WMPG is a local non-profit radio station that is staffed by volunteers, including University of Southern Maine students and community members. Since March, WMPG has been forced to operate remotely. COVID-19 has created many obstacles and learning curves for staff members.
At first, the station cut all live programming and could only air repeat shows, which was not ideal. In order for the station to succeed, DJ’s had to learn how to record and produce their shows from their own homes. This was challenging for many DJ’s.
In the beginning, many DJ’s did not know anything about digital editing or have their own high quality microphones comparable to those in the WPMG studio. The sound quality has been impacted by the change, but it is more important that the DJ’s are able to speak from their hearts and connect with their audiences in real time.
Although students have moved back to campus WMPG is still holding shows remotely. The majority of WMPG is staffed by community members who are prohibited from entering the studio which is located on campus. About 75% of shows are being recorded at home by DJ’s, and the other 25% are unable to be recorded at this time.
Fortunately, WMPG is having no trouble finding volunteers. “At this point operations are not normal. I will take audio as long as it is good and follows the rules,” said Jessica Lockhart, WMPG Program Director.
Old DJ’s are volunteering to fill in. New volunteers are sending in audio samples. Newer DJ’s are getting the opportunity to fill in for shows that they normally would only be considered a substitute for.
Although shows are in real time, they must be pre-recorded. This has been challenging for DJ’s because they are used to interacting with their audience directly when they phone into the DJ booth. “Now that shows have to be pre-recorded, you’re losing a lot of that charm,” said Shannon Kindred, student volunteer, host of Hello Hallyu.
But there are some benefits to recording remotely. Some hosts have found that the quality of their overall content has increased. “While I can’t talk to listeners during playlists, I’m still able to advertise and communicate with them by social media, and actually see an uptake in listenership. As for recording, I can literally edit out or rerecord lines, crossfade tracks and put beds into the narration so everything sounds perfect,” said Kindred.
Due to the flexibility of editing, pre-recording is an advantage used by many DJ’s because they can easily make their content fit in their designated time slots by cutting out content they don’t want. Despite the obstacles, WMPG is efficiently following COVID-19 guidelines and they have smoothly transitioned to remote shows.
In the meantime, community volunteers will continue grinding from their homes and student volunteers living on campus will soon be allowed to record from the WMPG studio if they are comfortable with doing so.