The Man and the Music Behind College Radio Day

College Radio Day CD cover art P

In the spirit of Record Store Day, William Paterson University professor and station GM Rob Quicke recruited The Civil Wars, Blues Traveler, Delta Spirit and other bands to help a worthwhile cause: the "College Radio Defense Fund."

After watching The Social Network one night a couple of years ago, Rob Quicke awoke the next morning with a head full of ideas. “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was some kind of idea for college radio that could go viral?” thought the professor of communications and radio station GM at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

What materialized from this simple idea was College Radio Day, which he coordinated over Facebook with a panel from other college radio stations across the country. It was a united statement of brotherhood and support where the roughly 360 stations that participated could showcase their best work and play a segment recorded by Quicke on the value of college radio. But the potential was greater than just that.

For the second annual College Radio Day on Oct. 2, Quicke improved on last year’s efforts in many ways. For starters, the number of participants grew to 585 stations in 29 countries, simply through word-of-mouth and grass-roots coordination. But, perhaps more impressively, he and his online network of collaborators assembled a two-disc record splitting mostly unsigned bands’ recordings from college station studios and donated songs by signed artists including The Civil Wars, Blues Traveler and Delta Spirit to help the cause of college radio. “A Herculean task,” he called it.

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All proceeds from College Radio Day: The Album 2012, go to a “College Radio Defense Fund” Quicke has put together that will provide financial grants to college stations that need help with equipment costs, repairs, promotional events and whatever else it can to prevent stations from selling off their licenses -- as happened last year with the University of San Francisco’s KUSF, Vanderbilt University’s WRVU and Rice University’s KTRU. So far, he said, they have sold about 1,000 records online.

"We got some well-known artists, and this was an amazing thing how they realized this was an opportunity to be involved in an unprecedented album,” Quicke said. “In this day and age, when a lot of things are polished to perfection, college radio is rugged and scruffy and shambolic, but the one thing it is is passionate, and I hope that this album conveys that passion.

“What people have to realize is this: Week in and week out, artists are coming in to college radio and playing phenomenal stuff, stuff you may not know,” Quicke continued. “It’s alive and kicking. College radio is still very much a tastemaker, even in the age of the Internet and all that. … It’s the last place you can go to for free that’s going to blow your mind and stretch and challenge you -- the last bastion of independent programming.”

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Quicke said he already is working on putting together an album for next year that will include music from the participating international stations as well. He also has been in touch with a tour promoter about a College Radio Day concert event or series of events across the U.S. or, potentially, the world.

“I would just like college radio to get a little bit of credit for a change, to be recognized and not just as a training ground for commercial broadcasters,” Quicke said. “I think college radio is underappreciated and taken for granted. In a time when very few mediums -- especially anything commercial -- take any risks, college radio does take risks.

“I teach classes and I supervise a college radio station, and this is what I do for fun,” Quicke added. “And it has exploded in terms of popularity.”

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