In 2002, WSUM 91.7 made their home in the Towers on State Street. Since then, they have grown in ways they never would have expected. The student-run station turns 15 this year and has much to celebrate.
In 2009, when the Student Activity Center was built, WSUM moved into the fourth floor, where they constructed the station to their liking.
Both Station Manager, Aleesa Kuznetsov, and Community Outreach Director, Chloe DeVries, talked about the growth they have experienced during their time at the station, most notably the amount of contributors and content quality.
“When I started, there were very few DJ’s, and the competition was much smaller. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past four years,” DeVries said.
In terms of on-air content, Kuznetsov said the quality of their shows has greatly increased.
“You wouldn’t be able to tell it’s ‘college radio’,” she said.
With a goal of providing alternative music content for University of Wisconsin students and the surrounding community areas, WSUM adequately works to create a “non-top 40” vibe for listeners.
“[Our] golden rule is that if you’re listening to us and you change the channel, it will never be the same thing,” DeVries said.
Considering each DJ has their own one hour time slot, they are enabled to personalize the music they play to their preferences and interests. Even with this flexibility, the content has been predominantly indie rock, but there are certain nights with certain genres, such as punk and jazz, DeVries said. Looking at the DJ schedule for the day can provide a better gauge of what genre is scheduled.
Kuznetsov also said another one of their goals is to give students a hands-on experience, giving them real life skills. Educating the public is also important, as well as being an outlet for the community.
WSUM is also in the process of creating a second stream to serve the hidden communities and music outlets of Madison. Not only would this provide a different track for listeners to tune into, but it would also allow for 100-150 more DJ’s to be on-air.
In addition to music, WSUM covers all Badger athletic events through broadcasts, talk shows and news. Some shows vary with topics of agriculture, environmental buzz, politics and cinema.
One current trend includes streaming live shows online through their website to tune in. Additional online content includes album reviews, concert and festival reviews and blogs for sports and news.
To celebrate and reflect on their 15 years of hard work and growth, WSUM is having a full weekend of birthday events:
Battle of the Bands
Starting Friday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m., the Battle of the Bands begins. For the past few weeks, community members and students have had the option to go online and vote for three out of seven local bands to go live and on-air. Each band will get to perform one song in front of a panel of judges, who will then evaluate their performances and choose a winner. Prizes will ensue. Watch out for this event — it will be streamed live on their Facebook page.
The second annual trivia competition will begin the next day at noon until 9 p.m., where anyone can register and submit answers to trivia questions asked on the air. This is a great opportunity for community members to answer “ungoogleable” questions throughout the day. The winning group will win half of the registration fees ($20 for students, $50 for non-students), which totaled around $400 last year.
On Sunday, WSUM Alumni return to takeover the station from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., where they will come back on-air to talk about how the station has changed and host their own show.
Lastly, all weekend from Friday at 5 p.m. until Sunday at midnight, there will be an online auction. With roughly 50 different items ranging from different activities and gift certificates, to restaurants around Madison, one item stands out in particular: the “Fuck It Bucket.” It’s a plain white bucket that “might have some stuff in it,” which is filled with various unknown items. This item generates a lot of bids, enough to be nominated as the “Best Giveaway Item” in the International Broadcaster Awards.
Students and community members are encouraged to tune in and get involved, or go on the website, www.wsum.org, for more information.