Radio was the first mass communication medium to unite the world. In the era of canceled concert tours, Colorado State University’s student-run 90.5 KCSU has united with other campus stations to share local music with international audiences.
Debuting appropriately enough on World College Radio Day on Oct. 2, the International Local Music Exchange drops on Fridays as an hour-long podcast posted on the KCSU website (also available on Apple podcasts). Participating university stations showcase bands from their hometowns, and the shows are available for any college radio station to broadcast to their audiences.
“It started as a way to do something for local musicians during the pandemic,” explained Maddy Eskine, a second-year student and local music director for 90.5 KCSU. “We knew they couldn’t get out and play gigs or tour, so we thought there should be some way we could help them reach an audience beyond Fort Collins.”
KCSU General Manager Hannah Copeland worked with her counterparts at KBVR at Oregon State and WLOY at Loyal University Maryland, and The College Radio Foundation, to form the original ILME partnership. Then they reached out to other schools through the foundation to share the series with the 600 stations in 11 countries participating in World College Radio Day.
Erskine produced the debut episode of the ILME. It featured bands the Fort Collins native knew not only from working with them through KCSU but also watching them play around Northern Colorado in pre-pandemic days. The diverse playlist included The Beeves, hard rockers from Erie; Woodbelly, a 2018 Telluride Bluegrass Festival winner; Plasma Canvas, a Colorado punk group known as “the loudest and gayest band in the world;” and other Front Range and Fort Collins musicians not likely to play Bohemian Nights – yet.
“The bands were all really excited to be asked to be part of this project,“ Erskine said. “Lady Denim responded to my email in about two minutes. The hard part was narrowing the playlist down to just 10 artists for the first episode.
“KCSU has always supported the local music scene, and it was great to see how supportive the bands were of the podcast,” she added.
Time is right
Aside from the COVID-induced restrictions on live music shows, the popularity of podcasting and personally curated playlists made 2020 the perfect time to start a project like the ILME. Podcast Director Matt Gusmerotti gathers the podcasts from the active members of the exchange – about 20 stations signed up and a half-dozen, from as far away as South Carolina and Kentucky, have contributed episodes so far – and edits them for consistency, to assure the production is FCC compliant, and all rights and permissions have been secured from the bands.
“We want to make sure no one thinks we’re stealing their music,” said Gusmerotti, a journalism and media communication major graduating in May. “We want them to understand that this is like touring, but on the radio.”
Gusmerotti also assists with marketing of the podcast through social media, making sure featured bands have links to share on their channels as well. That also helps build awareness of 90.5 KCSU among the bands’ fanbase, which can include CSU students who may not have discovered the station yet, he added.
To wrap up the first semester of the ILME, 90.5 KCSU will release a Best of 2020 episode on Dec. 18.
Copeland said ILME will continue next year, even when bands can return to touring, although the structure may evolve. Both Gusmerotti and Erskine are looking forward to it.
“We’ve met some great people at other universities through the Music Exchange, and I think we’re all really helping our bands when they need it the most,” Gusmerotti said. “Many of the partners also think it will happen again.”