KEXP-FM (90.3 MHz
) is a public radio station
in Seattle, Washington
, specializing in alternative
and indie rock
programmed by its disc jockey
s. Its broadcasting license is owned by Friends of KEXP, an independent 501(c)(3) organization
. KEXP hosts weekly programs dedicated to other musical genres such as rockabilly
, world music
, hip hop
, and alternative country
. Live, in-studio performances by artists are also regularly scheduled.
KEXP's studios are located at Seattle Center
KEXP also broadcasts on Intelsat
's Galaxy 18
satellite. Music licensing fees associated with internet radio are covered by the station's affiliation
with National Public Radio
Early years as KCMU
The groundwork for the station that would eventually become KEXP began in 1971, started by University of Washington
undergraduates John Kean, Cliff Noonan, Victoria ("Tory") Fiedler, and Brent Wilcox. The university owns NPR affiliate
, but that station is staffed mostly by professional announcers and newscasters. The four students convinced the Communications Department to provide space and funding for a student-run station. They assembled the turntables and operating equipment, built their own console cabinets, successfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) for a frequency and a license, and ultimately raised their own antenna. The 10-watt
signal "barely reached the Ave
" (the commercial heart of Seattle's University District
, ''Columns'' (UW alumni magazine), March 2007, p. 54.
In 1972, the station started operations as KCMU. It aired mostly progressive rock
and new wave music
, with UW students serving as staff members and disc jockey
s (DJs), broadcasting at 90.5 MHz. The "CMU" in the call sign
referred to the campus's Communications Building, where its studios and offices were located.
In 1981, under the direction of Jon Kertzer, KCMU began soliciting donations from listeners due to limited funding from the university. Throughout the late 1980s, the station tapped into Seattle's burgeoning music scene. Members of local bands Soundgarden
worked as volunteer DJs, as did both Jonathan Poneman
and Bruce Pavitt, the founders of Sub Pop
. During these years, ''Billboard Magazine
'' called KCMU "one of the most influential commercial-free stations in the country."
In 1982, the station's power
increased to 182 watt
s, allowing it to be heard outside the University District. From 1983 to 1985, Kerry Loewen became KCMU's station manager. Loewen had previously managed KFJC
, at Foothill College
, in Los Altos Hills, California
In late 1985, Chris Knab, who co-founded the record label 415 Records
and was a former owner of Aquarius Records
in San Francisco
, sold his interest in 415 Records and became KCMU's station manager.
Knab moved the station away from mostly rock programming, adding jazz, hip hop, world music, and other genres to its lineup.
In 1986, KCMU switched frequencies to 90.3 MHz and increased its transmitter power to 400 watts, improving its broadcast radius to 15 miles.
Protest over programming
In 1992, KCMU dropped many of its volunteer DJs and elected to run syndicated programming
. Some listeners and DJs considered this a betrayal of KCMU's mission and formed a group called "CURSE" (Censorship Undermines Radio Station Ethics). A program called ''World Cafe
'', from WXPN Philadelphia
, was one of the syndicated shows that had replaced local programming.
CURSE encouraged local KCMU supporters to stop donating money to the station in protest. Volunteer DJs who criticized the station's policies were fired. However, a lawsuit from CURSE resulted in a US Federal Court
striking down that policy. KCMU dropped ''World Cafe'' from its lineup in 1993, but none of the fired volunteer staff returned to the station.
KCMU hired its three full-time paid DJs in 1996. In 2000, KCMU started streaming
per second mp3 compressed
audio over the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. KCMU was the first station in the world to offer online audio of this quality. KCMU then moved from its long-time home in the Communications Building (CMU) to Kane Hall at the University of Washington
KEXP and KXOT
In 2001, Paul Allen
's Experience Music Project
(EMP) and KCMU formed a partnership that provided the station with significant funding through 2005. The station changed its call letters to KEXP. It moved to new studios near Downtown Seattle
which were provided rent-free by EMP. KEXP increased its power to 720 watts.
The kexp.org website was nominated for two Webby Award
s in 2003, Best Radio Website and the People's Voice Award.
In 2004, KEXP began simulcast
ing on 91.7 FM in Tacoma
, which extended the station's broadcast range to Tacoma, Olympia
, and the South Puget Sound
region. That station was renamed KXOT (now KYFQ
). Before then, KXOT was known as KBTC, owned by Bates Technical College
, and featuring a classic rock
format. Bates sold the station to Public Radio Capital, a Washington-based non-profit radio organization. The cost was $5 million, with PRC leasing it to KEXP.
KEXP began podcast
ing live, in-studio performances, starting with Seattle hip hop trio Boom Bap Project
, on July 21, 2005. On November 3, 2005, KEXP announced it was terminating the operation of KXOT 91.7 FM at the end of the calendar year. The agreement with EMP in 2001 was set to expire, so KEXP had to prepare for increased operating costs with a smaller budget.
On March 10, 2006, KEXP was granted another power increase, this time to 4,700 watts. The signal is radiated in a cardioid
On December 18, 2018, KEXP announced that it would be the "official music partner" of the Seattle Kraken
, responsible for all in-game music and music entertainment surrounding the team.
Joint venture with WNYE New York
In August 2007, New York City
's government-owned radio station, 91.5 WNYE
, part of NYC Media
, approached KEXP to begin a joint venture. Management was planning to overhaul WNYE's programming, moving to an all-music format. The plans, detailed in a February 11, 2008, press release, included simulcasting KEXP's music format several hours a day, to be branded as "Radio Liberation."
On March 24, 2008, KEXP DJ John Richards
, or John in the Morning, was heard on both KEXP and 91.5 FM in New York City for the first time, as part of Radio Liberation.
Radio Liberation was a collaboration between KEXP and Radio New York (91.5 FM) to introduce New York listeners to more independent music. The collaboration aimed to simulcast one part of KEXP's original broadcasting and three originally-produced programs. John Richards' morning show was the only program to be heard simultaneously in both Seattle and NYC. The other programs (Wake Up, Music That Matters, and Mo'Glo) would be produced specifically for Radio New York but not heard in Seattle. WNYE's signal reaches 14 million listeners in the New York metropolitan area
[ The plan was for KEXP to broadcast live from New York several times a year. Richards began splitting his time between live broadcasts in both New York and Seattle in June 2008. Richards, who frequently creates playlists based on themes, opened the first Radio Liberation broadcast with "Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)" from the Pixies, his favorite band, "Pike St./Park Slope" from Harvey Danger, a Seattle band singing about Seattle and Brooklyn, and "Marching Bands of Manhattan" by Death Cab for Cutie containing an NYC reference.
The joint venture ended on June 1, 2011. WNYE replaced KEXP programming with a morning simulcast of Fordham University-owned 90.7 WFUV in New York, airing adult album alternative (AAA) music.
KEXP's website has dynamic playlists, live streaming audio, an archive of programs from the last two weeks, and a collection of previous on-air live performances. The performers include artists such as Patti Smith, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and They Might Be Giants and local Pacific Northwest artists such as Harvey Danger, The Long Winters, and Maktub.
KEXP's website was the first site on the Internet to offer a 128 kbit/s stream of live radio. KEXP's website won the ''Web Radio'' Webby Award in 2004.
* Julia Kingrey
Radio-free UW: KCMU moves off campus
University of Washington ''Daily'', July 15, 1998
* Jeff DeRoche
Radio Ga-Ga: With Paul Allen's Money at Its Disposal, Does KCMU — Wai...KEXP Really Need Any More of Your Money?
''The Stranger'', Apr 12–Apr 18, 2001
* Gene Johnson
Radio Station Bucks Trends, Finds Listeners
Associated Press, October 16, 2005
* Reid Davis
KEXP Seattle – What Music Radio Could Be
''Paste Magazine'' online, undated, appears to date from 2002, accessed 12 Dec 2005
* Nina Shapiro
The Expensive Expansion of KEXP: It's globally popular and flush with donations, but Seattle's seminal eclectic-music radio station is under financial strain that is affecting morale
''Seattle Weekly, December 7–13, 2005.
* Ernest A. Jasmin
Flow of Tunes from KEXP Finally Stops in Tacoma
''The News Tribune'', February 3, 2006.
* Laura Foy & Tina Wood
Touring KEXP, Internet Radio Super Station
''10'', March 13, 2006.
* Dana Bos & Liz Riley
Live Show Review: KEXP Audioasis Showcase: Thee Emergency, New Fangs, Sera Cahoone, the Fading Collection, and Daylight Basement
''Three Imaginary Girls'', May 2006.
* Dave Segal
Fired KEXP DJ Clears the Air
''The Stranger'', July 28, 2006. Interview with DJ Greg Jaspan.
* David T. Atkinson
CD Review, Live At KEXP Vol II
''Glide Magazine'', July 31, 2006.
Best of Seattle 2006: Readers' Picks
''Seattle Weekly'', August 2, 2006.
* Rachel Shimp
Best of Seattle 2006: Critics' Picks
''Seattle Weekly'', August 2, 2006.
* Kyle O'Brien
Discovering Local Gems
''The Oregonian'', August 4, 2006.
* Rachel Shimp
Music Make U Lose Control
''Seattle Weekly'', August 8, 2006.
* Keenan Bowen
''The Stranger'', August 10–16, 2006.
* Audrey Hendrickson
''Seattlest'', August 14, 2006.
* Jennifer Kelly
Various Artists: Live at KEXP, Vol. 2
''Popmatters'', August 22, 2006.
Category:University of Washington
Category:Radio stations established in 1972
Category:NPR member stations
Category:1972 establishments in Washington (state)