National broadcasting giant Clear Channel is expanding its ubiquitous iHeartRadio digital app to include live online streaming from leading college radio stations nationwide. It comes as a free download for PC, smartphone, tablet, connected car stereos or Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices.
The move has the potential to expose indie or breaking bands to a broader audience than they have encountered previously. "We not only want to be everywhere listeners are but also provide as much choice and diversity as possible," explains John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. "By bringing college radio to [our service], we have the chance to offer fans something new and different, including access to unique music, talent and programming that they can't hear anywhere else. By assisting with artist and album discovery, letting graduates reconnect with their alma mater, and creating a direct pipeline to tomorrow's most promising acts and on-air personalities, it creates a win for everyone involved."
Over a dozen stations – including Ithaca College's WICB (modern), Green River College's KGRG (alternative) and Seton Hall University's WSOU (hard rock and heavy metal) – will be featured initially. Expanding on the music, news and sports talk programming provided by contemporaries like DePaul, Rice and Stanford Universities, more new stations will be added through 2012 and beyond. As it aspires to cover all genres from hip-hop (Appalachian State's WASU) to folk and jazz (Emerson's WERS), and formats from news (Flagler's WFCF) to regional artist showcases (Green River Community College's KGRG), featured selections should be eclectic.
"We've tried to be as musically and geographically diverse as possible," Hogan says, with regards to how Clear Channel approaches the partner selection process. "The goal is to give listeners more choices, including a wider breadth of experiences that not only cover music but also spoken word performances and breaking local news and viewpoints."
Besides providing student-run stations with a farther-reaching voice, and possibly amplifying listening audiences by the millions, the move could present emerging acts and artists to a wider fan base. A progressive format that's long enjoyed a fruitful symbiotic relationship with new sounds and nascent musical movements, college radio's liberally-minded DJs and artist-friendly policies have famously helped break such acts as R.E.M., Sonic Youth and the Strokes. As they are traditionally confined to smaller geographic regions and audiences due to limited reach and funding compared with corporate-owned or mainstream-targeted stations, though, the stations' partnerships may greatly expand broadcasters' footprint. With over 47 million downloads, and 75 million hours of digital listening clocked in each month, Clear Channel's iHeartRadio app, coupled with the conglomerate's marketing muscle, could provide unprecedented exposure to general-interest audiences.
The big question, however: By offering fans personalized programming from 850 stations operating in over 150 cities and creating custom station creation options, will anyone tune in to what's potentially just another faceless stop on the digital dial? Thankfully, says Hogan, college stations will be given their own dedicated slot in the app to aid with enthusiast discovery and be easy to locate and navigate through. The upgrade is a priority for Clear Channel, he says, as these partners provide the company with the chance to add even more diverse programming to its portfolio and build positive relationships with budding musical sensations.
While admitting that digital remains a small portion of current overall traffic (roughly 4-6% of all public listening, by his estimates), he says the corporation remains a firm believer in technology's growing footprint. "High-tech ways to tune in are constantly expanding and evolving onto more devices and platforms and becoming increasingly important with each passing year," Hogan says. "We aim to travel everywhere listeners do… and that creates huge opportunities for artists and stations to take advantage of the size and scale we offer."
The full roster of initial participating college radio stations:
•WCNI – Connecticut College
•WASU – Appalachian State
•Radio DePaul – DePaul University
•WERS – Emerson College
•WSOU – Seton Hall
•KZSU – Stanford University
•WFCF – Flagler College
•WDUB – Denison University
•KGRG – Green River Community College
•Rice Radio – Rice University
•WICB – Ithaca College
•WCWS – Wooster College
•WHIP – Temple University