It is a truth universally acknowledged that a radio station in possession of interesting programming must be in want of money. It is a truth acknowledged among KCSB’s listenership that, when the fall comes around, their favorite station asks for a little bit of it. From Wednesday, November 3, through Friday, November 12, the 2010 annual fund drive will put operators behind phones, just waiting to take your donation by credit card or check to help keep KCSB going strong. The people behind the microphones will also regularly take a few minutes to give you the complete story on why, exactly, the station is so important. So valuable. So unusual. So innovative. Or, simply, so cool.
Though the producers and hosts of KCSB demand no money at all for the countless hours of aural entertainment they provide, operating even the cheapest radio station still ain’t free. Reasonably obvious costs include the purchase and maintenance of the surprisingly huge amount of obscure electronic gear required to put out a radio signal—and if you don’t believe me, check out our engineer’s office some time—but there are other, less run-of-the-mill expenses too. What follow are five of the reasons KCSB, a listener-supported station, can use all the listener support it can get, especially that which comes, dear reader, from you.
KCSB doesn’t play Top 40 hits. Only so many places can promise asylum from the tyranny of the megahit. This is doubly true on the radio, where a quick scan across the spectrum exposes you to a lethal spray of the most aggressively hyped pop songs of the moment. KCSB maintains its status as an oasis away from commercial music by not merely frowning upon playing the stuff within station culture, but by prohibiting it outright. If you feel like you might need a to take a breather from Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Ke$ha, even if only a brief one, 91.9 can provide.
KCSB doesn’t assume you’re disengaged, distracted, and/or dumb. You’d be surprised how many stations do assume one or more of these qualities on your part. On the sort of commercial stations that literally scream for your attention, of course, the assumption sits right there on the surface. But sometimes even mainstream public radio, generally known for its non-condescending attitude, seems to think you’re only willing to tune in at random, put half an ear toward the radio, and then process whatever you happen to hear with (at best) a quarter of your brain. KCSB programs for the alert listener, the one who’s willing to get engaged and stay engaged, the one who doesn’t need their information diced into hundreds of nourishment-free nibbles. Only 91.9 reliably talks straight to you, rather than down to you.
KCSB always surprises.You flip on some stations and you get a frat party soundtrack, an album-oriented rock-chart-topper from 1974 through 1988, or yet another hour of undifferentiated political screed—every single time. But tune to KCSB, and you might get reggae or comedy or indie rock or an interview or Irish flute. You’ll get one of an infinitude of sonic possibilities; and if you don’t like it, just tune back in in a couple of hours. It’ll be completely different. If you don’t like any show currently on the schedule, wait a few weeks; they’ll change.
KCSB is expanding its offerings well beyond radio. If you visit the newly overhauled and revitalized KCSB.org, you’ll noticed that some programs are now offered as podcasts you can listen to whenever you like. That’s in addition to the Web stream, which lets you tune in from wherever in the world out of KCSB’s broadcast range you happen to be, whether that’s Burkina Faso, an Antarctic research station, or just past SLO. The station also recently resurrected Livewire, its ‘zine last published in the early 1990s. (The revival was profiled in March 22’s KCSBeat.) But presumably this is just the beginning: As the march of technology, especially Internet-related technology, provides more ways to create and consume audio content all the time, so KCSB will pursue those newly opened avenues.
KCSB has no commercials. You’ve heard them dozens, perhaps hundreds of times a day. You’ve got every one of their tics and hitches burnt into your frontal lobes. You know—oh, how well you know—where you can get one-hour shirt starching or customized skateboard wheels or 24-hour bail bonds. So isn’t it time you put an end to the Chinese water torture of having to listen to them even one more time? A turn of the dial to 91.9 will set you free.
So, starting bright and early at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and running until midnight on Friday, KCSB’s 2010 fund drive is your chance to help the station keep doing what it’s doing, but even better than it ever has before. A $50 pledge ($25 if you’re a student) entitles you to something from this year’s large selection of thank-you gifts, which includes CDs, DVDs, books, magazine subscriptions, and gift certificates. As always, you can also go with a KCSB T-shirt, hoodie, or mug, all the better to proudly display your freeform radio solidarity.