CJAM, the community radio station at the University of Windsor, is a strong supporter of the local music scene in Windsor/Detroit. Recently, they expanded their reach by quadrupling their broadcasting power. We caught up with Murad Erzinclioglu, long-time music director at CJAM, about the station’s connection with the local community, his role as music director and CJAM’s goals for 2015.
Tell me about your involvement at CJAM.
I’ve been involved with CJAM for the past 12 years. First as a DJ/producer, then as a Board of Directors member and eventually becoming the Music Director in 2010. CJAM is a huge part of my life and always a top priority for me. CJAM and I are about the same age as well, and in a lot of ways I feel like the station and I have grown up together. Where we were 12 years ago versus where we are today are miles apart, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been a part the continued growth and betterment of the station and the Windsor-Detroit community.
On your website, CJAM is described as a “campus-based community radio station.” What is your relationship like with the University of Windsor and with the broader Windsor/Detroit area?
Our relationship with the University is a strong one, although we are our own autonomous organization on campus. We have campus-based programming as well as coverage of varsity sports. A good percentage of our volunteers are also U of W students and alumni. Our relationship with the Windsor-Detroit community is equally as strong as we are the biggest supporters of locally based music in the area and partners with a number of both communities’ top festivals and events (i.e. Movement Festival, the Detroit Jazz Festival, Windsor Pride, FAM Festival, etc.). We are quite often the only space for independently produced music to broadcasted in the Windsor-Detroit market, which is a tremendous responsibility considering the area’s radio and music history. It’s a responsibility that we take quite seriously.
You recently quadrupled your wattage and increased your broadcasting radius. What enabled you to make these increases now?
After many years of saving, fundraising and petitioning the CRTC, we were able to acquire our power increase this past August. It was an extremely long process, but a worthwhile one. We are now reaching higher ground in Windsor-Detroit, finding new listeners and coming in cleaner and clearer to our long-time fans.
Have you noticed any changes in your reach and impact since the wattage increase?
Definitely! We have seen a modest increase in advertising, higher listener engagement on-air and even better engagement online. We only see that increasing as time goes on. The power increase is still fairly new, and we need to give our new listeners some more time to fall in love and join up with the CJAM family.
How would you describe CJAM’s programing format?
CJAM is often described as being a different station every hour, but the overarching commonality amongst all shows and hosts is a passion for sharing the unshared. For over 30 years, CJAM has provided an alternative to the mainstream through the sharing of independent music of any genre. With the integration of web technology in the 1990s, we began sharing our unique musical tastes with the world. We provide niche programming that speaks to a set of sub-cultures that are often ignored or maligned by corporate media. At CJAM, anything goes. We call on our vast array of volunteers, their skills, knowledge and most of all passion to create programs that broadcast music new and old in a variety of formats. From hip hop to punk, bluegrass to techno, jazz to dub and beyond, we aim to leave no musical stone uncovered.
As Music Director, what is your role in deciding what music is played?
My role is actually quite minor, except in the case of my own program (“Productive Confusion”). All programmers (about 100) at CJAM only play selections of their own volition. My job is more about acting as filter for all music submissions (about 120-plus a week) that come into the station, and organizing and processing them for use by our programmers. We never tell our programmers what to play, we only encourage them to check out new releases that may appeal to their musical sensibilities and then see what happens. I listen to every release that comes through our doors and lead a review committee to decide if they would appeal to our programmers. In a sense I am the station’s musical librarian and a liaison to the music industry as a whole, as well as our local scene.
What is CJAM’s relationship like with the local music scene?
Our relationship with the local music scene is great! We LOVE local! And I think that comes across to our listeners throughout a good number of our programs. Local releases often go to #1, we produce weekly local concert listings and are sponsorship partners with a number of the area’s top music festivals and events. We also pride ourselves on educating local musicians on how they can interact with college radio stations on a national and international scale and find greater success for their various projects. We run educational seminars and sit-downs year-round and recently published a book titled Bringing The Noise which acts as a guide for young independent acts looking to establish themselves.
What were your five favorite albums this year?
Only five?! That’s pretty tough, for me at least. I am always digging into something different, so it’s quite hard to choose. But since I have to, here are five of many more than five:
1. James O-L & The Villains – On The Banks Of The Detroit River – Great local release that dominated our charts. Solid blend of folk and rock that is raw while being well-produced. I can relate the lyrical content to my own life too, which is always a plus for me, something rare to find.
2. Wax Tailor – Phonovisions Symphonic – Tip-top turntablism with a backing orchestra is hard for me to argue with.
3. Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust – CHAD VANGAALEN!
4. Caribou – Our Love – No Caribou album has ever been not great; only great, ever. This album doesn’t break the trend.
5. Protomartyr – Under Color Of Official Right – One of Detroit’s best today. It was great to see their set at the Knitting Factory for the [CMJ] Marathon this year.
What is CJAM’s New Year’s resolution for 2015?
1. Creating stronger and greater relationships with our new and growing listener base.
2. Creating more opportunities for local musicians to get on our airwaves.
3. Continuing to increase our broadcast and programming standards to better serve our community of listeners and programmers.
4. Bringing more like-minded community members into the CJAM fold, actively participating in the art of radio.
5. Keeping radio organic, engaging and always sharing something new and different. We are the last bastion of hope against a sea of corporately controlled interests, in arguably one of the most important music cities of the last hundred years.