WCFM: What they won’t tell you on the air

I walked for the first time into what I’ve now come to consider the WCFM “tunnel” in Baxter basement without knowing what to expect. After passing a door so full of colorful stickers from various bands that I almost doubted the presence of the metal object itself, I reached the end of the tunnel. Crossing the threshold, I was welcomed by Michelle Shocked’s Graffiti Limbo into a room whose walls were literally lined with records. A simple white sticker on the door read, “WCFM: Fat Music for Thin Times.”

As if creating a studio out of storage space was not impressive enough, WCFM is now 140 DJs strong, which means they are broadcasting almost continuously. For General Manager Andy Kyle ’99, this is phenomenal.

“I was shocked that we started off the year with only five empty slots,” Kyle said, “That’s something I never even conceived could happen. To almost be running 24/7 in the first week of broadcasting blows my mind. It’s amazing.”

Broadcasting 24/7 means someone must be in the studio at 3:00 am on Tuesdays. Even Kyle is unsure what would be motivating that person to lose sleep in order to host his or her show.

“What wakes people up in the middle of the night to come down here?” Kyle asked. “I guess love of music is the only answer that can be possible.”

Many DJs see this love of music as an almost selfish force that makes them want to play their own music hoping that some people listening will gain an appreciation for their musical taste. James Kossuth ’98 said the music is often personal but being a DJ allows it to become a shared experience.

“It could be very selfish. I’m sitting here playing my music and you can listen if you want, but you don’t have to. But if you’re going to listen, you’re going to listen to what I want,” Kossuth said, “In that way, it’s personal because I’m playing what I want but it’s also a shared thing because hopefully there are other people out there who want similar things some of the time.”

Whether or not the DJ gets to share his or her music with others, the quantity of music available makes being a DJ rewarding, said Internal Music Director Porter McConnell ‘00.

“I can’t get over the fact that they’re getting music from so many different places,” McConnell said. “It’s nice to be able to go into the studio in your free time and pick up CDs to listen to. You can’t argue with that much music.”

With walls of music at their fingertips, the DJs are free to lose themselves for a couple of hours. For Kossuth, “Fat Music for Thin Times” embodies this way of life.

“I go down there and I really, really get into [the music]. I turn it up and zone out and ignore the rest of the world,” Kossuth said, “It’s a good time and a way to escape and ignore every thing else. It’s not the rock on which I built my church but it’s one of many supports.”

While the DJs themselves definitely benefit from their music, there seemed to be consensus among them that DJ-ing involves the desire to “inflict” their own musical taste upon the world and get other people to like it. External Music Director Erik Klemetti ‘99 explains that WCFM pulls away from mainstream music and sometimes the music it plays is considered an “infliction” upon its listeners. This struggle to find a niche away from the commercial radio world is important to WCFM’s goal of getting new music heard.

“There is a sense on this campus that sometimes what this college station is playing tends to be more painful for most people than pleasurable,” Klemetti said, “I think it’s good. It might be painful for some people but it also might introduce people to something that they haven’t heard before. I’d like to see the station as trying to educate people about that stuff they haven’t heard.”

Part of their quest to introduce more music to more people involves WCFM’s “new music” requirement. Every DJ is allowed to play what he or she wants as long as 25% of it comes off the “new music” stack and they conform to FCC rules. In this way WCFM is not only giving listeners the opportunity to hear “new music,” Kyle said, it also gives unknown bands a chance to be heard.

“Erik has scratched with a giant knife into the desk in his music office ‘WCFM is the best chance that some bands will ever get.,’” Kyle said, “Bands that really have no name to speak of but that play good music can point out to the Berkshires and say ‘hey, they’re playing it out there.’”

This desire to provide something for both listeners and bands that is different from what commercial radio is doing gives WCFM, according to Kossuth, an alternative, almost anti-authoritarian mood that has invited its own variety of opinions.

“It’s kids trying to be different and . . .in some ways it’s helpful. . .because mainstream normal stuff is just blasé, boring,” Kossuth said, “but there’s a fine line between ‘it sucks because it’s different’ and ‘it’s good because it’s different.’ We jump back and forth. If that’s the X axis, we’re a sin wave going across it.”

Although many listeners expressed concern that this “sin wave” is not “The Edge” they want to hear, the freedom it affords the DJs and the station itself is one of the best things about WCFM, Klemetti said.

“My favorite thing about CFM is the music that we get at the station and the fact that we can play it,” Klemetti said, “That’s an exceedingly rare thing in the college radio world these days. At commercial stations, there is so much politics involved that they don’t play a lot of the music that gets sent to them.”

Kyle also appreciates WCFM’s freedom from a staff that dictates programming. College radio, said Kyle, works both for the community and the DJs.

“We exist to provide a service to the community which comes in the form of providing something different than what’s out there from people who are trying to make money off of music,” Kyle said, “As general manager, I think of the station as being for the DJs. They are the main group that has to be satisfied in any decision we make. So the station is for the DJs and the DJs are for the listeners.”

Thanks to the web, WCFM’s listeners can now tune in from anywhere in the world. Real Audio allows people to listen to the station’s broadcasts through its web page. Personnel Director, Adam Schreiber ’99 looks forward to keeping up with WCFM through Real Audio even after he graduates.

“Thanks to Helena [Johnson], we’re broadcasting permanently on Real Audio which means anyone in the world with a computer and a Real Audio thing can tune in,” Schreiber said, “My parents can listen to my show now from Jersey. It’s a great feeling to know that when I graduate, I can keep listening.”

WCFM’s Real Audio site is located at http://record.williams.edu/realaudio/wcfm.ram

WCFM’s homepage is located at http://wso.williams.edu/orgs/WCFM