Did you know that Friday, October 6th, 2023, marks the 13th annual World College Radio Day? To help celebrate, I want to take a little bit of time to look at the history of college radio and the impact it has had on the music industry to this day. Believe it or not, quite a few mainstream bands that have released a multitude of chart toping songs got their start being played on low powered college radio stations. Depending on the area, college radio stations are not allowed to broadcast music that is considered to be a commercial hit as a way to keep them competing with commercial radio stations. As a result, the music heard on college radio tends to be more eclectic and indie in nature. For this reason, it isn’t uncommon to hear up and coming musicians on college stations before they break into the mainstream.
As Rob Quicke of Radio World points out, because each college radio station is largely independent from other college radio stations, there isn’t necessarily a Grand Unified Theory of College Radio.  With a few exceptions, the history of college radio is largely written by the individual stations and relates closer to the history of the college or university than it does a collective history of college radio. That being said, there are a few pieces of history which apply to all college radio stations.
With the exception of a handful of college radio stations broadcasting on the AM band in the early 1900s, college radio didn’t begin to really come into its own in the United States until the 1960s, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began to issue class D broadcasting licenses in an effort to populate the FM band. These early college radio stations typically broadcasted information related to the college they broadcasted from, such as sports news, local news, weather, and other information on campus happenings. Some of these radio stations were also used for early remote learning formats.  These stations began to make the shift towards playing more indie music, also referred to as “college rock,” during the 1970s, ushering in what some consider to be the golden era of college radio. 
If you are interested in listening to college radio firsthand, Holland is fortunate enough to have access to its own college radio station broadcasting out of Hope College. Located right up the street from the library, 89.9 WTHS carries on the legacy of alternative college music every day of the week, even over the summer.  Maybe you’ll get the chance to listen to the next big thing before they become the next big thing. In that spirit, lets take a look at some of the bands that got their big break by playing on college radio.