The city of Atlanta has been in an uproar all month over the deal Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) has struck with Georgia State over its crowning cultural jewel, the student-run radio station WRAS- Album 88. For over 40 years 88.5 has meant a meaningful music oasis in the desert that is Atlanta radio- a vast, parched land with few options: Bon Jovi-country hybrids, rap music with no sense of individualism, or the same three Seether songs on repeat.
GPB will be using the coveted time slots between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., leaving the not-so-primetime slots for the original GSU broadcast. There are lots of questionable things about the GPB deal. From the small amount of money they paid for the broadcast rights to the contract itself, which reads like the fine print in a promotional cable bill. And while GPB has only vaguely made promises of new opportunities for GSU students coming from this deal, it is much easier to point out all the ways in which Atlanta and the surrounding areas need Album 88. Let's look at some of the important ways Album 88 helps the city we call home (and beyond).
It gives GSU students the chance to learn about the music industry
Album 88’s broadcasts are run by GSU students. This gives them an opportunity to work for a radio station, learn about music trends, and sometimes speak to the artists themselves through in-station interviews. At the very least the people that have been through the program and move onto similar jobs will paint a much better musical picture culturally for us than the ones stuck playing top 40s at other stations. Album 88 is literally churning out genuine music lovers intent on creating a more hopeful tomorrow for independent or developing artists.
It brings positive attention to GSU
Album 88 is of course not the only great thing happening at GSU, but it does send a powerful statement to the rest of the state (and country). GSU has become synonymous with quality broadcasting in a way the well-known schools (sorry, UGA and GA Tech) simply have not. It speaks to the students, teachers and those who would invest in a school with a strong, independent and creative voice.
It gives GSU students a voice
Teenagers and young adults are passionate about their music. Giving students an outlet to express that passion not only helps them identify with each other at a time where many things may be unfamiliar, new or isolating, it allows them to further build on this passion in a way that is meaningful to them. They are, in short, giving part of themselves to the community, one which, if they stay in Atlanta after graduating, they hopefully will be integral parts of.
It is powerful enough to reach culturally desolate-areas
Album 88 is a whopping 100,000 watt station- meaning it reaches way beyond the perimeter. In many areas, especially on the south side in counties such as Clayton, Henry and Spaulding, there are little to no live music venues or record stores. Album 88 is a way for new music to reach people living in culturally-impoverished areas. It is a way for the College to reach new recruits as well.
No annoying talk radio
Unlike traditional radio, the only talking listeners hear is relevant information about music, GSU or the community. No silly games, obnoxious sound boards or hyper morning disk jockeys. <
Commercials are by the people, for the people
The commercials that air on Album 88 all pertain to one of three things- music, GSU, or the community. Therefore, not only are listeners spared the unnecessarily long commercial breaks, but important information gets shared with the Atlanta area that might otherwise go unknown.
It gives local acts their first chance at radio play
For local artists, Album 88 is the gateway to national radio recognition. Countless bands that are now household names (such as REM) count Album 88 among the things that helped them be heard.
It allows independent acts a chance to gage their prevalence
Because Album 88 is so influential, air play on the station is a good way for artists to measure their impact on the local scene, as well as connect them to new fans. Album 88 listeners are the type of people that will call in after a set to learn more about new music that interests them. Combine all of this with frequent ticket giveaways to local shows, and you have 100,000 watts of promotional gold.
It gives equal airtime to all musical genres
If outsiders were to gauge Atlanta's musical tastes by our traditional radio stations, they would assume we were all hillbillies and Lady Gaga worshipers. There's not much room on the radio for anything else. Album 88 gives air time to everything- from ambient hip hop to art rock, jazz to j pop, or reggae to rockabilly. No matter what their taste, there is something for every listener on a weekly basis.
It inspires people to discover new music
In an age of Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and Vimeo, radio stations are slowly being made irrelevant when it comes to discovering new artists. College radio stations, especially the great ones like Album 88, still manage to keep the dream alive. There are devout listeners all over the city listening, sitting at their destinations, waiting for the set recap so they can scribble down what just blew their minds. People who are inspired not only to go download a song but invest their ears and their hearts in a brand new sound. Which is what every artist wants. And, ultimately, what every music community needs.