KSUA chops down competition at Woodie Awards

Lex Treinen/Sun Star Reporter
April 3, 2012

DJs and fans of KSUA fell into the national spotlight for their clicking skills, placing in the top three of the mtvU Woodie Awards. The award  for best college radio station was announced on Sunday, March 18 in Austin, Texas based on results from public online polling. The Woodie Awards are billed as an alternative to the traditional MTV music awards with a focus on a college-aged audience, and are televised nationally on the mtvU channel.

“For an Alaska station to get on national television on MTV is just amazing,” said DJ Jesse Manchester, aka MC Solo, who used his show to plug for voting.

KSUA organized several voting parties at their offices and at The Pub.

“We just sat there for a few hours chatting and clicking,” Manchester said.

The votes were decided by public online voting through the MTV and Rate My Professors websites, but the results were kept secret. KSUA Program Director Ephy Wheeler said that she was surprised to make it past the round of 25 into the top 10; she was shocked when she saw the email on her computer on the day of the awards announcing that KSUA was in the top three. Wheeler, along with program director Rebecca File and music director Brady Gross, was already in Austin for the South by Southwest interactive conference and music festival when they heard the news.

Wheeler and others attributed their success to a surge of enthusiasm this year from the listeners and DJs.

“Everyone really got excited about it” she said, “It was really up to the DJs to keep the momentum going after we left for Austin.”

Bobby Penneton, aka DJ Buddy Boy, attributes the success to the new team of directors which they said are all new to their positions. “They completely changed the scene at KSUA,” he said, “they put in a lot of effort.”

Western Appalachian State University’s WASU, the eventual winner, has been in the top three for the past three years, according to its website. The other top-three nominee was commercial station KRFH of Humboldt State University. KSUA, on the other hand is a newcomer.

“A friend told me about the Woodies last year,” Wheeler said, “I didn’t even know about them before.” To learn how to run a successful voting campaign, Wheeler snooped on the other stations.

“We pretty much were doing the same things as Humboldt and WASU,” Wheeler said.

In contrast to KSUA, which is entirely supported by the university, WASU is a commercial station broadcast through Western Appalachian State University. Clear Channel, a national radio conglomerate, recently bought the station. Many of the commercial stations require a yearlong training course and pay the DJs. At KSUA, the training is a short information introduction. WASU was “even more into it than we were” with their marketing strategies, Wheeler said, but she hopes that next year KSUA can do even better.

“We have a good shot at being in the top three or even in the top one,” Wheeler said.

Though KSUA didn’t come out on top, the trip to Austin was well worth it for the networking and educational opportunities at South by Southwest, not to mention seeing the Shins and Bruce Springsteen. The 250,000 people who come for the festival make the idea exchange and networking possible, perks that are particularly important for radio.

For example, on the trip music director Brady Gross attended a conference about cloud music with the creator of Spotify. KSUA recently bought a subscription to the service, but there is so far no precedent of radio using Spotify, so it is unclear what legal or commercial issues could arise.

“Radio is evolving really fast,” Wheeler said, “It is still trying to integrate into the digitized world.”

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