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Six months ago, I purchased a plane ticket to Austin, Texas. I prepared as much as I could to complete my finals early, and hopped on a red-eye out of SFO.

Looking back, I would have done SXSW differently. Though my three colleagues and I suffered through minimal sleep and constant exhaustion, the knowledge we had come for was waiting inside the Austin Convention Center, each day promising new seeds necessary for the growth of our college radio, media-making minds. I must admit – I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

The music industry, from SXSW’s corporate standpoint, is dwindling. With record and CD sales at all-time lows, streaming services ripping musicians off, labels unimpressed with unfocused bands, and commercial radio promotion as calculated as a pregnant woman’s hospital-room delivery, even Tony Visconti remarked, “20 million streams equals one steak dinner.” SXSW taught me that our only solace lies not in the middle of our analog-turned-tech universe, but the extremes: from preserving record archives, to utilizing 3D printing for musical instruments and other media, we can only look to the past and the future. And believe it or not, I think that’s what college radio had figured out all along.

Unable to let go of our 30,000 LP and 45,000 CD collections, KZSC has largely solved its own problems without the help of SXSW “experts.” We will protect our archive through the elements, or whatever else could harm our sacred collection. But we will also utilize what the digital age has to offer, backing up our collection, our documents, our on-air archives, all to say: do what you will with your audio streaming services and commercial radio frequencies. College radio, as long as I can affect my predecessors, will remain live and analog on-air, but the business behind your stereo will stay up-to-date in the rapidly changing techno-21st century.

So what would I have done differently? I would have asked these panelists and moderators about us: where does college radio stand on your radar? Are we simply a means to your end, or are we as on the map as we think we are? This next weekend, I will be traveling to Southern California with a car full of UCSC students to attend the University of California Radio Network Conference. California college radio junkies will discuss what matters most to us, and through this problem-solving, restate what we’ve always known: we are on the map; we are on your phone apps and your online web stream; we are on your radio dial, and we’re not going anywhere.

Written by Shay Stoklos