By Allison Hamburger
Technical difficulties on KHWS, a student-run Internet radio station, began at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19, three hours into the first night of live broadcasting. Student DJ Noah Weinman ’12 had just started his set with Gomez’s “Detroit Swing 66,” when the station stopped responding.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happened. It just said that nothing was broadcasting,” Weinman said.
For the next half hour, bits of previous DJs’ playlists mixed with static, silence, and the website’s preset message saying the station was unavailable took the place of Weinman’s commentaries and music.
At 8:30 p.m., co-creator of KHWS Jackson Hudgins ’12 took over with DJ Matt Lee ’11.
“Fresh off of 30 minutes of technical difficulties, this is Jackson Hudgins,” Hudgins said. “And Matt Lee,” Lee added.
The two new DJs played more music with some success, but the station, hosted online by Live 365 Radio at khws.blogspot.com, still responded unreliably.
Hudgins said that the issue was due to unlabeled MP3s that caused the system to think that multiple songs played were by the same artist or on the same album in one hour, a restriction Live 365 includes so that broadcasters can avoid licensing the music. Because of the unknown tracks, the online station tried to shut down.
“We averaged about 30 listeners for the first couple [DJ sets] and then once we started having technical difficulties it dropped down to about 15, but I’m pretty happy with that. People continued to listen even as it was broadcasting static,” Hudgins said.
Finally, by 10:30 p.m., the station functioned without difficulty. KHWS’s broadcasts on the subsequent Wednesday and Thursday evenings occurred without technological delays. The station received several hundred listening hours in the first 14 hours of broadcasting.
Creators Hudgins, Jamie Feiler ’12, Nora Kroopf ’12 and Sam Wolk ’13 have worked since October on getting the station up and running. It now broadcasts live Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. until midnight, featuring weekly guest teacher DJs and a total of 20 student DJs. Previously selected music streams continuously online at all other times. For their hour time slots, the DJs select and introduce music in the genre of their choice.
“There’s something about actually listening to your classmates speak over the Internet, where you hear it and you are hearing this person actually broadcasting and think, ‘This is insane. This is awesome. This other person is picking the music that I’m listening to right now, and I’m interested in what he has to say and what’s coming next,’” Hudgins said.
They plan to broadcast live music performances in the next few weeks and eventually include live broadcasts of sporting events as well as talk shows, sitcoms and assemblies.
Kroopf said that Hudgins approached her and Feiler early in the year. Wolk, a sophomore prefect, joined the group in February and aided particularly with getting their idea through the administration.
One significant roadblock was censorship, the founders said. Hudgins said that they must avoid expletives on the air and limit profanities in the music, which can be difficult for certain styles of music, like hip-hop and funk.
“It’s not necessarily meant to be censored and the n-word is used a lot, and we can’t play songs that have the n-word in it,” Hudgins said.
However, the rule is somewhat open, Wolk said, in the same way that the Drama department can use expletives in performances.
“There’s not one rule that the administration set or anything. It’s just: be appropriate. We are representatives of the school,” Wolk said. Though no members of the administration look over playlists, Feiler, Hudgins, Kroopf and Wolk do supervise the other DJs’ selections.
The school is no stranger to student radio stations. There have been three stations in the past decade, most recently in 2005. In 2000, the station had actual call letters and broadcasted on campus over the radio. The current KHWS was named as a tribute to the previous stations.
“KHWS was the name of the original station and it wasn’t necessary for us to be that on the Internet. We could have been Wolverine Radio or Coldwater Canyon Live or something like that,” Hudgins said.
The creators chose to put the station on the Internet both because of technological restrictions and practicality. FM radio is becoming more uncommon, Kroopf said. The Internet makes the station more accessible.
“With Internet radio, anybody can get it everywhere you have an Internet connection, whereas with FM radio, no matter how big a tower you get, you are not able to go further than 15 miles if we wanted to shell out a ton of money,” Wolk said. KHWS is also available on the Live 365 iPhone app.
DJs can broadcast from anywhere, so long as they connect to the Internet with a microphone-equipped computer. They hit a record button, speak into a microphone on their computer, and upload the MP3s from iTunes, Hudgins said. They can alternatively upload prerecorded commentaries.
“Obviously, we all know that a lot of the DJs and we have other commitments or more schoolwork right now, so the fact that we don’t necessarily have to do it live and can have that option is really nice and less stressful,” Kroopf said.
As for their initial technical difficulties, the four creators are confident that they will avoid any similar issues in the future.
“Just listen in. It’s just going to get bigger,” Hudgins said. “I think really and truly [the first night] was as bad as it’s going ever to be.”
“And it wasn’t even that bad,” Wolk said. “It gives us character.”