Hidden on the third floor of the Graphic Communication Building, in between a computer lab and CPTV’s studio, is the headquarters of KCPR, Cal Poly’s student-run radio station since 1968. On any given day, at almost any time, even in the wee hours of the morning, anyone can walk up to the windows of KCPR and watch disc jockeys on-air.
This week, May 23 to 29, KCPR will hold a pledge drive to pay the cost of broadcasting its programming across the Central Coast. KCPR has a goal of raising $2,000 this year, which will pay for equipment, technology and merchandise such as T-shirts and sunglasses, with a small portion going toward the salary of KCPR’s only paid employee, a general engineer.
Though KCPR receives some money through Cal Poly, most of its funding comes from the pledge drive and an annual auction.
Laurie Fraser, a soil sciences junior and future business director of KCPR, said the pledge drive is crucial to keeping the station running.
“It’s not very much money that takes us to run, so that’s pretty cool; but the auction and pledge drive are really important because that’s where all our money comes from,” Fraser said.
Fraser and the rest of the KCPR staff, approximately 70 disc jockeys every quarter, volunteer their time to keep the station running, which helps keep costs low.
The number of volunteers has improved the quality of programming at KCPR over the last few quarters, said physics senior and co-general manager Ted Andreas. The station typically receives around 60 applications for DJ positions each quarter, and accepts eight to 14.
“It’s becoming more competitive so people realize you have to do a good show and put in the hours to be on the air,” Andreas said.
The hours put in help create the individual shows that define KCPR. These shows are broken down into two categories: regular format and genre.
Regular format shows are typically hosted by one or two DJs, and have no particular theme, except to include new music. Fraser hosts one of these regular format shows on Saturday afternoons, and enjoys the musical freedom.
“I pretty much play whatever I want plus new stuff,” Fraser said.
Genre format, on the other hand, are shows that adhere to specific themes, such as “Lo-Fi, Hi Five!” or “Musica Americana.” Electronic engineering graduate student Felipe Bravo is one DJ with a genre show, a Saturday night program called “Eurotrash,” which plays dance and club songs.
“My Eurotrash show is basically trying to promote dirty dancing and tips for how to pick up ladies at a dance club,” Bravo said.
Between genre and regular format, KCPR is able to fill almost all its airtime with live disc jockeying. Only several programs are pre-recorded broadcasts of shows such as “Democracy Now.”
Out of the box
KCPR’s mission now is to take the 24/7 programming to new audiences, said Steven Ramsey, the co-general manager.
“Before, we had this idea of being like this box transmitting out to the world, but now we want to bring people into the box,” Ramsey said.
KCPR is bringing people in by first heading out and becoming more active in the community. The station has decided to establish local newscasts to supplement its music, by advertising for a news director.
They’ve also begun a public relations campaign, with promotions like Palm Wednesdays, in which students can receive a discount on movie tickets at The Palm Theatre simply by mentioning KCPR at the window.
Finally, they’ve established a booth at Farmers’ Market on Thursday nights.
Directly across from the perpetually long F. McClintock’s line, KCPR DJs stand at a booth passing out program schedules, free CDs and records to anyone who stops by. The albums are ones that have been listened to and ultimately rejected by the staff, and are now used as promotional material.
Though there are plenty of people out at Farmers’ Market, only a few stop to see what is at the new booth. Out of the throngs of people, one man drifts up to the table and examines the sign.
“Does Weird Al ever come by and say hi?” the man asked.
Andreas, who helps man the booth, said Weird Al may have in the past, but he has never personally met the former KCPR DJ.
Privately, Andreas and Ramsey said the station is trying to distance itself a little from its most famous DJ. Instead, it would like to stand on the merits of its programming, a predominantly alternative music-based fare.
“Our focus is independent music as an alternative to what else is on the radio,” Ramsey said.
And for now, that programming continues around the clock.