CJSW Funding Drive takes independent radio to the next level one pledge at a time

Wednesday 14th, October 2015 / 15:20
By Hannah Many Guns

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an expanded and amended version of the article that ran in our October print edition.

Open your wallets! The annual CJSW Funding Drive happens this month! Illustration: Courtesy of CJSW

Open your wallets! The annual CJSW Funding Drive happens this month!
Illustration: Courtesy of CJSW

CALGARY — 1985. Mid-October, and it might’ve been cold. CJSW, Calgary’s independent radio station, has been live on the FM airwaves (rather than exclusively available on cable radio) for a mere nine-months. Succeeding with a little over than 100 volunteers, 600 individual pledges, and a “we’ll-take-what-we-get” mentality, the campus radio-station’s very first funding drive raised $15,100 in pledges, of which they collected $13,000.

October 23rd to 30th, and it’s a little cold. CJSW is 30 years and nine months old. Breaking records for the past three years as the most successful Funding Drive in community radio history, this year’s drive insists upon taking things to the next level – one pledge at a time.

“We’ve got two different initiatives for this year’s funding drive,” says station manager Myke Atkinson.

“First, we’re aiming to raise $200,000 to make a number of improvements to the amazing studios we’ve been in for the past five years. These are things like making our cassette library accessible to programmers again, providing automatic doors for disabled volunteers, and giving listeners the ability to text their favourite DJs in the booth.”

The money raised from the past several funding drives has allowed CJSW to make major improvements. Along with continuously advancing their studio with state-of-the-art equipment, the station has purchased an 18,000-watt transmitter, a live-performance space, and even a website for podcasting, allowing online playback of every single on-air broadcast. They aim for every show to be available via podcast in the near future.

“CJSW is trying to see if our amazing listeners can make our funding drive the most successful in community radio history for the fourth time in a row,” continues Atkinson.

“If we successfully raise over $250,000, we will be building a mobile radio setup that will allow us to broadcast live from anywhere in the community. Unlike commercial radio stations, we won’t be using these on-location events to hype up, say, a new model of car with free hot dogs. Instead, we’re going to apply the creativity and passion we have for great radio and experiment to see how this setup can truly make next level radio.”

Being able to broadcast live from anywhere in Calgary unbinds the constriction of limited location. This will affect the way programmers, be they ripened with years’ worth of experience or in their budding months, express their passion via the FM dial. For the many show-hosts of CJSW, what drives them to bring you independent radio week after week is that they are able to break the bounds of commercial radio. They are able to create art, express individuality, and share their own voice through the airwaves.

“Over the course of 22 years, The Cage has evolved so much,” says programmer Nat Chaos of Friday’s two a.m. metal show Rage Cage.

“It goes beyond music, entertainment, or escapism; it’s an experience, which only my devoted cagemongers will truly understand! As a Cagemaster myself, I always try to make each experience different. I think this is important when it comes to Funding Drive. You always think: why are listeners wanting to pledge toward my show?”

He continues, “It’s because of what you deliver every week. I put a lot of time and effort into planning my show, keeping it fresh and different, and it’s not always an easy task.”

Typically, Funding Drive shows are dialogue-driven – a song here and there – allowing the many voices of CJSW to explain, teach, enlighten, excite, and ignite passion for the stations fund-raising initiatives.

“From a listener’s perspective, a funding drive brings about whole new vibes,” continues Chaos. “It brings out totally different sides from everyone, so many surprises, like that one time I sang Sheena Easton (‘80s pop diva) on the air! With Funding Drive, you just never know what to expect.”

A huge lure of the funding drive that gets listeners to pledge is the incentives. Some of these incentives include the ubiquitous Friends Cards, which feature discounts for some of Calgary’s independent businesses; swag, this year featuring Michael Mateyko’s 8-bit art; a CJSW coffee mug, and, lastly, a limited edition holographic Next Level Radio foil print, depending on your pledge level.

In addition, individual hosts also have exclusive incentives during their show time. Of these, the most popular are compilation CDs that have been handcrafted and formed within the contours of their mind.

“Back in the ‘80s we made mix-tapes for each-other,” recall’s Grant Burns, one of CJSW’s first station managers and the co-host of popular Friday late afternoon show Road Pops. The show has been on the air since 1984.

“So, we started making the compilations in the late ‘90s. Maybe ‘97, ‘98… Maybe ‘99. Before that, our computers were a teeny 20 megabytes,” he says, laughing.

“When we all started getting laptops, we could easily burn CDs. So we put together compilations of music, the kind that we played on CJSW, and we offered them to those pledging. That was a great thing for our listeners, because, initially, that’s why they liked listening to the station. The music. That was a game changer.”

On top of their on-air activities, CJSW will be hosting a number of events leading up to the drive. For instance, metal programmers will be hosting the fifth annual Night of the Long Hairs at the Palomino Smokehouse & Bar on Thursday, October 15th. Over the course of October, there will be a ton of ways to get active and get involved. The best way to do so is simple: pledge.

Check out www.cjsw.com, where you can learn more about this year’s funding drive, as well as pre-pledge for your favourite show. When the drive rolls around, tune in, listen, pledge, and keep your radio set to 90.9 on the FM dial.

The CJSW Funding Drive takes place from October 23rd until October 30th. Call (403) 220-3991 to donate during that time, or visit http://fundingdrive.ca/ to donate.

CORRECTION: The October print edition of this article mistakenly attributed a quote from Rage Cage programmer Nat Chaos to Station Manager Myke Atkinson. The online version has been corrected to rectify that problem and been expanded to include more of the contributions from Nat Chaos. We apologize for the confusion.

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