If you happen to find yourself lost on the first floor of Mac, you may stumble across a jet-black door with the white logo "WZBC." The studio, sandwiched between the hustle and bustle of two dining halls, does not fully capture the station’s significance in the Greater Boston area.
WZBC 90.3 FM Newton is a radio station operated primarily by Boston College students. While often labeled as a club, former director of the station's segment entitled 'No Commercial Potential' John Marvin, MCAS ’18 expressed “The term ‘club’ does not fully describe WZBC because it is a licensed, non-profit radio station regulated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and many non-students host their own shows."
Walking in through the black doors, one is greeted by a musty smell and the aura of history. WZBC first aired in its current location in 1974. Over the years, the walls have been filled with numerous photos, stickers, flyers, and fan letters. The storage room brims with records, and a variety of CDs line the shelves inside the recording booths.
One historical highlight of the small station was interviewing Nirvana following the release of their 1990 breakout album Nevermind. According to Program Director Emma Arcos, MCAS ’18, rock superstar Dave Grohl once sat in their old recording studio (Kurt Cobain, unfortunately, could not make it). Currently, WZBC hosts many bands for in-house performances, and they are always on the lookout for a rising star.
WZBC’s signal emits from Cheverus Hall and reaches out roughly forty kilometers. Arcos, claiming the station had a loyal following, said, “Listeners will drive just to pick up the signal of the station.”
But what makes WZBC so appealing to these loyal audiences? A quick Wikipedia search classifies WZBC as an alternative rock station, however, WZBC plays music ranging from jazz, to sludge metal, to highly experimental music categorized as “non-commercial potential.” WZBC caters to many different musical palates and brings exposure to genres that a typical music listener may never have come across.
Operations Director Dan Lee, CSOM ’18, pointed out that the people behind the station make the biggest difference. “The DJ is a curator of music. The DJ’s job is to find new music for people who don't have the time.”
WZBC loves to promote local bands and help them gain traction, and aspiring musicians can even send in their CD’s to acquire new listeners in the Greater Boston area.
Additionally, non-musical segments air frequently. 'Democracy Now!' is a popular political show which airs five times a week, and major Boston College sporting events and sport talk shows also receive playtime.
However, the category known as 'No Commercial Potential' (NCP) is a favorite for Emma Arcos. According to Arcos, it is tough to classify the songs played during those hours as music. She simply describes them simply as “art.” For Arcos, WZBC provides an outlet of self-expression to people who may have never received such an opportunity.
WZBC could potentially face a highly well-known competitor. John Marvin expressed his concern with music applications like Spotify, saying “They give full power to the listener in that they can listen to whatever they want at all times.” This is clearly detrimental to a station of WZBC's nature, where the staff takes the time to carefully curate a listening experience for its audience.
Numerous staff members testified that the best part of the radio station is the camaraderie. Every member of WZBC shares a passion for finding and exchanging new and creative music. The station may seem distant from the Boston College community; but for their dedicated members and cult following, the station is a hidden escape.