Beginning this week, community radio station CJSW is launching several fundraising events across Calgary. Based out of the University of Calgary (U of C), CJSW is accessible across Calgary and on the Internet, making it a prominent fixture in local broadcasting.
Unlike most radio stations, CJSW strives to promote only local acts and events — a niche in the media landscapes that station manager Chad Saunders thinks is sorely lacking in our city.
“There was a time when local broadcasters truly had a local focus, but as everything amalgamated, got bought out and got consolidated media wise, there’s actually very little that is produced locally.”
One listener of CJSW tunes in daily specifically for this reason. Jeremy Karl, 33, says he likes listening to CJSW because “you are guaranteed that what’s on there is not on another station.”
Since 1984, CJSW has hosted an annual fundraising effort in order to have the freedom to run mostly independent programming — the purpose of which is not for profit but to merely operate the station without having to rely on big corporate or commercial advertising.
“We don’t run soft drink ads. We don’t run big multi-national corporation type campaigns because it just doesn’t fit into our programming,” Saunders says. “We think people are smart enough to know where to go buy a drink when they are thirsty or food when they are hungry, or where to buy a mattress.”
It’s not that CJSW doesn’t run ads, but that the ads are selective and, like the music it airs, is kept local — geared more to informing the public of local events and community public awareness.
Music director at CJSW Kat Dornian started out as a volunteer during her student days at U of C, and has been with the station for seven years now. She thinks CJSW is truly “one of a kind in Calgary.”
“There’s not a lot of other alternatives that provide independent music that you won’t hear anywhere else,” she says.
More than 100 bands visit the studios of CJSW every year. All of them are local — many of whom have never been heard by the public before or given the platform that CJSW provides to expose their music to the local community, Dornian says.
With numerous events happening all over the city — like the kickoff party at Palomino on Oct. 21, and men in ape suits handing out swag — CJSW’s goal is to raise money in order to not only maintain the radio tower and pay the utilities on it, but also to help maintain the quality of the programming itself. The fundraiser runs until Oct.28.
Unlike with most charities, donors to this organization can actually “hear their money at work,” Saunders says.
“Whether it’s a headset on a DJ, or a microphone, or the CD players, all that stuff. Quite literally, you can’t hear CJSW unless we collect at least $125,000 out of the funding drive each year.
“If people truly want commercial free, then if they donate during (our) funding drive they know that they are making sure that the programming comes first.”
Long-time supporters of CJSW, Cantos Music Foundation (soon to be the National Music Centre), strives to not only promote music, but to use it as a catalyst to create unique experiences for the community that is centered around music.
Cantos has teamed up with the station to auction off some old radios that have been painted and repurposed as art by local artists. This event will take place on Oct. 24 at the Foundation’s headquarters, located downtown in the southeast at 1 St. and 11 Ave.
Cantos programming officer Candace Elder says that the auction is a great “opportunity to get exposure for both organizations and to get people in the door and hang out at Cantos.”
Further information on CJSW events taking place this week can be found at cjsw.com/funding