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Feature | Dead Air: KRCL is getting a corporate makeover. Is community radio done for? Page 2

By Ted McDonough
Posted // January 30,2008 -
The Seattle Sound
Some community stations have found that being alternative can be popular and lucrative, if alternative is packaged correctly. KRCL’s managers and directors look with envy at stations like WXPN 88.5 FM in Philadelphia, and KEXP 90.3 FM, in Seattle—once small college radio stations that have grown into music tastemakers for the country. KRCL’s program director visited several of the stations during the summer of 2006.

WXPN is credited with inventing an “alternative” format now recognized by the music industry as triple-A—Adult Album Alternative—or as the Philadelphia Weekly puts it, “semi-hip adult contemporary [giving] aging Deadheads something new to listen to every now and then.”

As another example of what is possible, Roberts points to KEXP, “my favorite station to listen to online.” The rock-based University of Washington station is now the No. 1 station in the Seattle market—commercial stations included—following a format change and a huge cash infusion from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Currently, KRCL keeps more or less to a traditional community radio format presenting music by genre—blues, reggae, folk—that critics contend leads listeners to switch the dial when the music they like is over. The new wave of community stations found success taking the same music and mashing it all together.

hspace=5Tuning in to KRCL in the future, “you’ll likely hear the same types of music, but in a nonblock format,” Roberts says, “Some people call it triple-A. Essentially, it’s taking all the good music and things about KRCL and putting it in a format that’s a little bit easier to access and understand.”

The formula is not without controversy. Hipsters are beginning to complain the triple-A format is already getting dusty. Seattle’s KEXP has been criticized for its tightly controlled playlists that have virtually eliminated blues, dub, or electronica—anything but rock.

And KRCL managers aren’t the only public-radio executives who have noticed the success of such stations. KPCW 91.9 FM, Park City public radio, moved to a triple-A playlist in 2001. KUER 90.1, the University of Utah’s NPR station, just announced it was launching an alternative music station on one of two new digital signals. KUER is going to pipe in the sound from WXPN in Philadelphia.

Bill Frost, City Weekly’s associate editor and onetime KRCL volunteer, likes some of the new stations. The sound is what might come out of an iPod shuffle belonging to a music critic with varied taste, Frost says.

Of Seattle’s KEXP, Frost says, “if they [KRCL] can actually replicate that—great. If they can keep their focus on good modern music, there’s nothing wrong with that.

“My only question is, why are they doing something this drastic, instead of promoting the station? Handing out bumper stickers and putting up banners at the Farmers Market seems to be the extent of their advertising.”

Many KRCL fans are asking the same question. Until recently, KRCL used to broadcast shows from Gallivan Center summer concerts. An annual Day in the Park with KRCL brought thousands out to celebrate. No more.

“You don’t necessarily need consultants,” says KRCL volunteer Einerson. “I feel like you need to make sure you encompass feedback from our community.”

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Posted // March 12,2008 at 23:52 On the other blog you misspelled Beige. What, you forgot how to spell? Maybe YOU need Sesame Street!


Posted // March 12,2008 at 23:31 Check out the new SLUG for a whole new KRCL tirade, or at your favorite crack house.


Posted // March 6,2008 at 09:49 Like I mentioned, wahhh. Why don’t you open your children’s eyes the injustices in the United States. Yes, some programs will be gone but there are a lot of programs that many of us hate during the day. And, there are a lot of interesting programs on at night and during the weekend. Go and use your time and energy for larger causes that really affect and devastate people.


Posted // March 5,2008 at 18:35 Dennis talks early in the blog about the saturation of the FM dial along the Wasatch Front. I called the Robot Sex show and asked how this type of programming would increase the cumulative hours spent listening. His response was to suggest a discussion at a later date.nnKRCL is not, has never been, just a radio station. If you are inclinded to ridicule some of the posts for being overly dramatic, you probably missed the point. My life flies by at about 150 miles an hour. This station preserved what little sanity I have been able to grasp with it’s unique programming. I felt that once the Station moved into the new building, Donna became very arrogant; however, I didn’t have to endure her views any more than any other part of KRCL that got on my nerves. I have lost a dear, dear friend. I’ll will miss having an opportunity for my grandkids to get into my car, turn on the radio and hear polynesian news, chinese/vietnamese/spanish with a funky Z pronunciation, and the insight provided by a fan/volunteer of any given Artist as he/she introduces the next cut. You can belittle me if you want - but I’m woefully sad.nnI’ll wager that having among the nicest facilities in the world for community broadcasting was seen as a waste by the powers that be. I wonder what the station would sound like if the current board and GM quit. Why don’t they buy KPCW and produce the SLC/Seattle/Northern Exposure/CFPB show?


Posted // March 2,2008 at 14:20 I can’t believe how much time you people waste. Why don’t you put your efforts to larger issues and focus on helping people rather than spending time and energy whining.


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