What has 132 Watts, was broadcast across railroad track systems in previous years, and is a Grinnellian tradition/excuse to hear curse words on the air after 10 p.m.? KDIC, Grinnell’s student-run radio station returned this semester with a revamped and more organizationally sound lineup of shows.
Changes to KDIC made by the station’s staff this semester are intended to increase show quality and regularity and to broaden the station’s appeal.
“We’ve made the application process a little more stringent,” said station manager Jordan Bell-Masterson ’12. “This was the first time we actually rejected any shows. So that was hard to do, but we felt like we had to put the bar somewhere.”
Some DJs have also been asked to shadow more experienced KDIC disc jockeys before going on the air.
“It’s really just about putting out the kind of service that can compete with things like iTunes and Pandora,” Bell-Masterson said. “We’re not just the only option for music anymore, and we have to make sure we offer something that’s superior and different from those services.”
KDIC’s difference and superiority, according to Bell-Masterson, lies in its human element.
“That’s something that’s unique to radio and you can’t get that anywhere else,” he said. “We have quite a few shows doing those kind of things.”
Watching Julia Gerasimenko ’12 and Annie Pigott ’12 on-air for one such show, “Who’s Boning Who in History: The Extra Tooth,” one starts to realize there is a small-but-growing Grinnellian community surrounding the station.
The show’s premise is love stories—created by Pigott and Gerasimenko—between two historical figures. This week, the romance was between King Tut and Caligula. In between the banter, quality music is played which mostly relates to the story, like songs from King Tut the Youtube rapper or angsty pop-punk from the historical Tut’s supposed breakup playlist.
“Nobody can tell us to shut up,” Gerasimenko said, describing what makes the show so fun. “I like to make really weird connections and associations and make s*** up for myself and my friends, but now I can bring that to the people.”
“It’s like talking to everyone and no one at the same time,” Pigott said. “Also, this is a platform that we so rarely get, you know, to just broadcast to the world. Anyone can go to that website.”
Listeners call in throughout the show. Though most callers are friends of the DJs, two calls from alum Thomas Bateman ’10 and Tim Hederman ’10 illustrate the KDIC webstream’s surprising potential for listenership, and as a means for off-campus Grinnellians to connect with friends at school.
“We’re always looking to improve listenership,” Bell-Masterson ’12 said. “From the end of last semester we’ve improved listenership four-fold. The top show used to get 10 listeners, now they get around 40-50. The second two shows used to get five listeners, now they get 20-30. I’m satisfied with that improvement so far, but I think we can do even better.”
Both Pigott and Gerasimenko got started with KDIC after visiting friends with shows in the studio, and both have had shows for multiple semesters since. The two agree that the station is now headed in a different direction from when they started.
“I think it’s a lot different,” Pigott said, “and that’s not to knock any of the previous station managers or anything, but in the past it’s been like, ‘Come to the training on this day at the beginning of the semester, and then do whatever you want.’ Or just cut you loose, no feedback, no support, no follow-up. And now … there’s much more of a DJ community.”
“We’re also being paid on the basis of listenership,” Pigott said. “So there’s an incentive to make your show something worth listening to instead of just … you and your friends shouting drunkenly into a microphone.”
“Philosophically, it’s a shift to quality over quantity and trying to get more of a community feel … My vision’s more long-term than short term, that’s for sure,” Bell-Masterson said. “Basically I just want KDIC to be a campus institution, something that is as prominent and important to the campus as the S&B. Something that is in people’s daily or weekly lives and that actually matters to people.”
“I think a really cool thing, and I don’t know if we’ll get to this point this year, but I think [Bell-Masterson] and Dane [Haiken] now have definitely started something that maybe in a couple of years people will say, ‘Hey, did you hear that thing on KDIC last night?’” Pigott said. “That would be a really neat thing to run into, having that kind of presence on campus. Because I think [KDIC] definitely did at one time and there’s no reason why it couldn’t have that again.”
“I want it to be as big as Plans,” Gerasimenko said. “Because it often comes up in conversation as like ‘Oh, did you read what that person posted on Plans?’ … Let’s bring it back to the radio!”
At the studio, after a Blink-182 cover of TLC, a Cam’ron request, Nina Simone and Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” (the show’s customary end), Station Program Director Dane Haiken ’12 called in to chastise Pigott for allegedly not turning her microphone far enough away to answer the KDIC phone. Pigott, in turn, claimed Haiken didn’t listen carefully enough and quizzes him on the results of the Tut/Caligula theatrics. “What are you doing?!” Pigott yelled into the phone, “Are you firing me for a lack of professionalism?!”
“We get fired for a lack of professionalism every week,” Gerasimenko explained, “but we always come back!”