KEXP 90.3 FM
is a Seattle, WA-based radio station, officially "a service of University of Washington," but it's more complex than that. The first University of Washington radio station started broadcasting in 1952
. Five decades, a few station organizational shifts
, plus three call letter and frequency changes later, KEXP
was (re)born in 2001. Along the way, the station spread the sound of 1990s Seattle indie rock, started streaming "CD quality" MP3 audio of their broadcast in 2000
, and they have an ever-growing collection of recordings of live in-station performances, including over 2,000 videos on YouTube
The University of Washington's first radio station was KUOW
, which started broadcasting at 90.5 FM. Six years later, Dorothy Bullitt Stimson
moved KING FM
to 98.1 FM, giving 94.9 to Edison Vocational School, the first public vocational school in the state of Washington
. That year, KUOW started using Edison's transmitter, moving the station out of the non-commercial educational "reserved band"
(88.1~91.9). In the 1960s, the station shifted from classical music, local news, school sports, and classroom lectures to include more news programming and student involvement. The station was one of 90 charter member stations of NPR in 1970.
Two years later, four undergrads built a new station from the ground up
, with limited funding and space provided by the School of Communications. KCMU FM 90.5 started in 1972 as a 10-watt transmitter, boosted to 182 watts in 1975
. The University faced budget cuts in the years to come, and in 1981 the university's broadcasting program was cut, along with much funding for KCMU. Listeners donated $28,000 to keep KCMU on the air
. Later that year, KOUW assisted KCMU by providing an engineer and an accountant to help run the station.
The station bloomed in the 1980s, continuing to cover unsigned, local bands. In 1986, the station moved down the dial from 90.5 to 90.3, and increased to 404 watts, reaching out 15 miles. That same year, there was a week-long series of shows at the Rainbow Tavern
to benefit KCMU, as recalled in Mudhoney's Green River Tourbook
. Some of those shows were recorded and broadcast on local TV, and are now online: Feast at KCMU Benefit 6/7/86
(1:03), Soundgarden at The Rainbow Tavern
(4:37), and Soundgarden at The Central
(5:21). The list of KCMU volunteers in the late '80s (most of whom were students) reads like a who's who of the Seattle music industry in the '90s,
including musicians, journalists, and label heads. A music director from the station, Faith Henschel, put together a tape of unsigned bands that she thought were over-looked, and sent them to labels small and large. Bands That Will Make Money
got Soundgarden signed to A&M
. (Another tangent: Kenny G attended UW in the 1970s
, but he graduated with a B.A. in accounting).
The station shifted directions again in the 1990s, moving away from volunteer DJs and to syndicated programming, rising the ire of some DJs and listeners. The focus for many was World Cafe
, a program produced by WXPN (a non-commercial station licensed to the University of Pennsylvania), and distributed by NPR
. Listeners asked why local diversity was being replaced by adult-contemporary programming from Philadelphia. Up to 1992, KCMU was a "community radio station," and CURSE (Censorship Undermines Radio Station Ethics), an activist group comprised primarily of volunteers and listeners, wanted the station back to the way it was
. A no-criticism policy was instated, and volunteers who voiced criticism on- or off-air were fired. CURSE had that policy struck down by the U.S. District Court
, but there were more changes to come. The KCMU News Hour was cut from the station, moving all news programming to KUOW. The last volunteer DJs were fired from KCMU in 1997.
In 1999, the University's Computing & Communications (C&C) department (now UW Technology)
took ownership of KCMU, allowing the station to be used to test new internet technologies for broadcasting, such as uncompressed audio streaming of the station's broadcast
(Windows Media stream), which started in 2000
(Google Quickview; PDF
), along with Real Media and MP3 streams. In 2001, the KCMU was recalled KEXP, as the station partnered with the Experience Music Project
(Google Quickview; original PDF
; EMP previously
). That same year, Rainy Dawg Radio
started up, an online-only student-run station, the closest thing University of Washington students have to the KCMU of old.
KEXP recorded and posted its live in-studio shows online
from its beginning in April of 2001
, and in 2005, the station started podcasting their in-studio shows (note: these recordings are currently available in Windows Media and Real Media only). The first was on July 21, 2005
with Boom Bap Project
(Welcome to Seattle
- NSFW lyrics- studio version of one of their live tracks). The station currently has five podcasted programs
, along with a streaming archive of the last two weeks of shows
. The newest addition to KEXP's online collection are its YouTube videos
, including thousands of individual songs, and a handful of full, high definition sets
, from James Mercer of The Shins
, Dr. Dog
, Neon Indian
, Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys
, Wooden Shjips
, Gus Gus
, Nosaj Thing
, and Daedelus
, to name a random few.