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Saturday, December 20, 2014

New KUNM open to on-air chats

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Host Melanie Sanchez, also known as DJ Mello, speaks on the air during the Afternoon Freeform music segment at KUNM on Monday afternoon. KUNM has launched a new platform, created by Radio Free America, which has features that will allow listeners to chat live with on-air DJs and Program Hosts.

Radio Free America is trying to change the face of radio by encouraging listeners to join the conversation and air their opinions live through KUNM’s new interactive website.

Kenneth Pushkin, the creator of Radio Free America, saw his program operational on the KUNM website, and he said it was rewarding to see his hard work pay off.

“It’s been eight years, and today is the day we are finally on the air with Radio Free America,” he said.

Pushkin said he feels optimistic about the program. He worked with host Marilyn Pitman at KUNM to help start different variations of the program, and unfortunately had no success.

“We came up with the idea New Music the Alternative 10, which we drew the top ten alternative college music hits from a group out of New York called College Media Journal,” Pushkin said. “We made 23 shows and it was on disc … and we wound up, in a few months, we were sending them around to 600 college radio stations.”

This effort took place over the course of three years, he said. The program helped introduce bands from the college circuit that people were not aware of.

“It didn’t ultimately work because there were no searches for terrestrial radio, there was no internet,” Pushkin said. “So in ’84 we put it away, and everybody went their own ways.”

In 2004 Pushkin said he attempted another module of a community program and called it Radio Free America.

“We didn’t know what we wanted to be then, and we had all these ideas, it was like everything for everybody,” Pushkin said. “Let’s focus on what I wanted to do all along which was college radio and non-commercial radio.”

Over the past five years, the program went through three or four iterations, he said. Last year they came up with finalized widget that was implemented yesterday, he said.

The program works to bridge between the community of DJs and the listeners, he said. Students as well as the older demographics that listen to KUNM can benefit from the online widget.

“You can also chat live with any DJ that’s on the air that wants to switch ‘on air’ on their dashboard,” Pushkin said.

KUNM Program Director Tristan Clum said the Radio Free America widget is an extension of the station’s archive that it has had.

“Archive audio for our site right now, we have a two week archive player,” said Clum. “It’s consistently one of the top three places that’s visited on our site; usually at any given time of day we’ve got maybe 20 people who are plugged in to that two week archive.”

People won’t be able to download files, but they will be able to share them and reference them, he said.

“There’s a DJ culture that exists that is completely separate from what you hear on our air,” Clum said. “There are people who trade info about their playlist, about the music they’re playing, about who they listen to, who they’ve heard; and Radio Free America is going to kinda tap into that culture to the benefit of radio stations like ours.”

Individuals can upload their own files and tag them with their name on them, which can then be shared by DJs looking for files with those tags, he said. DJs can also share programs uploaded by other DJs, including playlists and talk shows.

KUNM General Manager Richard Towne, who also helped start RFA, said he hopes the program will reach a younger demographic of the typical KUNM listeners.

“What excites me, is we have a lot of really good DJs, and there’s a lot of radio DJs in other cities like Minneapolis, Santa Fe, and Madison, Wisconsin, and it’ll give us a place where we can all meet up and get all of our content available in one space for listeners,” Towne said.

He expects the program to spread locally and then regionally within the next six months, he said. RFA will help expose younger people to new music.

“I’d like to see one million users within a year,” Clum said.

The station will measure six months out to evaluate the successfulness of the program, he said.

To see the new Radio Free America widget, visit kunm.org.

Moriah Carty is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @MoriahCarty.