Often called “America’s College Town,” Boston is crammed with dozens of colleges and universities, from Boston College to Boston University, Emerson to Emmanuel, and, of course, Berklee College of Music. As a result, Beantown is home to perhaps the most wide-ranging, competitive college-radio scene in the country. There are several choices for quality, cutting-edge college radio on the dial (and online), but these three stand out:
WERS 88.9 FM, Emerson College
Professionally managed and student-run, Emerson’s heralded WERS calls itself “Boston’s Discovery Station,” focusing on breaking unknown acts. “We had fun. in the studio back when they were playing at a really small venue in Cambridge,” music director Anthony Cantone Heinze recalls. The station is predominantly triple A, but has also been known for its progressive hip-hop and reggae programming, including “Rockers,” started by alumnus Doug Herzog, now president of MTV Networks, in 1978. That show and the rap-focused “88.9 at Night” were canceled in August, leading to a social media uproar, but director of product development Beau Raines says the station’s urban focus will live on with a show called “The Secret Spot,” “a combination of slow jams, R&B and classic soul.”
WMFO 91.5 FM, Tufts University
Tuft’s WMFO operates from Medford, just outside the city, but broadcasts to most of central Boston. The station features a mix of student and community DJs helming shows focused on everything from gospel to electronic to freestyle rap, in between sports, talk-show and comedy programming. “It’s free form, with such an eclectic program of genres,” says DJ Todd Chrostowski, who runs a program called “Music You Might Otherwise Have Missed,” featuring a mix of newly released music with a mix of neo-folk, Indian and alternative thrown in.
WTBU 89.3 FM, Boston University
BU’s student-run station has long had an impact that extends well past its relatively weak broadcast range (the station reaches many more listeners through online streaming). In 1980, WTBU led a boycott of Arista Records when the label stopped sending promotional releases to college radio. In 1973, the station was home to student Howard Stern — briefly. “We’re credited for being the first people to kick him off the air, for one of his more risky segments,” GM Deanna Archetto says, adding that there aren’t any lingering hard feelings. “We actually heard from him when we won station of the year at the CMJ music festival last year. We sent him a sweatshirt and he sent back a note saying congrats.” Today, one of the most popular shows is “Kultur Shock,” which showcases local bands from a different city each week.