Student-run radio station promotes smaller artists

KZUU creates platform for students, underground artists



The student DJs of KZUU are allowed to run their shows as they want, as long as they follow Federal Communications Commission rules and don’t play any popular artists.

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

KZUU General Director and DJ Emily Lam said she found out about KZUU her freshman year through a tabling event, on Terrell Mall. Drawn by the music, she asked the DJ at the table what it was about, and they told her she could have her own radio show and share underground music with people.

“I stayed [at KZUU] for a long time,” Lam said. “I didn’t expect to, I just joined it as something just to join and after a while, I just became attached to it … and I’ve grown a lot since then.”

KZUU 90.7 FM is a non-commercial radio station that only promotes smaller artists. Students can apply to be DJs, where they get their own show to play whatever music they like, as long as the artists aren’t too popular.

General Director and DJ Dahlia Xie said they trust the DJs to decide whether an artist is too big to be played on the station or not, but general signs are if the artist has a song in the Top 100s, if any of their songs have been featured on popular radio stations or if they have been on a song with a popular artist.

“We’re basically trying to build or offer a platform for smaller artists to thrive on,” Xie said.

Most of the music played by the station is either artists the DJs have found themselves or the music sent to them by artists. Xie said the station is constantly sent CDs, much of which gets reviewed by DJs on their shows and on the KZUU website, and it has led to them discovering and showcasing artists like Tame Impala before they were big.

Xie said she signed up to be a DJ as a freshman after KZUU tabled outside of her dorm, and ended up bonding with the general managers at the time over similar music tastes, being convinced to join.

DJs have to follow some Federal Communications Commission rules such as not swearing on their shows, Xie said, but besides that, they are free to run their shows how they like. DJs do, however, have to play at least four songs from the station playlist to ensure underground artists get coverage.

“We basically give all the DJs as much creativity as they can give out,” Lam said. “As long as they’re following what KZUU stands for, which is promoting smaller artists, then anything goes.”

While KZUU formerly ran through their on-campus studio, but when COVID-19 hit the station has switched to remote work. Instead of two-hour live shows, they now run one-hour pre-recorded shows, and Lam said some DJs are still working through technical difficulties without having everything already set up in the studio.

“Some people have different laptops, different internet connections … not everyone, but a lot of people have been struggling in some sort of way, as compared to going into the studio where everything’s already set up,” Lam said, “but we’re making it work. Everyone is passionate about it and wants to keep going.”

Xie said KZUU will keep running amid a pandemic to provide students, artists and Pullman residents with a creative outlet and a place to discover new music.

“KZUU is full of passionate people who are all passionate about music,” Lam said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to have this creative outlet … to share our music or our music tastes and connect with people that way and connect with each other that way.”