Friday, August 17, 2007

KEXP: Radio on the Internet

When it comes to commercial-free radio, I‘m kinda a true believer. I like the media of radio because it can engage you while you go about doing other things. But, for whatever reason, the ads of commercial radio are especially jarring; even more so than web pop-ups or TV commercials with all their animated toenail fungus.

College radio, NPR and others fill the void because it should be noted that most radio, like most media, is crap. And when you find a tolerable life raft floating above it all, you cling to it.

KEXP is certainly not crap. It’s excellent. And the have a live streaming webcast. I’m listening to them right now, as I have most mornings for the past 6 years. I’d listen to the morning show from a tiny cubicle in Cleveland and it was my first aural impression of Seattle: it’s fun; it tries new things; it has better concerts. Mainstream music in Seattle is Pavement and the Pixies. Seattle will put a certified nerd on the morning show and he’s a star. Seattle will put a DJ with a speech impediment on weekends, and he’s a star too! It’s just that kind of town.

When me and G got sick of Cleveland we caught I-90 downtown and drove west several thousand miles until the road ended here in Seattle. And when our crap car had crested the Olympic Mountains at barely 25 mph and we started free rolling down the other side, we could suddenly pick up the KEXP FM radio signal and that’s how I knew we’d arrived in Seattle. Seattle is the place where it’s in your car and not just on your computer.

Years later, the station had some fund-raising telethon and we gave them the old car that brought us here. By then it was even more crap, but it was tax-deductible crap. And it helped the organization do mostly good. Being a believer means you overlook some unfortunate flaws like annoying telethons and creeping commercialism.

These days, a lot of non-commercial operations are running “sponsor acknowledgements” that sound suspiciously like commercials and KEXP in no exception as they got "sponsorship" from people selling condos, Hondas and scooters. Old PBS even runs Chuck. E. Cheese “acknowledgements” during its kid’s shows that pay some lip service to “lifelong learning” but then just shows kids jumping in a ball pit in front of a giant mouse. The educational aspect is suspect.

KEXP has changed, but it's still there. Maybe I don’t love them as much as I use to, but I still believe in them.

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