Get Smart about community radio

by DGO Web Administrator

Spotify is fine, but before some algorithm was telling you what to like, a DJ was spinning your favorite songs and playing you new ones. Let Jon Lynch, program director at KDUR, tell you why that’s still important.

How has the internet changed music and radio?Oh, it’s changed everything. The way people digest music is completely different than it was for me. For most people now, it’s about a single … the fact that you can walk around with a hand computer and have access to anything you want to hear at any given time drastically changes the way people take it in. It doesn’t mean that they have to sit through Side A to get to the song they want. They just go straight to it. I heard someone say that’s what made the CD so popular. It’s not that it was a flashy new medium, it’s that you can skip the shit you don’t want to hear.

Have you changed tack as a radio station to pander to that attention?There’s truth to the idea that it’s mostly people hunting out those individual singles, but something that’s really great about KDUR specifically is that our DJs and our listeners are very well versed and they have that commonality that they care more about the obscure, left-of-the-dial, more challenging sorts of musics, and they don’t—well, one of the things we say at KDUR is that for a long time, college radio was the tastemaker. I think that in our community, as far as music and being ahead of the curve, KDUR still does that. That’s in large part to having the infusion of youth, and people who are knowledgeable working in the various departments – people who really know their music.

So there’s a quiz for new KDUR DJs? “Name the title of track 6 on ‘Ziggy Stardust’”?To put it exceptionally simply, with respect to KDUR, when approaching your radio show we just ask that [question]. Because it’s a free-form radio station, so we don’t tell anybody what to play, with the single caveat that if I can hear it on commercial radio or even maybe other radio stations, we try not to play that. And I think a lot of people who are involved in community and free-form radio understand that. They understand that the people who are tuning into KDUR don’t want to hear the same seven to nine Beatles songs out of their massive 100-song catalog. They want a deeper cut on the B-side of the record. We have an open DJ meeting three times a year, where anyone can come up and propose a type of show and we explain to them at the onset what KDUR is, how it fits into the strata of radio, especially in 2016, and we try to let them run with it with the basic principles and understandings outlined.

Why’s radio still necessary?It’s locality. It connects the community. It is the community. It’s your friends and neighbors, your servers, your professors who are curating the music that’s being put out over our airwaves, and I think that’s grounding and entertaining and you find out what people are into and what they like and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Tell us about making a set list.There’s something to putting together a killer set, especially when you’re doing it live on the radio. Listening to tone and rhythm, cadence, paying attention to dynamics, degrees of soft and loud, and either disrupting those or moving with them, it takes a certain amount of knowing what you want to do and then not worrying about it if it doesn’t go exactly the right way. ’Cause you might have 3:14 until you’re next track is up. My approach is kind of an outline. In a two-hour radio show, you’re going to play somewhere between 30 to 40 tracks. I like to have a basic outline of some things I’d like to play and then go with it if I think, “Oh, you know what’d sound good after this?” and then play a random J. Mascis song. It’s listening and deciding where to go next – not overthinking it. But that’s what works for me.

Do DJ’s ever find themselves with 10 seconds left and no next song queued?Oh, I’ve been that DJ. A phone call comes in, you get distracted – I’ve totally been that DJ. You just hope for the best, I guess. DJ’s have their go-to’s of artists, tracks; but I think the approach isn’t – I mean, it isn’t the end of all things if you play Track 6 instead of Track 7. That’s what’s great about live radio. Sometimes those mistakes happen and it might be a great mistake. It might be the mistake that could lead you on a different trajectory for your show.

What’s most satisfying about being at KDUR?Honestly? Truly loving the job. That is the most satisfying thing. I don’t think most people love the work they do, [or] the profession they’re in. It’s a means to an end for many. Whatever work one does rarely is something they’re passionate for, sadly. I’m fortunate enough to genuinely love and believe in the institution I work for. We’ve got an amazing staff, ridiculously devoted and talented DJs and community support that’s genuine. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for KDUR, I wouldn’t still be in Durango.

Cyle Talley thinks it’s gettin’ weird out there – Trump is the GOP nominee and the Cubs have the best record in baseball. If there’s something you’d like to Get Smart about, email him at: [email protected]


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