On October 23, KEXP put in a bid to purchase KREV 92.7 FM Alameda/San Francisco in a bankruptcy auction and, several days later, we were selected as the top bidder. We have agreed to pay $3.75M for the station and its assets. After working out a few technical and regulatory details, we are now operating with the assumption that the FCC will approve the transfer of the broadcast license and KEXP will be taking full ownership and operation of the Bay Area radio station within the next few months.
With news like this, we expect some questions from our listeners and donors—in particular, what is going to change and what isn’t, where the funding for this project came from, and why we made this move in the first place.
First, we’re incredibly proud of who we are—a Seattle-based radio station and arts organization that reaches millions of people all around the world. On any given week, KEXP's audience now includes tens of thousands of streaming listeners and over a million YouTube viewers. We already know that a good portion of our community lives outside the Seattle market—and that's a strength. KEXP is open to music lovers everywhere, thanks in part to your support.
With that in mind, we'll continue to champion Pacific Northwest music and artists in every way we do now. And we'll continue to be up front that our broadcast is rooted in a specific place, with real human hosts on the mic in our Seattle Center home, no matter where our listeners are located.
When the Bay Area station begins broadcasting in the coming months, we’ll be airing more or less the same programming on 92.7 FM San Francisco as you’ll hear on the radio at 90.3 FM Seattle. But within the first six months of operation, we’ll also launch a Bay Area local music show that will air regionally (similar to Audioasis in Seattle). We’ll also be doing our best to build relationships and connections with the local music scene that will help us define the evolution of the Bay Area station.
So how are we paying for this? In short, KEXP has existing investment funds that are being used for the purchase and initial operation of the Bay Area station (more on that in a second). Your gift as an Amplifier or annual fund donor is not being used on any of the start up costs for the San Francisco station, and won’t be unless you specifically request it.
Here’s the backstory on that investment fund. If you’ve been with us for a while, you may recall that KEXP received a very generous bequest in 2017. A long-time supporter and listener named Suzanne left KEXP a little over $10M in her will. Suzanne’s gift was placed in a board-directed investment fund to support KEXP's future—offering both stability in the form of annual investment returns and flexibility to pursue big opportunities when they come up.
KEXP’s Board has approved withdrawing funds from this investment portfolio, which, along with additional funds raised from donors who specifically want to support this project, will be used to finance the purchase of the station and the first few years of operations.
Our modeling suggests that we will begin to see positive cash flow from this project within the first few years. That means we’ll be able to sustain and grow Bay Area-specific programming while also providing support for KEXP’s work in Seattle and worldwide. For that reason, we see this plan as a way of reinvesting existing funds in a different kind of asset—in this case a radio station rather than a traditional financial instrument like stocks or bonds.
Finally, let’s get to the heart of this decision: how it helps move KEXP’s mission forward. When we have an opportunity to significantly amplify the work we’re already doing and open up new possibilities … we take it seriously. Over the years, we’ve seen constraints in listenership related to the weakness of our Seattle-area signal. There are, of course, ways to reach beyond these constraints—and we’ll certainly continue our focus on digital and streaming capabilities. But I’m a strong believer that terrestrial radio will be with us for a long time, and I think we’ve already seen how broadcast and digital listening can build off one another to create a stronger music community.
Most of all, I want to say that I’m really excited that this particular opportunity came along. I think it plays to our strengths and gives us a chance to really lean into our mission—to enrich lives by championing music and discovery—while also growing our base of support for that mission.
We plan to make more formal announcements about this project as we go, and many more steps need to be completed before this becomes a reality. But we couldn’t be more excited to share this news and begin this next phase of our evolution with you.
Thank you again for your continued support and trust in KEXP.
P.S. Are you a Bay Area listener or artist? I’d love to hear from you—what you want to see from KEXP 92.7 FM San Francisco, who we should be talking to in the local community, or any ideas you want to share. And for any other member of the KEXP community, I’d like to hear any questions or thoughts you may have, too. Just reply to this email or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.