Where the music matters


by Joel on March 30, 2010

The last office building I worked in was shared by five radio stations and two TV stations, all of which were owned by Clear Channel. On the radio side of the building, they played one of the stations over the intercom, a different one each day. I worked on the TV side but I could still hear the music blasting from the tinny speakers in the ceiling. Now, I like music and I like to listen to music while I work but I didn’t like any of their stations.

For a while, I listened to Internet stations to drown out the noise but they were just as bad as regular stations, playing the same 12 songs over and over with only banal, annoying commercials to break up the monotony. Then I discovered KEXP.

Based in the musically diverse city of Seattle, KEXP is a public radio station whose slogan and mantra is “where the music matters.” From what I understand, their terrestrial signal is not very strong but they stream live online 24/7 making their reach global. They also have podcasts, mobile streaming, and an iPhone app. There are no playlists, pre-tracked sets, just real DJ’s playing what they want, when they want.

If you want to hear the best music in virtually any genre ? rock, country, alternative, modern, world, rockabilly, reggae, ambient, jazz, metal, blues ? you can find it at KEXP. Because you are listening to real DJ’s who aren’t confined to a playlist created by a corporate suit based on market research, you may hear just about anything from big label artists to a four-track demo from an artist you have never heard before. I can’t imagine there is any other place better for discovering new music.

The Song A Day podcast delivers new music from independent artists daily. These DRM-free MP3’s have increased my music collection substantially and help me turn friends on to new artists. The Music That Matters podcast is a one hour, biweekly podcast that features music that the rotating cast of DJ’s are digging at the moment. I usually save these for the quarterly membership drives. (I do donate to KEXP, how could I not, but I find the talking too distracting when I’m trying to work.) There are other podcasts but those are my favs.

Another great thing about KEXP is the frequent in-studio performances. They have close to 400 live performances on air each year from the same great artists they play all day long. They package the best of these into Live at KEXP albums which are sold as a fundraiser. It’s amazing to hear these live performances from artists who I will never get to see in person.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about KEXP is they accomplish all of this without playing commercials. As a public radio station, they are supported completely by donations and dedicated volunteers. It says a lot that they are succeeding where corporate radio is failing by taking the music to the people and letting the music speak for itself.

Now that I telecommute, I no longer get the subversive pleasure of streaming KEXP into a building owned by Clear Channel, the poster boy for everything wrong with radio (they sold off the TV stations anyway),? but I still listen all day, every day because it really is the music that matters.


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