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NJ Vocabulary: What Is WSOU?

In 49 states, WSOU are letters. To New Jersey natives, it’s a culture. Music runs deep in New Jersey and a lot of it starts at WSOU. The radio station is responsible for breaking many now-mainstream hard rock and metal bands, and it’s all because of some undergrads at Seton Hall.

WSOU– Noun. The student-run radio station at Seton Hall, 89.5 on the dial, WSOU — or SOU, for short.

Example: “I heard about this band on SOU the a few months ago. Now they’re everywhere!”


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The Start of Pirate Radio

The student-run radio station of Seton Hall University — dubbed “Pirate Radio” — dates back to 1948. Back then, the station was entertaining the community and providing aspiring radio lovers with some career experience. Today, it still does all that but with a Peabody Award, a nod from Rolling Stone as one of the Top 5 radio stations ever, and a few CMJ College Station of the Year awards under its belt.

Oh yeah, some of your favorite metal bands owe their success to them, too.  Walk the halls at the station and you’ll see the thank you cards in the form of gold and platinum albums from bands like Megadeth, Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Kid Rock. SOU wasn’t always the first place these now legendary stars got their initial airplay though.

WSOU

“The defining change in the station’s history,” explains Mark Maben, General Manager of WSOU, “came about because of a group of students. They looked at trends in music and looked at the market and decided to do something that wasn’t being done.” That something was the decision to change to a metal and hard rock format, which happened on September 4, 1986. The station became the go-to for bands looking to make it — the East Coast source for hard rock and heavy metal.

“Metal is different now than in the mid ’80s. They saw that this was a style of music that was on the rise and no one was playing it. So they decided we should be.”

Never Gonna Stop

Jennifer Kajzer (pictured above with Disturbed and left with Linkin Park) was a student at Seton Hall from 1995-1999. During her undergraduate years, she was Public Relations Director, Promotions Director and Program Director. Since graduating, she has taken on the role of Sales Manager and is responsible for “keeping the lights on.”

WSOU

“Things are different, for sure.  We used to get album premieres. Bands and labels would mail CDs to us or later on send MP3s. The labels would want us to play it first.” Technology, she says, has kind of changed that.

“Bands now drop singles on their own and it’s up to the station to pull it and play it.”

Kajzer stresses the point that things are not better or worse, but definitely different. “We are competing with the band and with technology. So, we roll with the punches and just say, hey, you will only hear this song, album, music on the radio in NY and NJ in SOU.”

Throughout the station’s history there have been many defining moments. “The 15th anniversary Riverfront Rampage at the Riverfront Stadium in Newark was major,” says Maben. And he’s right. On the lineup were acts like The Misfits, Overkill, Hatebreed, Biohazard (pictured, right), Vision of Disorder and more. “And the SOU boat shows were legendary.”

WSOU

What an Honor

It was events like those that helped break bands. “In my time,” says Kajzer, “System of a Down, Incubus. Before that Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. We were playing that a year or two before other stations were.”

In terms of local talent, SOU put the spotlight on Brooklyn metal bands including Type O Negative and Biohazard. SOU was also the first to spotlight Jersey talent like E. Town Concrete, a band from Elizabeth that became a local phenomenon, as well as indie-turned-mainstream rockers Korn, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance and Five Finger Death Punch.
WSOU
There is no denying that WSOU has a place in East Coast music history. But GM Mark Maben wants you to remember that sports hold a place here, too. “SOU has produced a hell of a lot of great sportscasters and we have the longest continually running call-in sports program on the air. Sports runs deep in New Jersey, too.”

Improve your Garden State vernacular and learn the New Jersey lexicon with NJ Vocabulary: The Series.