It started out of boredom, really.
In October 2011 I was a wet-behind-the-ears freshman at Vanderbilt still trying to find my place in college society. I had always been very involved in clubs and sports in high school, but it was different here…you had to apply to join things. And for the first time in my life, I was getting rejected. Didn’t get a VMO board position. Didn’t get into the Melodores OR the Dodecs. All of a sudden, I had a lot of free time and no idea what to do with it.
Then I remembered that my friend Matt Scarano was a DJ at Vandy’s radio station, WRVU. I liked music, and I had taken a radio broadcasting class four years earlier, in high school. Why not? I joined up with the station and, after a semester of training, had my very own show! I wanted a name for it that would stand out as cool, but not be too cheesy…and after a short internal debate COLD FUSION was chosen, broadcasting every Sunday at 1! Cold Fusion, fusing the best of yesterday’s rock with the best of today’s rock! There was nothing not to not like!
Yet today, Cold Fusion is Cold and Dead. How could such a thing happen?! I threw a lot of energy into my show, creating a Facebook page, posting each week’s playlist, and advertising the show to my friends. And I had a blast jamming out in the WRVU studio to my favorite songs by Rush, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin, all the while tolerating the songs I had to play on rotation. But eventually, a realization dawned on me, and perhaps I was doomed to this from the start, being a philosophy major.
The truth is that since WRVU’s frequency was controversially sold by Vanderbilt Student Communications to Nashville Public Radio in the summer of 2011, the station has lost most, if not all, of its listenership in the community. No local Nashvillians were tuning in to hear my awesome show, and quite frankly, not very many Vandy students were either. Now that WRVU was exclusively online, it had to compete against such titans as Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, iTunes, and, yes, torrented music. There was no way we were going to win that battle. If people could choose the music they want, why would they want a fellow student on a now-obscure website to do it for them? No matter how hard I tried, the music I was playing was already out there in a more convenient form. With no incentive for anyone to tune in, my show went largely unheard, and the entire enterprise lost meaning for me.
So I began to think about ways to bring WRVU back to relevancy. I loved (and still love) being on the radio…the power of broadcasting music to millions, music that I feel is important and will affect people’s lives. I wasn’t about to give up, but nothing was coming to mind. I was frustrated at the prospect of having to continue my slog through the invisible airwaves of WRVU with another cliché radio show. Then, one night in April, I was listening to the Beatles’ Anthology disc set (a fantastic buy for any Beatle fans out there) and one of their interviews came on. There they were, John, Paul, George and Ringo, the musical gods of the past half century, just talking and sounding like normal guys, telling stories. They were brought to life in my mind, and just like that my mind brought to life an idea.
Vanderbilt is in Nashville, a town known to all as Music City. That’s part of what drew me here in the first place, so I could assume it was true for others as well. Yet when we hear about the college music scene in Nashville, all we ever hear is Belmont, Belmont, MTSU, Belmont…never Vandy. There is NO WAY there are no good musicians here, I thought. They just needed to be brought out into the public eye. And there I had my Eureka! moment…a new show.
A show that would bring WRVU back to relevancy by refocusing it on the ultra-local Vanderbilt market and providing completely unique programming.
A show that would help get Vanderbilt students’ music out into the public eye, give them valuable experience in playing live and telling their story, and hopefully gain them connections in the industry.
A show that would renew my sense of purpose on the radio, and at Vanderbilt in general.
Thus was born The VU Backstage.
Two and a half years removed from its first broadcast, the show is doing better than I had dared to hope. We’ve heard so many amazing stories and even more incredible songs from some of Vanderbilt’s fastest-rising stars–Eli Teplin, Two Friends, Kid Freud, the list goes on. We’ve kept up a Facebook and Twitter presence, and even managed to maintain this very website, despite the travails of school, social life and, at times, a desperate need for sleep. Best of all, the show has grown to the point where we now offer you news and commentary on music, videos of our guest performances, and quality sound recordings from our next-door neighbors RVU Records. I’d like to think The VU Backstage has influenced the creation of WRVU’s staff blog and burgeoning multimedia content, but whether or not the two are connected, I am satisfied with the mere fact that I’m able to bring great live music and interview to you every Sunday night at 9pm. It’s my favorite part of every weekend, and I hope it makes you smile too as you head into another busy week.
Thank you so much for all of your support. Our listeners are the life blood of the show…you give our guests an audience, which is what they need to succeed. If you haven’t yet, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest news regarding the show and the Vanderbilt music scene. We have already come so far, but there is so much left to do. There will always be new musicians coming to campus looking for exposure, and as long as you’re listening, we’ll be on WRVU every Sunday at 9 with some great talk and better music.
So turn up your laptop speakers and enjoy The VU Backstage–the best college music talent Nashville has to offer.
-Zach Blumenfeld, Creator and Host