When we reported on the Spring 2016 Nielsen Audio ratings for Triple A stations last week [link] we mentioned a few stations that likely have a substantial number of listeners but the exact number is not published. Perhaps the best example is WYCE [link], the “music discovery” voice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ratings data is gathered for stations like WYCE, it just isn’t publically available. Based on the performance of similar stations, my guesstimate is that WYCE likely has 20,000 to 40,000 weekly listeners. But its impact is far greater than numbers – it is the center of the Grand Rapids music scene. New manager Quinn Mathews plans to keep it that way. Mathews told The Rapidian:
“I see this [job] as being a music community ambassador through a radio station. Grand Rapids is so inviting and welcoming, with the musicians and the fans of music going out to support the musicians. You don’t find that everywhere.”
Mathews knows the enthusiasm for local, live music first hand. It was a gig that first brought Quinn and his wife, Channing Lee, to Grand Rapids a little over two years ago. They fell in love with the community and Mathews started at WYCE as a volunteer.
Quinn then established a weekly live program GR LIVE, now a signature show on WYCE. GR LIVE happens each Thursday at Noon, live from H.O.M.E. (House of Music and Entertainment) in downtown Grand Rapids. Quinn is the host and producer of GR LIVE.
The quick success of GR LIVE led Quinn to apply for the open Station Manager gig. Quinn talked about the symmetry between GR LIVE and WYCE:
“I started GR LIVE to get local live music on the radio. It is a place to find out where bands will be playing this weekend. Artists stop by and play a song or two to and chat about the local scene. I’d like that same concept to be what I do for WYCE now. I really want the role as station manager to be ‘What can we do for our local music community?’”
WYCE IS PART OF A UNIQUE PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA ORGANIZATION
WYCE is part of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center [link], a 501c3 whose motto is Building community through media.
The Community Media Center (CMC) began in 1981 to handle local cable TV access channels. If you have cable TV you pay a “Franchise Fee” every month as part of your bill. Every cable system does this but most try to plow the money back into their corporate coffers.
(For instance, I pay $8.36 per month – over $100 per year – to support two local channels filled with preachers, hucksters and polka parties.)
The CMC is different. In addition to overseeing cable access channels, the CMC is a multi-platform media center that owns and operates WYCE, the Wealthy Theatre and The Rapidian, a public news site. According to CMC’s IRS Form 990 for FY 2015, the organization had an annual budget of around $1.6 million. CMC had contributions (in part generated by WYCE fund drives and underwriting) of over $400,000.
WYCE began broadcasting in 1983. Here is WYCE's coverage map: