Deep in the depths of Smith Memorial Student Union, below the basement, all the way down to the sub-basement, lies KPSU, Portland State’s college radio station.
Deep in the depths of Smith Memorial Student Union, below the basement, all the way down to the sub-basement, lies KPSU, Portland State’s college radio station. Led by a staff of underpaid and overworked students, KPSU offers just about anyone involved with PSU who is willing to put in the time a chance to blast people’s eardrums over the airwaves with whatever music suits their fancy, from the 퀌_ber-hip to the ultra-weird. The station is also a hub of Portland’s rich and vibrant local music scene. Great local bands frequently stop by the station for live sets or on-air interviews. The station is also growing every year, especially now that it broadcasts over the internet. The Vanguard sat down recently with station manager Darren Bridenbeck and programming director Austin Rich to find out what’s changing at KPSU.
Darren, you took over the station manager job in January. Do you have any major goals you hope to accomplish?
Darren Bridenbeck: I’ve got one big one and it’s going to be tough. The goal is to make me the last student station manager, to make the job an actual, professionally paid position. It could be something similar to Jud [PSU’s student publications adviser]. It’s impossible to run a radio station on 20 hours a week. I work at least 30-40 hours a week and I only get paid for 20. I have to work another job to support myself, and go to school. I tell my friends, I go to school so I can keep my job, I don’t keep my job so I can go to school. We could keep adding small student positions, but we really need someone who can be a dedicated leader of the station 40-plus hours a week. I do the best I can, but I have to work another job.
Austin Rich: The model of the PSU student group stipend is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know anyone who can only work the amount of hours they’re paid for without going over. They say you can’t go over 20 hours or whatever, but there’s no student group where you can work only that many hours.
One of former station manager Myron Kingsbury’s goals was to get a 24-hour FM broadcast for KPSU. Is that still a goal?
DB: 1.4 is the magic number. We need about $1.4 million to buy out another radio station because the FCC is pretty much not going to open anything up.
AR: One of the difficulties we’ve run into is that the FCC-enabled media outlets own more than one media source in the same region, so Clear Channel kind of bought up everything, and what’s for sale is kind of what’s left over. It makes it very difficult for someone who doesn’t have the business factors they do to get involved in that. It’s still a goal, but it’s more money than we’ve got. From a programming point of view, we set the goal this year of treating our station like we are already operating 24 hours a day. We’re trying to establish solid programming every day of the week. We’re trying to run it through our internet broadcast.
DB: If someone called and said, “You guys are great, here’s two million bucks, go buy your own station,” we’d be like, sweet, but we’re not ready to go 24 hours. We’d need to have volunteers and DJs here all the time.
AR: Essentially, with that in mind, we’re slowly expanding. Ever since I got here three years ago, the station has incrementally gotten bigger and bigger every year. Now we’re at the point where the next little steps we can take are actually big ones.
How has podcasting and streaming over the internet changed KPSU?
AR: We’ve gone from only having a really low-quality stream that was in mono to what we have now, which is a really high-quality stream. We archive every hour of every broadcast that we do online. We even have an archive where we upload live performances by musicians that we have down here. The podcasts have allowed some of our more popular shows to get even more popular.
DB: The podcasting has really helped us. We just got a pledge from some dude in Idaho, who was like, “I just downloaded some of your shows, here’s 10 bucks.”
AR: We’ve also gotten to the point now where we can accommodate laptop DJs and iPod DJs. We used to have a guy who had a show called Route 49 that was all songs recorded before 1949. His other show was called My Pink iPod, which was just putting his iPod on random and talking in between. It made for great radio. The technology is starting to accommodate new forms of music.
What’s something about KPSU most people don’t know that they should?
DB: KPSU has the ability to supplement your education. We don’t have a broadcast major here. We have everything from entry-level to professional-quality sound tech and production work. The work that you put into your show can have amazing effects on both your business life and personal life.
AR: One thing people don’t realize getting involved in radio is that it’s a way to make every rock ‘n’ roll fantasy you’ve ever had come true. You get free records, get to hang out with all the bands that you like if you do interviews with them, you get to go see shows for free, and then afterwards, you get to come on the radio and talk for an hour about how cool it was.
KPSU broadcasts on campus on 98.3 FM, and evenings and weekends on 1450 AM. All shows, plus news and events, are also offered at www.kpsu.org. PSU students can check out volunteer positions at KPSU by e-mailing [email protected] Darren and Austin said it typically takes about a month of training to get your own show on the air.