Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

A 5-point Plan to Resurrect KTXT

An open letter to the gang at KTXT:

Step One: Don’t ask for money

I know you guys are angry right now, and I know what kind of people were drawn to KTXT. You guys are advocates and organizers and champions of noble causes. Your first impulse will be to protest, to throw your energy into petitions and signs and marches aimed at reversing this decision.

The movement has already started.

I respect your efforts and I know you have to try. Think of this plan as a fallback position — something to keep the torch burning if the protest doesn’t work.

Step Two: Don’t sell out

If you can’t save the station with pledge drives or public money, your minds will naturally turn to sponsorship. This sounds smart, but it’s actually the worst thing that could happen to you.

Do you really think some nightclub owner with hair plugs and cowboy boots knows how to do Indie radio?

In this arena, you guys are the experts and a sponsor is baggage you don’t need.

Step Three: Embrace freedom

Remember all those rules you hated? The time constraints and content restrictions? The FCC rules and the university rules and the student media rules? The gentle lectures and the angry phone calls and the lame debates that came up, every time you wanted to do something cool?

All those rules just vanished. Poof. Gone.

You guys are free now.

There’s a whole new world waiting for you, and the FCC can’t touch it yet.

Step Four: Build a new wheel

Alternate title for this was “Duff’s Dirty Dozen plan for saving KTXT”.

First, get 12 people. Find 12 of the coolest, smartest, most passionate people you know — people with drive, people with connections — people who love music more than anything else in the world.

Go to WordPress or Typepad or Blogger and grab a free blog. Make 12 user accounts and turn them loose. No categories, no editors, no rules. Let these people post about anything they want — movies, comics, politics, music, books — whatever.

Here’s video from a show I saw last night. Here’s 30 shots from a party I went to. Here’s a Rolling Stone interview with some guy from The Flaming Lips. Here’s five questions with the guys who were at Bright House last night. Here’s an hour-long podcast we made at somebody’s house after the show.

Don’t plan too much, don’t overthink it, and any time somebody talks about money, kick them out.

And if any part of this is not fun, stop doing it and do something else.

This isn’t about money. This is about love.

You can’t make money yet because you have nothing to sell. All money can do at this point is start fights. At this stage of the project, money really is the root of all evil. Don’t just ignore advertising — actively refuse advertising, for at least three months.

You’re building a brand here; it’ll take six months just to see what you have.

Some people will post like mental patients and burn out in a week. Some people will set schedules and post every day. Some people will go strong for months and fade when they get married.

Don’t worry about it. Just wish them well and replace them. And remember, there are no rules anymore. You’re not restricted to Lubbock people and you’re not restricted to current Tech students. You’ve got 20 years of KTXT alums on speed dial, and Skype calls are free.

You can assemble a podcast with Skype, Audacity and a free RSS feed — pulling talent from anywhere in the world.

Step Five: Don’t stop the music

Here’s the part I don’t know. You guys are the music experts. Put your heads together and call in some favors. I know Indie artists are eager to establish themselves on MySpace and most of them distribute free MP3s.

Contact the agents directly and assemble all the music you can. Launch a free station on Shoutcast — mix in humor bits, stings for your podcasts and a catchy plug for your URL.

Do your homework and keep it legal. It’ll be tempting to cheat on this, but an RIAA notice could kill the whole thing. Do a tour of big music blogs and see how they do it.

Then, in six months or so, when you’re at your bandwidth limit and posts are coming in faster than you can count, that’s when you talk about money.

Twelve hosts, three podcasts, one blog, six months.

You guys took a hard shot this week. I know you’re angry and I know you’re hurt. But I also know what kind of people you are. The KTXT people I knew were brave, passionate, and smart as hell.

They were “mavericks” and iconoclasts and masters of guerrilla marketing.

You have a choice now. You can turn out the lights and feel sorry for yourselves. You can sell your souls to a guy who thinks music stopped with Def Leppard. Or you can invent the future, and make the suits come to you.

UPDATE: Former Station Manager Rocky Ramirez makes some good points about Internet streaming and the unique value of terrestrial radio.

UPDATE: Dawn Zuerker brings up an excellent point in Josh Hull’s story this morning:

Because KTXT-FM is licensed through the FCC as an educational station, regulations strictly limited the type of advertisements that could be broadcast, making revenue generation difficult, said Dawn Zuerker, associate director of the department.

“It can’t be a commercial at all,” Zuerker said, adding the only information that could be mentioned on air was the name of a business, a slogan, the address and a phone number. “It’s harder to sell because you can’t give any specials.”

UPDATE: Here’s a copy of my reply to Rocky:

I can’t dispute the value of terrestrial radio, but please keep in mind, students don’t walk around listening to the radio on Walkmans anymore. They’re listening to podcasts and mp3s on their iPods.

A KTXT podcast, mixing music samples and commentary like the one from KEXP could recapture some of what you’re losing, and a lot of blogs offer free mp3 downloads.

Become a source for smart commentary, in blog and podcast form, distribute promotional mp3s song by song, and students all over campus will access you on laptops and listen to you on iPods.

Streaming audio is a limited application, but iPods can make the whole thing portable.

Podcasts are also timeless. Listeners can grab them and listen to them at their convenience, without worrying about broadcast schedules. Podcasts are also durable.

If listeners want to relive a Christmas concert in February, they can go to the archive and download your coverage of the show.

Of course you’ll still want to focus on Lubbock, but an Internet music hub could reach far beyond Lubbock and get you on the radar of people who will hire you for jobs in the music industry.

A podcast archive becomes an audio resume, available on demand for anyone who notices your work.

UPDATE: And here’s one that just occurred to me. A college radio station is transitory, with a naturally high turnover rate. Students work there for a year or two and move to other cities. An Internet show can let good people stay on after they graduate, contributing to the project even after they move out and get jobs in the “real world.”

These people can add perspective and give career advice. They can even bring trends to Lubbock, as they share music and concert stories from other cities.

Written by Michael B. Duff

December 10, 2008 at 20:16

Posted in Best Of, Music

15 Responses

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  1. For a newspaper pundit you’re giving remarkably sound advice.

    What you’re suggesting amounts to leveraging the publicity–and anger–associated with the station’s closing, and using modern technology to reinvent the station online.

    There’s no reason in the world it shouldn’t work–I hope they give it a shot.


    December 10, 2008 at 20:39

  2. Good stuff, Duff.

    Your point about contacting alumni is well-taken. Anyone reading the comments should back up and read that part twice.

    I would just add that alumni can also contact the University and plead the case for keeping KTXT-FM going. They’re also a good source for fundraising for whatever comes next.


    December 10, 2008 at 20:53

  3. Agreed… Great ideas. yet still…

    o Whom It May Concern:

    I am a Texas Tech Alumnus and former DJ and music reviewer for KTXT 88.1 FM. I recently heard from multiple sources that the Student Media Department has decided to close down the station after of 47 years of being on the air.

    This is OUTRAGING! I am a musician and booking agent working avidly and vibrantly within the Seattle music scene (www.emilyannpeterson.com, http://www.emilyandfriends.com) When I take account of all I learned in college, my experience at KTXT was my ONLY saving grace at Texas Tech concerning the music business.

    Though my business degree from Texas Tech means something on paper – my experience working at the station was well worth the ENTIRE cost of tuition. I can’t fathom gaining the same experience in the music industry at Tech without KTXT. ALL facets of the industry were laid out to all involved in any capacity.

    The experience I received as a music reviewer, DJ, Radio Show Co-host, and promotional team member prepared me in crucial ways to pursue a career in the industry of music. KTXT opened the one of the rare portals gaining clear and open access to see and be involved with the inner-workings of the music business. My experience at the station single-handedly provided opportunity to intern with Sub Pop Records, work alongside TV licensing and manager for Third Eye Blind – Wayne Ledbetter, and also a job with Entertainment Attorney – Kevin Jablonski.

    It saddens my soul deeply to imagine future students not having a station like KTXT to give listeners a break from the stinking air-waves of Lubbock’s Top 40 happy pappy crap. And yes there is a metaphor between the stinking figurative air of Lubbock and the literal air of Lubbock radio waves.

    This action by Texas Tech is another way that Lubbock has provided proof that it lacks culture in significant ways. It is the city in which Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks grew up – Please don’t give any more musicians reason to write lyrics such as her song titled “Lubbock or Leave it…” (Please see lyrics attached to this letter.)

    I can understand tightening the purse strings a bit, but there has been no replacement organization proposed to the student body. Which is another source of outrage in and of itself.

    I would strongly suggest you covering this subject and helping the media students of Texas Tech by giving them simply 1% of your time this week. Thank you.

    Crying tears of grief and wishing it were possible to hug a radio station I remain,

    Emily Ann Peterson
    Musician, and Booking Agent

    “Dust bowl, Bible belt
    Got more churches than trees
    Raise me, praise me, couldn’t save me
    Couldn’t keep me on my knees
    Oh, boy, rave on down loop 289
    That’ll be the day you see me back
    In this fool’s paradise

    Temptation’s strong
    (Salvation’s gone)
    I’m on my way
    To hell’s half acre
    How will I ever
    How will I ever
    Get to heaven now

    Throwing stones from the top of your rock
    Thinking no one can see
    The secrets you hide behind
    Your southern hospitality
    On the strip the kids get lit
    So they can have a real good time
    Come Sunday they can just take their pick
    From the crucifix skyline

    Temptation’s strong
    (Salvation’s gone)
    I’m on my way
    To hell’s half acre
    How will I ever
    How will I ever
    Get to heaven now
    Get to heaven now

    International airport
    A quarter after nine
    Paris Texas, Athens Georgia’s
    Not what I had in mind
    As I’m getting out I laugh to myself
    Cause this is the only place
    Where as you’re getting on the plane
    You see Buddy Holly’s face

    I hear they hate me now
    Just like they hated you
    Maybe when I’m dead and gone
    I’m gonna get a statue too

    Temptation’s strong
    (Salvation’s gone)
    I’m on my way
    To hell’s half acre
    How will I ever
    How will I ever
    Get to heaven now
    Get to heaven now
    How will I ever” – Lubbock or Leave it, Dixie Chicks

    Emily Peterson

    December 11, 2008 at 00:55

  4. Hrmmm…

    Some fine points here, but I think most of us will disagree in the big picture. This is not about us. Obviously we can post whatever we want on the internet and go about our own efforts in that medium. We’ve always been able to do that. But the internet is a pull medium, not a push medium. You can’t tune into the internet while you drive. Streaming audio is subject to firewalling and network bugs.
    We have 47 years of tradition and the relative freedom of radio. It’s ubiquitous and cheap and easy to access. This would be a giant step back, we feel. We are willing to comply by FCC mandates. We want this to be available to anyone who tunes in, be it purposely or by accident. We want this institution to be available to not just us, but the future generations of KTXT. This is what really hurts so bad. We can always just ahng out and listen to music, but what about the next class and so on? The station needs to be there, to bring students to Tech who want to pursue their love of music and their desire to share that with EVERYONE. We need the FM spectrum to really realize that, and the support of the Tech faculty.

    JP Acreman

    December 11, 2008 at 03:09

  5. Be thankful for getting experience and move on.


    December 11, 2008 at 10:22

  6. I am stunned that KTXT is off the waves so suddenly. I worked there for several years during my time at TTU and gained a lot of valuable experience there and also expanded my repertoire of music infinitely. I don’t know what the solution is, but I think TTU was pretty sneaky to do it this way – overnight at the end of finals with no warning.

    Bring back KTXT – a voice of independent music in little ol’ LBB.


    December 11, 2008 at 10:54

  7. Wow, SunSetting. Never cared about anything, have you?

    Jason Rhode

    December 11, 2008 at 11:58

  8. KTXT thrives as the most diverse family of students, listeners, locals and musicians.

    My heart is heavy. This is a tremendous loss that must certainly be temporary.

    Laura Pavlovich

    December 11, 2008 at 13:00

  9. Sigh…if only the true incompetence about those who ran this thing into the ground was known…

    Mike Rogers

    December 11, 2008 at 13:54

  10. I appreciate the sentiment Jaffo ( Heya Mike. 🙂 ) but I think what you’re counting as a hinderance there in the last update about not being forced to be so transitory is one of KTXT’s biggest strengths. The constant change and turnover gives kids hope! Sure, I would have loved to have stuck on and worked at the station for a decade, but it quickly would have changed the nature of the station I grew up (literally and metaphorically) to. Going through Jr. High, High School and then on to University at Tech listening to KTXT, I looked forward to, then enjoyed, and now fondly remember working as a DJ and a staff member. I keep hearing these comments where people are really concerned with the present, or ‘their’ present when they worked there. Don’t forget about the history that IS KTXT and is being irrevocably destroyed for the coming generations.

    Seth Thornberry

    December 11, 2008 at 15:22

  11. Hey Mike- Dawn Zeurker (quoted in the AJ story) is an idiot. KOHM manages to operate just fine within the same FCC restrictions and confines as KTXT- what’s their secret? Bottom line: Student Media had/has no broadcast experience whatsoever and they ran it aground.

    Mike Rogers

    December 11, 2008 at 15:29

  12. I agree on the subtle plans proposed here, but it still sounds like people are selling out a bit. I think the station needs to live, as well as using an internet stream to keep the alums listening if they leave the city after they graduate. The nostalgia of having a good college station won’t be forgotten by the graduates of each year. I know the support is there for you guys, and the money should follow. I will be active in whatever has to be done.

    David P.

    December 13, 2008 at 10:35

  13. That should have read, I think the station needs to stay live…

    David P.

    December 13, 2008 at 10:37

  14. I did “The Crazy Atomic Jazz Show” in 1990. I was hired by Clive Kinghorn. I wasnt a student. I live in Key West, FL now. I was in Lubbock in Sept. KTXT was some of the only Real music I heard on a 5765 mile trip which included New York.

    Johnny Ray

    December 15, 2008 at 05:49

  15. As a faithful listener of KTXT, I was deeply saddened to learn that the dead air wasn’t just a blip in the broadcast. KTXT has represented so many things in the Lubbock community that Texas Tech should be proud of. Its support of art, culture, and DIVERSITY was UNSURPASSED by any other organization in Lubbock. The broadcast cease is a horrible, horrible mistake. Maybe this plan does have its great points, but it won’t change the fact that I can no longer push the number one pre-set button on my car stereo and hear the music that brought a smile to my face for the last five years. KTXT needs to remain live on the airwaves.


    December 17, 2008 at 10:25

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