WVBR 93.5 FM Ithaca’s “real rock radio” is out and “Ithaca’s Alternative” is in.
This change of genre for the independent, Cornell student-run radio station comes after increasing confusion as to what constitutes “real rock.” In the recent years, the station has failed to focus its efforts on any particular decade or subgenre, leading to a lack of consistency within their sound.
With the new alternative format, the station will play songs from the ’90s, classic alternative if you will, to the present. Under the genre of alternative, artists like Nirvana, The Foo Fighters, The Strokes, Cold War Kids and Tame Impala coexist with only one thing to bind them: a willingness to experiment with non-traditional sounds and stage antics.
What is most interesting about this is that the station is trying to escape an unfocused format by switching to an incredibly broad format. However, the genre itself, no matter how varied its artists may be, draws a very specific crowd — one that is very prominent in the Ithaca community.
Up until now, there had been a feeling in Ithaca — a town filled with non-conforming bohemians — that the music WBVR has been delivering is outdated. “We wanted to create a station that provides an alternative experience to what’s currently out there,” said TJ Hurd ’19, assistant general manager of WVBR, in response to the growing unrest and desire for something more “with the times.”
The station is seeking a sound that can connect not only to the general listeners but with the large number of student listeners. And the bottom line is that alternative music satisfies the college age desire for angst, love and heartbreak.
Despite the major shifts in marketing strategies that WVBR will undergo in the coming months, the station has offered to keep with tradition on the weekends. Some of the weekend specialty shows, such as Rockin’ Remnants (which was first broadcasted in 1963), have become essential to the station’s and Ithaca’s radio identity and it would be unjust to cancel something as historically important to rock and roll as a show which has been around since before Black Sabbath recorded its first studio album in 1968.
In addition to brand change, WVBR has moved their transmission over to a new radio tower built over the summer. According to the press release statement, “with a new tower and transmitter, WVBR now transmits a stronger and clearer signal, allowing the station to be heard by a larger local audience.” The fuzzy alt-waves even have the potential to reach listeners beyond Tompkins County.
With all of the major modifications that the station is currently undergoing, one must ask, “where is the money coming from?” WVBR receives continuous support not only from the Ithaca community and advertisers, but also Cornell alumni. Radio and broadcasting tycoons such as Steve Blatter (general manager of SiriusXM) and Keith Olbermann (sports commentator for ESPN, MSNBC and Current TV), both Cornellians, have made major contributions.
Viri Garcia is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peter Buonanno is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com