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Tiny KEXP And Others Use Technology To Broaden Audience And Become Infleuncial Music Gatekeepers

A recent AP article that ran in the Seattle Post Intelligencer and elsewhere shows how the internet and new technologies are transforming a few low powered FM broadcasters into national and international music taste makers. The trend also has the potential to transform non-commercial broadcasting as well as encourage and reward innovative programming.

Kexp_mobile_1Most are familiar with the growing influence of KCRW located just outside of LA but few know about the influence of tiny 3300 watt KEXP in Tacoma, Washington.

"...With a very few other like-minded stations, it's enjoying a word-of-mouth-fueled popularity boom even as Americans in general are tuning in less - two hours a week less than they were in 1998, according to Arbitron, according to AP.

"Clearly, what has driven the success of these stations is what's been happening in commercial radio: The playlists have gotten narrower and narrower and the commercial loads have gotten heavier," says Roger LaMay, general manager of noncommercial WXPN in Philadelphia. "Increasingly, the artists turn to these stations because it's the only place they can get their music played. We look for artists and embrace them."

"In spring 2004, about 26,000 people listened to KEXP online every week - more than any other Kexplogoradio  station in the country, according to Arbitron's now-defunct Internet broadcasting service. This year, that number has jumped to 50,000, with large clusters of listeners in New York, where KEXP broadcasts live twice a year; Chicago; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. Listeners are giving the nonprofit station a projected $1.7 million this year, nearly $1 million more than they gave in 2003."

"WXPN, home to the popularly syndicated World Cafe program, has roughly doubled the money it raises from listeners in the past few years. Minnesota Public Radio recently launched a new Twin Cities station called The Current, patterned after KEXP, WXPN and KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif..."

"...They're proving, if people would really look, that listeners want compelling music, that they'll buy it, that they'll support it," said Steve Nice, who represents the band Idlewild..."

"At KEXP, the DJs choose what they play, with a few limitations: Certain bands are in rotation, and a local band must be played once an hour at minimum..".

Unlike many internet radio staions who often play music randomly with little if any talk, KEXP acts as an active music gatekeeper and educator.  "...It's all about creating context for the music," says afternoon host Kevin Cole..."Take Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - if you can mix that into some early Talking Heads, you can see, 'Oh yeah, that's what's going on here..."

And contuing there status as innovators KEXP is also amoung the early adopters of radio via cell phone technologies and podcasting.

Read the full article here.

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