Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bright Ideas for Memphis: College Radio

Posted on Wed, Jun 11, 2008 at 4:00 AM

For the Flyer's "Bright Ideas" issue, we asked nine Memphians this question: If you were given carte blanche to make whatever changes in Memphis you thought were needed, what would you do?

First up is local blogger and Internet radio host Rachel Hurley, who has a thought or two on college radio.

"WUMR 91.7 FM is the radio station run by the University of Memphis. At present, it has an all-jazz format. I may be going out on a limb here, but I have doubts that the station is very popular among the school's students.

"If I had the power, I would change WUMR to a station with a more eclectic format. I would keep some of the programming but would update the majority of it to music genres more popular with the school's student demographic.

I've been told time and time again that the lack of a college radio station with any kind of finger on the pulse of the local or national independent music scene hinders us, not only in bringing acts to the area (college radio playlists are often used to forecast the popularity of musicians before they book their tour), but it leaves the entire region to be influenced only by the bland, uninspiring, over-programmed corporate radio that crowds our dials now. Shouldn't we expect a little bit more from our university station?

"This city screams to the world at every opportunity that we are the 'birthplace of rock-and-roll' and 'home of the blues,' but it rarely works toward instilling the pride that should come along with that into its own citizens.

"Maybe our student population is a good place to start. Every time I come across a Daily Helmsman (the U of M's student newspaper), I see 18 stories about the Tigers, but rarely do I see three words written about any type of music going on in Memphis. The median age of the people I come into contact with at local rock shows is 30. The 18- to 24-year-olds who should be filling these shows seem to be uninformed about the great venues and local talent that flood this city.

"There was a study released not too long ago that revealed three major growth markets in Memphis. One was distribution, another was biotech, and the last was music.

"A well-programmed, well-connected station run by students with a passion for our homegrown music could have an exponential effect. When it comes to the business of music in our fair city, Memphis needs to go back to school. "

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