Radio K and its huge library are vital to the University

The Daily’s editorial gave too much credence to a press release as to the size of The Current’s music library.

It was nice to see our name in print again, but your Friday editorial about Radio K, while supportive of the University’s college station, was presumptive and not at all researched.

The assertion that Minnesota Public Radio’s new station, The Current, “goes further by including a much wider selection and variety of music,” is a completely empty claim. It is likely based on the MPR press release promising a library of “50,000 albums.” This ridiculous claim (as it is not physically possible to select, buy and catalog even half that many albums in one month) was oft repeated in local media, including The Minnesota Daily.

The staff at The Current, knowing better, retracted this claim last week on their Web site, stating that their library was up to approximately 3,000 songs, a mere fraction of the number that MPR’s marketing department fed to the media.

Radio K maintains a library of more than 10,000 albums, adding 1,000 or more every year. Borrowing a formula from Daily columnist Adri Mehra’s Jan. 26 column, that represents a library more than 33 times the size of The Current’s.

We strongly agree with the sentiment that “the best scenario is one where both stations succeed and thrive in the long term.” As radio listeners ourselves, we at Radio K are excited about a new alternative to commercial music radio. Additionally, we are flattered that MPR would launch a new station with a format based on ours, hiring people to run it that were trained at Radio K. It is a testament to our 12-year history of success.

However, we disagree with the idea that competition will make both stations stronger. At Radio K, we are not interested in competing with MPR, we are only interested in serving the community and improving what we do, which is one of many things that makes Radio K different from commercial radio. Your editorial fails to address that fact that MPR is historically very competitive in a way similar to commercial radio, which violates the spirit of the law designed to protect noncommercial entities.

Your editorial states that Radio K “does not do enough to promote itself,” as if we are simply sitting on our hands when we could be buying up advertising space. It should be clear to the editorial board that we do not have the resources that MPR or Clear Channel has. Compare the output and quality of our marketing efforts with the miniscule budget allocated to us, and then try to tell First Avenue, City Pages, the Pulse of the Twin Cities, the Triple Rock Social Club, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Bryant-Lake Bowl, the Weisman Art Museum, The Whole, The Wake, the University’s College of Continuing Education, the Minnesota Broadcasters Association, and countless other media, community and University groups that Radio K needs “to learn to promote itself better on and off campus.”

As a University department, we should expect the assistance of the ‘U’ in our efforts, as after all, we are owned by the Board of Regents. But we can’t get our T-shirts sold at the University Bookstore, get our station played in Coffman Union study spaces and we are not even a bullet point on orientation tours. When the residence halls hold events, they hire KDWB to play music. We do our best to work with the University, but as most students are aware, the bureaucracy of the ‘U’ is nearly insurmountable. This is not a situation unique to Radio K, nor is it any one person or group’s fault, it is the nature of the University’s size. We have to allocate our efforts to where we will get results, and work with groups who will work with us. I call on all campus groups and University organizations to use Radio K as a resource, by forming mutual partnerships, as groups such as The Whole and The Wake have sought to do.

Finally, and most importantly, the small, part-time staff at Radio K are also full-time, degree-seeking students. Still, the work that is done at Radio K is often compared to or valued above that of professional radio stations, by newspapers such as the City Pages and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, media groups such as CMJ, and music critics such as Greil Marcus, Jim Walsh and Ryan Schreiber, www.pitchforkmedia.com editor.

While we have specific qualms with assumptions made by the editorial board, it is correct in stating that the continued success of Radio K is extremely vital to the University. Radio K is a unique, internationally recognized asset, one that will continue to provide the largest musical variety and most independent programming available in the Twin Cities, at 770 AM, 106.5 FM in the west metro, and online 24-hours a day at www.radiok.org.

A hundred new “alternative” radio stations couldn’t change that.

Mark LaCroix is the Radio K program director. Please send comments to [email protected]