Since its début in 1978, UAlbany’s radio station, WCDB (90.9 FM) – and its AM predecessor, WSUA – have afforded students opportunities for fun and creativity while preparing them for the business world. Here, three alumni reflect on their days in college radio and offer some insights into how the experience allowed them to segue into fascinating careers both within and outside the music industry.
When Diarmuid [pronounced DEAR-mid] Quinn arrived at the University at Albany, “I had my sights set on a career in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, with the hope that I’d eventually become an ambassador. When I found WCDB, all that changed,” remembers the founder and CEO of TourDForce Productions, which manages singers Josh Groban and Richard Marx.
Quinn’s father taught at RPI, “but I wasn’t math or engineering material!” laughs the Troy native, who opted for a history major with a minor in political science at Albany. In his free time, Quinn played in cover bands at gigs on and off campus. “We were never great,” he acknowledges, “which is probably why I ended up on the business side of the music business. I loved music and wanted to be in it, and that was the best door I could find to go through.”
WCDB “was absolutely the key” to that door, adds Quinn. “Dave Reisman [B.A.’80], the general manager, convinced me to sign up for on-air training. He was a superb teacher and a great advocate for the station. I was hooked.”
Quinn began at WCDB freshman year and continued there until he graduated. “I was a DJ first, with a morning shift; then I became the program director. That was a pivotal role, as I had to decide who was on air and what shift they had. We essentially played what you would call today ‘alternative,’ but back then, the only place to hear cutting-edge music was college radio. The record companies loved us, because we were the only airplay outlets for artists like Elvis Costello, Psychedelic Furs, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols. And yes, we took requests. That was the most entertaining part of a late-night shift!” Quinn recalls.
“WCDB was a great community; we would hang out at the station for hours, whether on air or not. Many of my greatest friendships resulted from my time there. WCDB was an incredible gift to us. It gave us all the freedom to be creative while learning about running a business. Most important, it enabled us to find futures doing something we loved.”
After earning his degree, Quinn accepted an entry-level job in the music business “and just kept going from there. I eventually ended up running Reprise Records and being the chief operating officer of Warner Bros., which was the place we all wanted to work. After that, getting into management was an obvious offshoot, and has been very satisfying.”
A manager, Quinn explains, “deals with every aspect of what the artists are involved in professionally: recording, touring, Broadway, film, TV, books – you name it. Generally, the most time is spent on recording, promotion, and touring. In the digital age, rights management and ownership are increasingly important, and though I have never studied law, I have been dealing with contracts for 20-plus years, so there are days when I feel like an intellectual-property lawyer.”
The shift to the digital age has necessitated an almost complete reinvention of the business, a process “finally turning the corner with the adoption of streaming.” Quinn notes: “A manager’s biggest challenge is making sure clients have great creative outlets that keep them driven and that they are appropriately compensated, which is easier said than done. The most rewarding part has always been watching the seed of an idea that few expect to work grow into a big success.”