewhere.  Our fundamental view is that the stream belongs to the school, our efforts are intended support the station in how they would like to operate.  Anything we do will be opt-in by the school/station.
Underwriting/Commercials – While many of the schools would like to fund their efforts through underwriting they may not be set up this way.  Some have asked Backbone to provide underwriting spots for them.  At the network level this is easier but it also needs to have significant local flavor and buy in from the school.  For example, a school would like to opt-out of ads that do not align with the mission of the school. 
Other schools would like all fund raising to go through the development department.  Others are looking to align their suppliers with their externally focused efforts.  For example, the cafeteria has all Coca-Cola products, they would like to make sure they run Coca-Cola underwriting spots on their station and not plugs for their competitors.
Local Events – Many schools have a community service requirement for their students.  We are investigating ways to help the radio station work with local events as a means of community service and outreach.  For example, a number of our schools have broadcast the Jamaica Plain Music Fest.  Local stations can broadcast the event and promote the causes of the community.  Additionally, the event sponsors may want to underwrite spots on the local stations.
Departmental Synergies – Some schools have significant athletic department budgets and their teams are a source of great school spirit and pride.  Backbone Radio enables the broadcast of remote events quite easily.  We are looking for schools that want to work with their athletic departments to broadcast their games, i.e. Lacrosse, Field Hockey, Basketball, etc.  This fosters cross department cooperation and additional experience for the students at the radio station.  Like the underwriting listed above we are looking to work with schools on these efforts.  Additionally, schools that do broadcast their sporting events command a premium for spots on that type of programming and may be able to get some of their funding from the athletic department.
Other – There are some Internet oriented crowd sourced funding efforts that are cropping up.  We are looking for ways to help enable these at the network and station level.
We will continue to look beyond our place as a service supplier to help stations address the opportunities available to them in broadcast.  College radio is a great place to learn and experiment with different operational models.  We are looking for ways to partner with our stations in these experiments. Leave your thoughts on what you think of some of these efforts or other opportunities where we can help.  We look forward to making college radio a vibrant, creative place to listen.

See Live Internet Radio Broadcasts from Las Vegas — NAB, BEA and the RAIN Summit

It’s another glorious April, and that means the broadcast world flocks to Las Vegas, where the National Association of Broadcasters event also attracts a cluster of affiliated conferences, and Backbone figures prominently in several of them.

On Sunday April 7, Backbone and TuneIn will team to broadcast the live proceedings of the Internet Radio industry’s most prominent event, the RAIN Summit (Radio and Internet Newsletter) from the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.  Speakers and panelists include representatives from Pandora, ESPN, TuneIn, SoundExchange and many more.

Starting on Monday, Backbone will be actively recruiting new college (and high school) radio stations to join the expanding IBS Student Radio Network by Backbone.  Please stop by to visit our exhibit booth at the Broadcast Education Association’s BEA2013 Conference, also in the Las Vegas Hotel (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton).  We’ll show you how schools are taking their stations on the road for live events, using only a Mac and a mic.

And of course, NAB is the most exciting draw in the broadcast world, so we hope to see you there, too.

Tools for DJs – Spinitron, playlist management for Internet radio

Spinitron LogoWe are always looking for ways to help our radio stations operate more effectively and efficiently. We have recently come across a great tool to help DJs with a lot of their day to day efforts, Spinitron. Eva and Tom have put together a great solution. Let me tell you a bit more about what it does.

Spinitron is an online playlist management solution for non-commercial educational and community radio stations. It is all web based; there is no software to install. It provides sophisticated features for playlist data entry (manual & automated) and dynamic online publishing. It solves your data storage, archiving and security issues. You can integrate station schedule, current and historical playlists, as well as other custom elements, into your web site. You can put “Now Playing” on your home page, webcast stream, mobile apps, RDS and others.

With an advanced database design, Spinitron offers powerful data manipulation and analysis features. Compile Top-30 charts (or however many you like) with filtering by genre, time period, etc. Generate unlimited reports for CMJ, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange. Track the popularity of artists, disks and songs. Query how often certain disks get played. Produce reports of what DJs at the station are playing to give to record companies and promotional agencies. Stay connected with your listeners.

Watch for other interesting developments as we start working together with them on a few projects.  Discover Spinitron with a 30-day no-obligation free trial. Contact: Eva Papp at eva@spinitron.com or 617-233-3115 to learn more.

Emmanuel Goes Mobile With Internet Radio Broadcasting

HigherEdTechDecisionsWe often write on our blog about how our stations are using or service to reach their audience. This time HigherEdTechDecisions did that for us. Their lead article today is on Emmanuel College ECRadio.

It is a great summary of what Emmanuel College radio is doing and how easy it is for them to operate a station and perform live remotes.

IBS Student Radio Network Election Coverage . . .

Be sure to tune into Fisk and Simmons College radio for their perspective on the election.

Fisk University WFSK logo88.1FM WFSK Presents:  Live Election Night Coverage of local, statewide & national races beginning right after the polls close at 7pm.  Co-Anchored by Sharon Kay and Ron Wynn, WFSK will present on the ground perspective from key battleground states such as Ohio, Wisconsin & Virginia.

Hear the excitement as the returns come in from around Tennessee and other states.  WFSK hopes you get a chance to tune in during the course of this historic election coverage.  They stream at www.wfskfm.org or on Dar.fm or TuneIn.

Simmons College will be covering the election also but with a bit more of a slant toward Massachusetts politics because there school is not far from Romney headquarters.  The stream at Simmons College Radio or on Dar.fm and TuneIn.

IBS Student Radio Network stays on the air, Sandy has no impact

Sandy SwirlWhile hurricane Sandy has come and gone its impact is still being felt all of our stations stayed up and on the air.  A good number of our college radio stations had school canceled and did not have access to their studios but they all remained on the air.  This is enabled by the cloud based design and architecture of Backbone Radio and provides two major benefits.

The first is that your station is always available in the cloud.  Your station is not running the servers, we are.  And we have designed them to stay up and operational virtually all the time. When there have been outages in the past they are quite small and are often handled without the station’s intervention.

The second is that your studio is mobile.  A few of our stations did not have access to their studios so could not broadcast live.  If they planned ahead they could have broadcast live from anywhere there was an Internet connection.

Tres Wiggins, Marymount Manhattan: “We were on the air live when we could get an internet connection– but ran on backbone automation otherwise throughout, and working on post-storm coverage now”

Let’s hope the clean up goes well for all of those impacted.  With our stations continually on the air they will be out there to bring you updates.

Broadcasting from the CMJ Pirate! Ship at Fontana’s today

CMJ started yesterday in New York.  As part of the broader CMJ Music Marathon Pirate! Promotionswill be broadcasting from Fontana’s today.  Tune in for live segments on Long Island University, Brooklyn (WLIU-BK), Griffin Radio from Marymount Manhattan and WFDU Fairleigh Dickinsonstreams between 12:00PM and 6:00PM.

PirateParty CMJ 2012While we are on the topic of CMJ, for those of you that don’t know, CMJ connects music fans and music industry professionals with the best in new music through live events (like today’s event and Fontana’s and others throughout the city), interactive media and print.  CMJ.com offers a digital music discovery service, information resources and community to new music fans, professionals and artists.  CMJ Events produces the legendary CMJ Music Marathon, the largest and longest-running music industry event of its kind, in addition to live events and tours across the US.

If you are in the area please stop in to hear some great bands and connect with your friends. For more information read the recent article Board the CMJ “Pirate!” Ship on the Daily Rind, RSVP on the event facebook page but whatever you do, come on down.

College Radio Has a Reason to Thrive…Let’s Work on How

Keene State College logoI saw an interesting post on PolicyMic recently by Adam Hogue, where he relates his transition from a college radio broadcaster at Keene State to becoming an NPR listener, like his (egad) father, and the general decline of Radio from its golden era. What jumped off the page to me were his views about how the future of radio seems to be college radio, because it best serves today’s youth.   Here are some of the verbatim nuggets that appealed to me:

  • All around America, there are stations that people take regional pride in. Most of these stations turn out to be college radio stations.
  • The radio is communication. It is part of our communities, and as long as it continues to evolve with the communities, it will not die.
  • College radio should be the local voice of local youth. While radio is rapidly losing the young listeners demographic (people ages 12 to 24), I believe that it is the job of college radio to be the community alternative for young people.
  • College stations need to be out there in the community and they need to stay relevant with their fan-base in order to grow. Young people have time to listen if they are given a reason to.
  • People should be able to listen to programs from anywhere and enjoy them.  Today, radio has the power to be anywhere; it is no longer confined to a frequency alone.
  • Radio stations need to play music, no matter what the music is, and have local personalities that bring people in and keep them loyal…radio should be a way to learn about new music or just listen to what people have to say about it.
  • It helps that most college radio stations receive a solid amount of money from the school.… A problem occurs when the school sees radio as outdated or too costly, and the station is sold off to a community.

As I see it, this short list distills down to three main points we need to focus on in order to escape the death spiral that’s enveloping Commercial Radio.  Our College Radio stations (IBS Student Radio Network stations and others) need to:

  • Create compelling content to attract and hold onto loyal, repeat listeners,
  • Become an active participant in the community, no matter where your listeners are tuning in from, and
  • Become monetarily self-sufficient to keep from becoming a burden on their schools’ budgets.

We’re going to need some time to look at each of these points and create a plan of attack. There are other necessary improvement points, to be sure, and I’d like your input on those, as well.

I would like to invite comments, emails and blog posts from interested station managers and faculty advisors.  I think it’s time we put our collective network heads together and establish an action plan with some guidelines for how we might go about making these improvements.

IBS Student Radio Network underwriting opportunities

IBS LogoOver the years many of the members of the IBS Student Radio Network have asked about finding sponsors and underwriters for their shows, segments and stations.  This week we are launching a pilot program to work with some of the schools in finding underwriters and sponsors.

In the last year our stations have taken well over 1M listener connections.  As the school year progressed the audience engagement increased by over 50% as measured by the average length of a listener session.  Clearly the efforts of the schools to promote their stations and streams is making an impact.

Building off the success of the live events Backbone helped to power over the summer, from the HOT 97 Summer Jam in New York, to the Outside Lands in San Francisco to the recently concluded Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, we will start this year off with a bang by broadcasting the Jamaica Plain Music Fest on the Simmons and Emmanuel College station streams.  These streams are available in the TuneIn tuner.  For this weekend they will be at the top of the college radio section as a sponsored link.

The college demographic is clearly a target that sponsors and underwriters would like to reach.  What better way than through the campus taste makers of the college radio stations.  If you are interested in being a sponsor or underwriter please contact us at underwriting@studentradionetwork.org.

Radio Dying? Not on your life.

Skull Headphones CigaretteHow many times have you heard it: “Adapt or die”?  It sounds heartless, yet it poses the essential question of radio’s survival.  Is radio dying?  Nope, but it is going somewhere else, and not by itself.

Take the recurring news of disappearing stations, like this post from the Dialy Iowan, College Radio Fights for Recognition, Funding.  To summarize the article, it provides some color about what is happening at many campuses — funding is being cut for the radio station or that the school is selling off its terrestrial radio frequency. In these economic times, it must be difficult for an administration to pass up millions of dollars for an FM station that continues to be worth less as Internet radio starts to become dominant.

So, that raises the question of whether a school that agrees to sell off its terrestrial radio signal can actually support a broadcast journalism program. Well, it’s not only schools. All media are facing similar challenges and looking for the best ways to respond.

Throughout the industry, you can see signs of a growing creative trend: integrated media.  For example, one of our newest member schools, Lehman College, has integrated its Internet radio station presence into its online newspaper, the Bronx Journal.  Media integration such as this was a persistent theme we heard at the CMA conference in New York last month.

We are also seeing mixed modalities in the mainstream media.  None other than the esteemed Wall Street Journal has integrated video into its site.  The Boston Globe has its Globe 10.0 video.  Sports radio powerhouse WEEI in Boston now has both an online presence and video on its site.

We first wrote about this in our white paper, The New Breed of College (and High School) Internet Radio-Surviving the Dinosaur.  It is more apparent now.  Journalism isn’t dying, either.  It is transitioning to a new paradigm as radio becomes a big part of it.  With evolving convergence occurring on the Internet, a college, university or high school can reach a much larger audience than it has in the past, using a truly integrated media strategy.  It is the path to the future.  Embrace it.