Radio K marks 10 years of student-run music

by Chelsie Hanstad

Radio K, the University’s student-run radio station, will celebrate its 10th anniversary in October.

Over its 10 years in existence, Radio K has helped build a sense of community, both in the University and in the greater Twin Cities, Radio K marketing director Tracy Labernik said.

The radio station was first formed in 1993 from two smaller stations already at the University. The first, KUOM, was the oldest radio station in Minnesota and was acquired in the 1920s. Students created the other, WMMR, in the 1940s. WMMR broadcast through a cable into residence halls, Radio K programming director Mark Wheat said.

A budget crisis in the mid-1980s caused the Board of Regents to consider selling one of the stations. One student, Jim Musil, said they should not sell. He suggested they run KUOM as a student radio station. The

regents combined the two stations, and on Oct. 1, 1993, students took over KUOM.

Radio K is now one of the largest college radio stations in the country, with between 2,000 and 3,000 student listeners. It employs five full-time professional staff and 17 part-time student employees. The station also has larger facilities and a greater listening audience than many college stations.

“In the top 10, you might find two or three bigger,” Wheat said. “And none raise as much money.”

Twice a year, the radio station holds a pledge drive to raise money to meet its $500,000 operating budget. The most recent drive raised more than $85,000.

Radio K often helps bring recognition to local groups.

“It brings attention to artists who normally don’t get it,” said Danny Sigelman of the Electric

Fetus in Minneapolis, a store that sells local bands’ CDs. “It’s an obvious contingent. People will come in and say, ‘I heard this on Radio K, do you have it?’ “

In a time when corporations buy many local radio stations and decide which music to play, Radio K gives local musicians an opportunity to be heard in their hometown, local musician and promoter J.G. Everest said.

“No band really gets big in town without the help of Radio K,” Everest said.

Labernik said Radio K also provides many opportunities for high school students. It hosts an annual battle of the bands for high school musicians. The Breakfast Club is the station’s show for high school students’ participation.

Radio K is also involved in the timeshare of an FM station in St. Louis Park, Minn., with St. Louis Park High School, Labernik said. The high school uses the station during the day and Radio K uses it nights and holidays when school is not in session.

The station also hosts several events for local charities, Labernik said.

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, the station organized a month-long celebration. Thirteen concerts featuring local bands, as well as special on-air programming, will go on through October.