In just about a week or so, radio station WFMU will begin its annual fundraising marathon. Lots of public radio stations are taking time out this time of year to hit up their listeners for money. Why is WFMU different? Why do I support this one and no other station?
Put it simply, WFMU gets zero corporate or government dollars. One hundred percent of their funds comes from listener donations. Well, OK, there are a few modest grants, their annual Record Fair, and some companies that have donation-matching programs, but that’s it. You’ll never hear “Support for this program comes from….” or “This broadcast is made possible by a grant from….”
What this means is that no one (other than the FCC) can tell the station what it can broadcast. It’s “freeform” – their volunteer DJs play whatever they want. Since they all clearly love their particular genre of music, the whole effect is that of having a bunch of good friends who want to share this love of music with you. There’s a gospel show, a 50s R&B show, international music, reggae…. And several talk and listener call-in hours to add to the variety.
They are also very supportive of the local music scene in NYC and northern NJ, with DJs hosting local events. And they’ve been innovative, too. In 1997, they started live online streaming of their broadcast, which soon led to them archiving their shows. There’s at least 100,000 hours of radio available! And that doesn’t include podcasts and their new “Web Only” streams! They’ve even begun curating a “Free Music Archive” where you can find all manner of free and “pre-cleared” music for your creative needs.
I’ve been supporting them for several years now, and the Marathons are very likely the most fun thing you’ll hear on the station. Most other public stations sound tired as they beg for your money; WFMU goes crazy with excitement, live performances, and goofy stunts as they essentially invite you to join in on the madness.
In addition to the load of swag (no mere “Thank You” gifts here!) that you can get for your donation, you can even buy naming rights to a part of the station or Adopt a DJ! Let’s see you do that, PBS!
Here’s a bit from NJTV News about a recent documentary, “Sex and Broadcasting”, about WFMU:
So check them out, give them a listen, and maybe join the Super Secret Club of Worldwide WFMU Fans by sending a few bucks their way!