Infobox Radio Station

name = WFMU
airdate = 1958
frequency = 91.1 MHz
city = East Orange, New Jersey
area = New York City
Hudson Valley, NY
Lower Catskills, NY
Western New Jersey
Eastern Pennsylvania
format = Freeform
owner = Auricle Communications
erp = 1,250 watts
haat = 151 meters
branding =
slogan =
class = A
facility_id = 3249
webcast = [ Listen Live]
website = []
callsign_meaning =
coordinates = coord|40|47|19.00|N| 74|15|20.00|W|region:US_type:city |

WFMU is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station based in Jersey City, New Jersey, broadcasting at 91.1 MHz FM using a freeform radio format. It is currently the longest running free-form radio station in the United States. [ [ "A Brief History of Freeform Radio"] , Lowest Common Denominator, Issue #21 (c. 1998)]


WFMU first went on the air in April, 1958, under a license owned by Upsala College, in East Orange, New Jersey. Shortly before the bankruptcy filing and closure of Upsala on May 31, 1995, Auricle Communications acquired the license from the college, thus becoming fully independent. In August, 1998 station facilities were relocated to Jersey City, NJ, into a building which the station purchased with listener donations. Auricle Communications is a nonprofit corporation whose board of directors includes current and former WFMU staff members and listeners. WFMU has a repeater station, WXHD, in Mount Hope, New York, broadcasting at 90.1 MHz FM in the Hudson Valley, NY, the Lower Catskills, NY, Western New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.


WFMU has a stated commitment to "hype-free", non-commercial free-form broadcasting. All programming is controlled by the individual DJ, and is not beholden to any type of station-wide playlist or rotation schedule.

Experimentation, spontaneity and humor are among the station's most frequently noted distinguishing traits. Unlike most commercial and non-commercial stations, WFMU does not offer regularly scheduled news, weather, traffic, sports, or financial information. WFMU does not belong to any existing public radio network, and close to 100% of its programming originates at the station.

Funding and Operations

WFMU's annual operating budget is approximately USD $1,200,000, and is funded primarily by its listeners through an annual 14-day on-air fundraising marathon (WFMU is unusual in its philosophy that on-air fundraising drives only take place once a year, unlike most other public and listener supported stations which have multiple pledge drives throughout the year), as well as a Fall record fair and other events. Most of WFMU's disk jockeys are unpaid volunteers, a few of which have been with the station since the 70s and 80s. In a 1990 interview, WFMU Station Manager Ken Freedman stated, "we've always rejected underwriting on principle." [ [ Interview with WFMU Station Manager Ken Freedman] , "The Fifth Corner", WBAI 99.5 FM, NYC 3/15/90 (link to mp3 archive)] The station rejects any type of direct underwriting from governmental institutions or from for-profit corporations. Historically, WFMU has occasionally accepted financial support from private foundations, although such support has never funded WFMU's general operations. In 2006 the station accepted a $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which was administering The New York State Music Fund for a special project (see below). ["$19 Million in Music Grants Awarded by Fund Created by "Payola" Settlement" [] ]


WFMU's programming ranges from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, lots of "alternative" (although no DJ on the station would ever call it that), psychedelia, experimental, obscure 50s-60s blues, unpopular jazz, R&B, soul, reggae, garage rock, hot-rod music, 78's, 8-tracks, twee, indie pop, schlock-a-billy, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, exotica, downtown art music, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, Old Noise, classic radio airchecks, found sound, comedy, call-in shows, anti-fascist lectures, off-kilter kids' music, interviews with obscure radio personalities, interviews with notable science-world luminaries, spoken word mish-mashes, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English, Gospel and Country and western music. The station also hosts a "Listener Hour" every Saturday morning, where any WFMU listener can try their hand at DJ'ing live on the air. WFMU's Music Director is Brian Turner.

Recognition and Cultural Influence

WFMU was named "Best Radio Station in the Country" by "Rolling Stone" magazine for four consecutive years (1991-1994), and has also been dubbed the best radio station in either NYC or the US by "The Village Voice", "New York Press", and "CMJ", among others. The station also won three awards ("Best Specialty Programming", "Most Eclectic Programming", and "Music Director Most Likely To Never Sell Out") at the 2006 CMJ [ College Radio Awards] .

A "New York Times" Magazine feature article called WFMU "a station whose name has become like a secret handshake among a certain tastemaking cognoscenti", and cites Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed, "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and playwright Eric Bogosian as avowed fans of the station.

Other notable fans and supporters of WFMU include Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum, screenwriter/director Ethan Coen, "MAKE" magazine editor-in-chief and Boing Boing co-founder Mark Frauenfelder, Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant, musician Suzanne Vega, artist Cindy Sherman, indie rock superstar Ted Leo, Sonic Youth guitarists Lee Ranaldo [ [ Lee Ranaldo on listening to WFMU, Feb 2000] , Official website of Sonic Youth] and Thurston Moore, comic book artist and writer Evan Dorkin, The Cars vocalist/record producer Ric Ocasek, television talk-show host Conan O'Brien and Blixa Bargeld, singer of the German Band Einstürzende Neubauten [as told in an interview on RadioEins [] ] .

WFMU is credited for playing a large part in the early-90s resurgence of the Exotica and Lounge music phenomenon, via WFMU DJ Irwin Chusid and his role in the re-issue of the music of Esquivel. Chusid also popularized the acceptance of "outsider music" as a genuine musical genre, through his weekly (and now defunct) [ "Incorrect Music"] show on WFMU. The discovery and popularization of "outsider" artists such as Jandek and The Langley Schools Music Project can be directly attributed to Chusid and his programming on WFMU.

The name of the indie-rock sub-genre now known as "Lo-Fi" music originated at WFMU in the 1980s, with DJ William Berger's weekly program, "Lo-Fi."

The Air America Radio show "The Majority Report" had its origins on WFMU in 2003, when Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder appeared as guests on "The Best Show on WFMU" "with Tom Scharpling", and as a result of the appearance, were later approached by Air America Radio to host their own show on the fledgling "liberal" radio network.

Although WFMU has traditionally eschewed news-oriented programming, the station volunteered its airwaves in September, 2001 to become the temporary home in the New York area for Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" program (which was renamed "Democracy Now! In Exile"), after it was "banished" from WBAI and the Pacifica Radio Network during a highly controversial "coup" of WBAI's station management by Pacifica's national Board of Directors.

In a similar example of its support of community broadcasting, WFMU began voluntarily hosting the webcast of legendary New Orleans Jazz station, WWOZ, when its studio and transmitter were destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. WFMU also took online donations on behalf of WWOZ, raising over $70,000 towards the rebuilding of the station.

WFMU also received worldwide attention in May 2001, when national and international media outlets covered DJ Glen Jones's successful attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest consecutive radio broadcast, staying on the air a full 100 hours, 41 seconds.

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was shown reading WFMU's (now defunct) "Catalog of Curiosities," on the set during taping breaks of their famous 1993 appearance on MTV Unplugged [ [ YouTube clip of Nirvana Unplugged outtakes, around the 4:15 mark] ] .

A famous 1990 telephone performance on WFMU [ [ "Daniel Johnston and Yo La Tengo Collaborate on The Music Faucet, February 4, 1990"] , From the WFMU Archives, Beware of the Blog (April 05, 2006)] by Daniel Johnston was the primary inspiration for filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig to create the documentary film, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston". The film won the award for Best Documentary Director at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

The late Jeff Buckley made his radio debut on WFMU in late 1991 and returned [ numerous times] before signing with Columbia Records and achieving international stardom.

In 2006, WFMU was awarded of a grant from the New York State Music Fund, a program created by the Office of the New York State Attorney General to make contemporary music of all genres more available and accessible to diverse audiences and within New York State. WFMU's grant included funds to create a podsafe online music library, to be called The Free Music Archive, which will be launched in late 2008. The Fund grew out of settlements with major recording companies investigated for violating state and federal laws prohibiting "pay for play" (payola). Grant winners were chosen on criteria that included, among other things, their record of broadening awareness of artists, genres or styles with limited access to commercial broadcast or other mass distribution vehicles. [Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. "$19 Million in Music Grants Awarded by Fund Created by 'Payola' Settlement." [] ]

Notable WFMU DJs

The station's past and present on-air DJ lineup includes many notable people from the world of art, music and television, including:
* Andy Breckman, creator of the USA Network TV series, "Monk", and former "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with David Letterman" comedy writer
* Gerard Cosloy, co-founder of Matador Records and former manager of Homestead Records
* Laura Cantrell, country musician and Matador Records recording artist
* DJ /Rupture, aka [ Jace Clayton] , musician, DJ, writer, and breakcore producer
* Billy Jam, underground hip-hop icon and Hip Hop Slam founder
* Jason Forrest, electronic music recording artist (DJ name: Donna Summer, not to be confused with the disco diva)
* Tom Scharpling, "Monk" executive producer/writer (who also self-released the first Portastatic single in 1993, and was a contributing writer for "The Onion")
* R. Stevie Moore, Nashville-born pioneer of DIY home recording
* Chris Tsakis (aka Chris T), the host of the daily call-in show "Freewheeling," on Sirius Satellite Radio
* Irwin Chusid, author (Songs in the Key of Z, and two books about artist Jim Flora) and record producer (Raymond Scott, Esquivel, The Langley Schools Music Project, etc.)
* Monica Lynch, longtime president of Tommy Boy Records, and A&R advisor for Queen Latifah
* Dennis Diken, drummer for The Smithereens
* Steve Stein, highly influential hiphop sampler and mixmaster (Double D and Steinski; Steinski and Mass Media)
* Jeff Mangum, Neutral Milk Hotel founder and frontman
* Vicki Bennett (aka People Like Us), experimental musician/recording artist
* Kenneth Goldsmith (air name: Kenny G), author, UbuWeb founder, conceptualist, dadaist, journalist, exhibitionist and [ UPENN professor]
* Bronwyn Carlton, comic book writer ("Catwoman," "The Big Book of Death," "The Books of Faerie")
* Vin Scelsa, longtime NYC broadcaster
* Glen Jones who held the world record for the longest continuous radio broadcast by an individual (over 100 hours set May, 28 2001)
* Wildgirl (b. Ericka Peterson), Hot Rod Diva and creator of the popular "Go-Go-Rama" shows
* Dave Mandl, Writer and Editor (Semiotext(e)/Autonomedia, The Wire, The Brooklyn Rail)
* Nachum Segal, Host of Jewish Moments In The Morning
* Bill Zebub, heavy metal DJ who also does the humorous character "Professor Dum-Dum"
* Kacy Ross (aka Clay Pigeon, of "The Dusty Show"), former guitarist and lead singer of popular Tampa band Deloris Telescope
* [ Bob Brainen]
*Frank O'Toole

The WFMU DJ named "Mike Lupica" is not the sportswriter of the same name.

One other WFMU DJ of particular note was Danny Fields, who hosted a nightly show on the station in 1968 and 1969. Fields was an A&R man and fixture in the New York rock and roll scene, managing and signing acts such as the MC5, The Stooges and The Ramones. During that period, WFMU was the first station to play the music of The Velvet Underground, The MC5 and The Stooges in the New York area.

Online Broadcasting and Blogging

Along with its traditional radio broadcast, WFMU is also broadcast live over the internet in a wide variety of streaming formats (including Ogg), and all programming is archived on the WFMU website in 128k MP3 format for four weeks, then permanently thereafter in RealAudio format.

In 2005, WFMU expanded its online broadcasting efforts by offering 15 hours a week of Internet-only live programming ("free of the FCC's incomprehensible language restrictions", explains WFMU Station Manager Ken Freedman), as well as an independent 24 hour-a-day webcast of Nachum Segal's "Jewish Moments In The Morning" program.

In January 2006, WFMU announced the availability of the station's live stream and archives to cellular phones and other Mobile devices running the PocketPC and Palm operating systems.

Podcasts of 23 WFMU shows (some exclusive to the podcast itself) are also available.

The official WFMU blog, [ "WFMU's Beware of the Blog"] , was launched in 2004, and has become very popular even among non-WFMU listeners. Original content from the WFMU blog is regularly featured on the front pages of high-traffic pop-culture blogs such as Boing Boing and MetaFilter.

"Beware of the Blog"'s main source of entertainment is of links from assorted websites, mostly quirky videos or pictures with something music-related

In November 2007, WFMU became the first radio station in the world to offer live streaming to the Apple iPhone [ [ WFMU streaming radio on iPhone] , Boing Boing, 11/5/07]


* WFMU was featured in a 2003 "Macworld" magazine article, describing the station's innovative use of a remote controlled iPod as a backup music source at one of its transmitter sites. [ [ "iPod used as backup for FM radio station"] , "Macworld" magazine, May 7, 2003]

* References to WFMU frequently appear in the television series, "Monk". The names of WFMU DJs Ken Freedman, Terre T and The Stork have been used for characters in several episodes of the show. [ [ Trivia for "Monk"] , IMDb] These references may be attributable to "Monk"'s creator Andy Breckman, who is also the co-host of WFMU's program "Seven Second Delay".

:"See also: Media of New York City"


External links

* [ WFMU website]
* [ WFMU's "Beware of the Blog"]
* [ WFMU podcasts]
* [ WFMU's Flickr photoset]
* [ "WFMU: The Eclectic Little Radio Station That Could--And Does", "New York Post", June 3, 2001]
* [ An interview with WFMU station manager Ken Freedman on "The Rock and Roll Report"]
* [ "No Hits, All the Time": "New York Times" article on WFMU (April 11, 1999)]
* [ "WFMU Exposé by Theresa Stern", "Perfect Sound Forever"]
* [ "A brief history of Freeform Radio," WFMU's "Lowest Common Denominator" magazine]
* [ "N.J. station keeps Crescent City radio afloat," "Nashua Telegraph" online]
* [ WFMU's page on StylusCity]

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