Non-commercial radio station KEXP has created quite a name for itself with its emphasis on live in-studio sessions in its Seattle digs and has been recording hundreds of performances every year. Beginning this fall, KEXP will start sharing select live performances with college and community radio stations (including new low power FM stations) from all over the United States. Its new syndicated radio series, “Under the Needle: the KEXP Sessions,” will be released for free to partner stations every week.
According to KEXP, “Every year for the last five years, KEXP has recorded over 500 live on-air performances featuring great artists from across the musical spectrum.” With such a large collection of music content, the station decided that it would like to make that music more broadly available.
When I caught up with KEXP’s Senior Director of Programming Kevin Cole by phone, he explained that KEXP wants to help people to discover new music. Although KEXP already airs these performances over its FM signal, through its online stream, in archives on its website, and via various online outlets, including YouTube, the station realized that it “would be really incredible” if it could also provide recordings to other radio stations who may not have either the “access to the bands” or the “production capacity” to record live performances, according to Cole.
After floating the idea of a syndicated “live session” series by a number of radio stations, KEXP decided to focus on a weekly series featuring a different live performance each week. Currently, KEXP is in the midst of signing up college and community radio stations for the series. The plan is for each weekly episode to run for approximately 15 to 25 minutes, including the live performance as well as a brief introduction and some closing words. The final list of artists has yet to be determined, but a short demo show was released to partner stations this week, featuring a set by Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.
Cole explained that Barnett will be one of the first artists featured, but that others are still to be determined. He explained that, “At this point, given that we’re three months out from officially launching, I can’t say with 100% certainty who we’ll be featuring. The approach we’ll take is to pull from the best sessions we’ve recently produced, from timely and topical artists.”
Cole told me that he’s really excited about the series, telling me that, “it’s good for music lovers, it’s good for the stations, and it’s good for the artists” to have these performances shared widely.
Recognizing that college and commercial radio stations don’t have massive resources, Cole explained that KEXP will be making it “super easy” for stations to sign up to air “Under the Needle.” The show is expected to launch in early September. Interested stations can phone Ethan Raup, the General Manager of Broadcast at KEXP (206-897-1496) in order to get more scoop on how to participate.