A few years ago, while watching TV, a commercial came on for a car, maybe a Chevy, although the car itself isn’t that important. About halfway through the ad, without really understanding what came over me, I began to cry, an act not too uncommon. Ask many of my close friends and they’ll tell you just how much pride I take in my crying ability. What was unique about this time, however, was not that I was crying tears of joy over a commercial, but that my overwhelming joy had been stirred up by Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful.” How this car company obtained the rights to Ray Charles’s rendition I may never understand. But what I do understand, after lots of self-reflection, is from that moment on I became a patriot.
I wasn’t raised to be particularly patriotic; in fact, a few of my family members are very anti-American, or “anti-colonial,” as my grandmother liked to say. I have no delusions about how perfect our government is or how morally superior our history has been. I don’t even think our country has any superior qualities that set it apart from any other country. I just love America like a mother loves a newborn child, unconditionally and without a necessarily good reason. The annoying thing about unconditional love is that if there is something I don’t like about the U.S., I am either forced to ignore it or change it, because I sure as hell can’t leave it. Because of my obligation to our country I decided to write this article, not to shamelessly promote the best student organization on campus, but to fix this country in the only way I know how.
Ask people what they love about America and most would probably say freedom or guns, but my opinion on the latter wouldn’t allow me to talk about radio. If you’re wondering how freedom is related to radio, it’s probably because you have never had the privilege of listening to WCBN-FM, Michigan’s local, student-run radio station. If you stop reading here you may feel deceived. “Hey, I thought you said you were not going to shamelessly promote anything.” Yes, you caught me. I did say it wouldn’t be shameless, but by not doing my part to promote WCBN, I would be doing a great disservice to the Michigan student body and all Ann Arbor citizens who love freedom.
WCBN is the pinnacle of freedom at Michigan. It’s something that results in probably the most eclectic and interesting station in our entire state, although this is not saying much as Michigan radio is notoriously uninteresting. If you disagree, it’s likely you don’t know what good radio sounds like, or maybe your idea of good radio is hearing the same music on repeat. Most radio stations are owned by media giants that play just enough variety to keep people listening. In fact, 80 percent of radio playlists match. Does this sound like freedom to you? What is the point of having so many options when most of these options are indistinguishable from one another? This is where WCBN comes in. Few stations do what our station does in terms of playlist originality and the promotion of fledgling artists.
Individuality in radio is at stake. Without the few independent stations that still exist, like WCBN, the musical landscape could quickly turn stale. If you think your favorite types of music are safe from this, you would be wrong. All artists start somewhere, and even huge stars like Lady Gaga have to be promoted by small venues and independent stations before they make it big. If stations like WCBN disappear, the music world will be overwhelmed with the same bad Disney songs that have been haunting me since elementary school.
There is still hope. If you love music like I do, you must support WCBN-FM. Listen, call in to the station and tell us how good we sound, and come to the amazing events we put on. Doing something to show support will impact our station because, unlike other student organizations, we can be shut down. That’s right. The regents at the University of Michigan have the ability to sell our frequency — 88.3 — to make a quick buck, but you can prevent all that. Help me save my favorite country by preventing the death of radio.
Paul Stromberg is a LSA junior.