Thomas Morales is the Broadcast Engineer Specialist, instructor and advisor for KCPR. He sat down with Mustang News to discuss ways the No. 1 radio station stays ahead of the game in 2018.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Mustang News (MN): How do you see KCPR expanding in the next few years?
Thomas Morales (TM): KCPR has been, for the last few years, growing and expanding into the digital media realm. Whereas it’s been traditionally just a radio station in the past, it’s now really kind of multimedia powerhouse. They do online and on the web, they do Instagram, Snapchat. Beyond that, they are actually going into the print realm, which for a radio station to put out a print product — that being BURNT Magazine — it’s just going beyond just sending audio out over the airway. KCPR has turned into kind of the center of culture for Cal Poly and where they can cover all these different things, not just on the radio, but on all the platforms across the entire spectrum.
MN: With all the different music streaming services where people can play their own music, like Spotify, how does KCPR remain relevant?
TM: Well, it’s relevant because it’s for Cal Poly. Here, the radio station is and survives on the students here on this campus. It not only has been playing the music that Cal Poly students are hopefully listening to and breaking new artists that Cal Poly students are probably not aware of, but it’s also just covering the happenings of what’s happening on this campus. Even though we’re licensed to cover the city of San Luis Obispo and all of San Luis Obispo County, our programming and the things we do on KCPR are Cal Poly centric. That’s the DNA, if you will, of how it started. A couple of Cal Poly students experimenting and wanting to do something on the air and on the radio.
MN: Tell me about the technology KCPR is implementing.
TM: KCPR, since 2007, has been using state-of-the-art studios up there on the third floor of the graphic arts building. The radio station itself is all digital, all the consoles are digital. All the audio just goes over ones and zeros through the entire network up there. That’s been a cutting edge radio station for quite a while now. There are a lot of stations that are now looking, and have looked at, KCPR’s model of what a future radio station should look like from a technology standpoint. I’ve had engineers come in from major market radio stations — San Francisco, Los Angeles — just walk in to our studios and be like, “I can’t believe this is a college radio station,” because of the technology we have upstairs. So KCPR has been on the cutting edge when it comes to that kind of stuff from basic technology, how to deliver audio to audience, for quite a while.
The new things that have been coming up here recently is now we’re moving to smart speakers. We made a change on October 1st. Our old audio streaming server had been operating for a long time, but it had been starting to show its age. We made a change to a new streaming server, which opened up a whole other set of avenues, including Alexa and Google Home. So those smart speakers where you can say, “Hey Alexa, play KCPR.” Well, it will now play KCPR, which is kind of cool! Same thing with the smart phones, we didn’t really have a way to deliver audio in a real efficient way on mobile devices, our new streaming platform works beautifully on mobile devices now. In addition to that, it shows you artists and song information, and it gives you a little thumbnail sketch of the album cover. And that’s just scraping the surface of what the new system is going to be. That was a really exciting change for us and there’s more to come. I can’t really talk about what is more to come yet, but there are going to be some really cool additions coming from the radio station, from an online presence, to where you get your audio from. [You’ll hear] KCPR no matter where you’re at.